Why I Couldn’t Adopt JiJi Bear, the Cat I Rescued from a Brooklyn Rooftop


I didn’t adopt JiJi Bear. Well, I tried: I took her home, but it just wasn’t working out, so she’s now back at her foster lair waiting to find her forever home.

For those wondering who or what exactly a JiJi Bear is, here goes: She’s a kitten that by unknown means found herself stuck on a building rooftop opposite my apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Once I realized she was up there without means to food or water, I set about attempting to rescue her — which took a couple of weeks due to a number of circumstances. There’s a post titled “Should I Adopt a Black Kitten Who I Spent Two Weeks Rescuing on a Brooklyn Rooftop” that kinda explains it all.

If you were wondering, the name JiJi Bear is a little convoluted but is partly inspired by the anime cat in Kiki’s Delivery Service (whom I have a toy model of which my current cat, Mimosa, insists on knocking over daily) and the fact that the first time I saw JiJi Bear up close she was puffed and fluffed up like a little bear. So she’s JiJi Bear. Although now she may look more like a little dragon. But I digress.

Once I got JiJi in a cat carrier, I took her to a local foster home called The Scratching Pad run by a man fond of wearing Christmas-themed slippers called Steve Liu, who also looked after the now-fabled New York City Subway Kittens. I’d arranged this earlier as I’ve always been a staunch one-cat guy (I think people who insist that two cats are always better are peddling a cliche that rarely takes account of the needs and personality of the actual cats). Mimosa is super well-adjusted and happy and I won’t do anything to upset her welfare.

Steve agreed to take JiJi Bear in and set about getting her checked out at a vet. As I dropped her off, I felt a wave of relief come over me and went home vowing to give Mims something like a great big hug. Jiji Bear was safe.

I’d told Steve that I wasn’t able to adopt her, but the thought of doing so stayed in my mind. I checked back with Steve about her progress and he told me, “It’s a girl, she’s not feral, just scared. She has a lot of ear mites but is otherwise healthy.” (Aside: Do not Google images of a cat’s ear mites.) He added, “She’s still scared to death. That probably means she was once a house cat that was abandoned or someone lost her in the building and didn’t bother to look on the roof.” (I’d put up a notice in the building about the cat but no one got in touch.) He also said that the vet thought she was actually four to six months old — but she was tiny, weighing only two-and-a-half pounds and fitting snugly in the palm of your hand.

When I went round to the Scratching Pad later that week to check up on her, I also noticed that she’s not actually a black cat — at least not totally. Her fur is black on the top but the bottom part is light gray. If you brush it back the wrong way, it literally turns another color. She also purrs incredibly loudly if you pet her behind her neck or on the base of her butt.

The Catster comments for the original article about JiJi Bear were near unanimous in their calls for me to adopt her. I was told by many people that it was destiny, that Mimosa would enjoy a friend, and that as I’d already named her she was technically mine.

They are valid comments, but they’re not really truths: Lots of other apartments also would have seen her on the roof, two cats don’t always get along and can end up stressed and unhappy, and, well, who doesn’t name random cats they come across? I do it all the time.

It’s very easy to encourage someone else to take in a cat but I really wasn’t sure and really did not want to upset Mimosa, who herself also has a back-story that involved someone finding her abandoned under a car — equally as heart-breaking as JiJi’s roof-climbing plight. Mimosa’s well-being was just as important — even more so — than JiJi’s, who was now safe and warm and with food and water whatever happened next.

The Catster commenter I empathized with most was Hexacat, who pointed this out — she was safe, and rescuing her from a situation that would have likely seen her perish before winter was different from giving her a forever home. Anyone reading this likely has a cat, but we can’t all adopt every cat we come across that is in any sort of need. There are other ways to help out.

I’ll be honest, I bonded with the idea of JiJi Bear more during the couple of weeks that it took to rescue her more than I did once she was safe. There were times when I’d look back up at the roof and almost fear that I’d see her again — my concern was that she was safe, not necessarily that she was coming to live with Mimosa. But the more I talked to people the more the idea of keeping her grew.

I asked Steve what sort of cat JiJi Bear was and he told me, “I’m getting kinda jealous. Your black cat is the sweetest. She thinks she’s a dog when she licks your face.” (Apparently this was one of her special tricks.) He also mentioned she likes to sleep behind chair legs (“Watch out when you slide a chair out”), is prone to over-eating if given the opportunity, and sometimes has bad breath (see the face-licking stunt).

Eventually I told Steve that, if she wasn’t being shopped around to other owners yet, I’d take her and see if it could work out with Mimosa.

The thing is, once that decision was made I almost immediately began to regret it. Reading about introducing a second cat into a home is pretty dispiriting stuff, especially once you realize that much of the advice is so personality-specific as to be meaningless. During this period Mimosa also got sick, with a suspected upper respiratory infection, and went off her food. Having had a cat who likely had feline hepatic lipidosis, the lack of appetite sent me into a panic. (Luckily, a humidifier seemed to clear her congestion.) The idea of JiJi Bear became overbearing — and I realize how silly that might sound when we’re talking about a tiny kitten.

Ultimately, though, I couldn’t bring myself to back out of picking up JiJi Bear on the arranged date. At this point, I wasn’t feeling excited as much as a sense of obligation allied to a lot of worry. But giving a cat a home is a responsibility and it’s one to be taken seriously.

So I took JiJi Bear home. But despite going by the book in terms of introducing a new cat to the apartment, it just wasn’t working out. What should have been a happy and joyful time turned into an anxious and stressful one. So now JiJi Bear is back at the Scratching Post. I’m certain she’ll find a good home — she’s a great cat, all sweet and loving and she cuddles you like a little koala with her arms outstretched — so if you’re looking for a feline addition to your home hit up Steve at the foster shack at steve@scratchingpad.org. Just don’t give her any roof access.

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.

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