I recently started working for an animal rescue organization that has been running a program called Home for the Holidays, in which the adoption fees of long-term residents of our shelter are being waived through the end of the year, in hopes of finding them that perfect forever home.
As I watched several of our long-timer cats find their families through this program, I started wondering what it would be like if cats had Christmas wishes and how they would react when their wishes did, or didn’t, come true.
I can imagine little Belladonna, barely finished with her kittenhood, watching out the window of the room she shared with eight other cats as the people at the shelter hung holiday decorations and potential adopters came in to visit with the cats, their voices joyful with expectation.
What would she have thought as person after person walked by her room without even opening the door or giving the cats inside a second look? Would she have known that she might never actually have a home again because she’d been diagnosed with diabetes?
What about the other cats in the diabetic room with her? Would they have been around long enough to know that there wasn’t much hope for them? Would they have tried to curb Bella’s relentless kitten optimism, or would they just retreat to the comfort of one of the open cages, trying to nap away the endless days after their morning meals?
Would Bella have known about all the ways the shelter’s staff had tried to convince people to try adopting a diabetic cat? There were waived adoption fees. There were free lessons on giving insulin shots and monitoring blood glucose at home. There were free blood testing supplies and even a free vial of insulin available for people who adopted a diabetic cat! But none of these things had produced even a single whisper of interest in the “sugar kitties.” Would she have known that maybe the volunteers at the shelter were struggling to avoid losing hope themselves?
If Bella had known all these things, would her innate optimism have been worn away? Would her expectations that someone couldn’t help but fall in love with a gorgeous little kitty such as herself disappear under the weight of months and even years in a shelter? Would she have retreated into herself, too?
As Christmas came and went, the decorations came down, and the bake-sale leftovers went home with the volunteers, would poor little Bella think that her Christmas wish hadn’t come true after all?
In the dark and cold of a Maine winter night, would a frigid breeze of despair blow into this poor little barely-a-kitten’s heart and try to take hold?
But then, what if something really amazing happened? Something like this:
Just a couple of days after Christmas, a woman stopped by the shelter to talk to some of the volunteers there. And wouldn’t you know it, that woman actually opened the door to the little room where Bella and her diabetic kitty friends lived. And she wasn’t one of the volunteers Bella was used to seeing!
When Bella met the woman’s gaze, she knew this was something special. That’s right: Little Bella was falling in love with a human.
Oh, yes, the other cats tried to warn her not to fall in love with people, because that would only lead to disappointment — but Bella just couldn’t help herself.
To Bella’s great delight, the feeling was mutual. The woman reached over to pet her and give her love, and Bella pressed her head into the woman’s hand, guiding her fingers to all those hard-to-reach places: the cheeks, the temples, the top of the head, and even right on top of the nose!
And then the woman stopped petting Bella and turned to leave the room.
“Hey, wait, don’t go away!” Bella might have said as she hopped onto the floor and wound herself between the woman’s feet.
Maybe the woman would have said something like, “Don’t worry, sweetie, I’ll be back next week.”
That night, little Bella snuggled in a pile of blankets inside a room at the shelter once again. She may have been tempted to give up after that, but something in her little optimist’s heart just wouldn’t let her.
But the woman was true to her word, and the next weekend she came back to the shelter. This time she had brought a pretty purple kitty carrier, and as soon as she brought it into the diabetic room, Bella knew it was for her. As soon as the woman zipped the carrier open, Bella ducked in before she could protest.
“I guess she’s ready to go home,” the woman said as she saw a blur of black rush by her feet and into the carrier.
I was that woman, and the day was January 5, 2013: the day before “Little Christmas” in Ireland, Epiphany in much of the Christian world, and two days before Greek and Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas. Even though Belladonna didn’t get her Christmas wish on December 25, the day most Americans celebrate the Christmas, she did indeed get her Christmas wish. And so did I.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.