It started several weeks ago when a friend who lived next door texted me a photo of a cat sitting outdoors on a porch. “Is this the cat who lives in your building?” she asked. “She’s taken up living on our porch for the last week, and we’re trying to find her home.”
One look at the photo told me it wasn’t. This was a short-haired tuxedo cat, and the one who lives in my building and roams outdoors is longhaired and black.
That was the last I thought of it until I was visiting with my sister (who happens to be a mutual friend of the woman who texted me about the tuxedo cat), and she asked me if I wanted to see this cat who had taken up residence right next door to my building. “Sure,” I said. “I’d love to meet her.”
And so it was that on a bitterly cold, windy, and rainy Pacific Northwest winter night, my sister and I found ourselves on my neighbor’s porch making kissy noises at a damp and miserable but super-sweet cat.
“She’s been hanging out here for the last week,” said my friend. “We can’t take her inside because my boyfriend’s cat is very jealous.”
My friend explained that she had advertised this found cat on Craigslist and other classified sites, but nobody had come forward to claim her. She said her boyfriend had taken the cat to a vet, where they had scanned her for a microchip and found none. After the vet gave her the once-over and proclaimed her healthy and spayed (there was an “S” tattooed on her tummy), and given him some flea preventive because a flea or two had been discovered on her, he brought her back home to his porch, where my sister had already delivered a heated cat house, so the poor kitty had a place to get out of the cold.
After my friend finished telling the tale — and the cat had fully won both my sister and me over with her sweet and affectionate nature — my sister said, “I don’t want this cat to spend one more night outdoors. I’ll take her home if I have to, but I think my cats would go nuts.”
“What about you, JaneA?” she then asked. “Can you take her in?”
“Um,” I said. A litany of thoughts ran through my head: Can I afford another cat? No. Will Thomas and Bella be okay with it? Maybe. Do I want another cat? Maybe. Is this the cat for me? Maybe.
“I’ll sponsor her,” my sister said. “I’ll pay for all her food and medical care, pet insurance, and necessities, if you can take her into your home.”
I had to admit I’d kind of been missing having three cats. But I still wasn’t sure if this was the cat for me. I did, however, agree with my sister that the cat should not spend even one more night outside in the bitter and nasty weather.
My sister had come prepared: She had a cat carrier, food, and treats. We loaded the cat into the carrier and walked her next door to my place, where I promptly stowed her in my bedroom with the door closed.
I slept on the couch that night so I could be with Thomas and Bella while the new cat, who quickly earned the name Tara after the Buddhist goddess of compassion and healing, got a chance to decompress.
As I tried to drift off to sleep, the reality sank in: I had just gotten a “surprise kitty.”
The next day it was pretty clear to me that Tara was destined to be my cat, so I got her pet insurance in place and began the introduction process.
I took her to my vet after about a week because it had been a few days since I’d seen any evidence that she’d pooped. I’d also noticed that she shook her head a lot, particularly when her ears were touched, which suggested ear mites.
My vet confirmed the other clinic’s guess at her age – she’s 5 or possibly younger – and when he saw her “S” tattoo, he said, “This was done by the feral cat spay/neuter clinic. I might even have done her since I volunteer with them.”
But Tara is anything but feral, and she was schmoozing with the vet to prove it.
The vet palpated her abdomen and said he didn’t feel any evidence of constipation and suggested that maybe she’d pooped under the bed. “I haven’t seen any poop under the bed,” I said, “but I’m going to have to look in the closet because she hides there.”
The vet took a look in her ears and said that she did indeed have ear mites, then took her in the back to have her ears cleaned out and ivermectin drops put in to kill the mites.
A few minutes later he brought her back. “I wrapped her up in a towel for this, but I didn’t need to,” he said. “She was just as calm as could be.”
I have no idea how Tara came to be outdoors. She’s obviously very tame and very familiar with people. She’s a super-sweet cat and she was in pretty darn good shape for a cat who had been living outside.
It’s been about a week and a half since I inherited my surprise kitty, and it’s had its ups and downs.
Thomas is still learning not to hunt Tara, and Tara’s still learning that this place isn’t as scary as it seems.
There have been signs of progress: Thomas and Bella now come into the bedroom with me and sleep on the bed even while Tara is in the room. But I rarely leave them unsupervised because Thomas has an unfortunate habit of getting into spats with her, and she doesn’t need the extra stress.
Every day is getting a little bit better, and I’m confident that Tara will become a full-fledged member of the household.
But I still haven’t found that missing poop.
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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.