The next few posts are going to be a series of self reflections on how I got started on the path to cat rescue. I have been going through some tough times lately and I hope these posts will not only allow me to figure somethings out but also entertain and maybe offer encouragement to others.
I rescued my first cat when I was fourteen years old. I remember the day we found him, it was a beautiful late summer day shortly after I started high school. I was inside doing homework, the windows were open and my Crash was lounging on the bed with me. Suddenly his ears perked up and he became very alert. I stopped and tried to listen to whatever it was he heard. I thought I could hear a vague meowing sound. I ignored it. Crash did not.
He eventually got up and went downstairs to sit in the back window so he could get a better shot at figuring out where this meowing was coming from. By that point I heard it too. I got on the ground and peeking under the deck saw the tiniest ball of black and white fur. He was nothing but fur and a mighty set of lungs as he screamed and screamed for mom. I immediatly ran inside to tell my parents there was a kitten under the deck. Smudge, as we eventually named him, was hidden as far back under the deck as he could be.
I remember trying to cajole him over to the edge so I could get him out. I also remember it took me forever to convince my parents we needed to take him inside. Eventually they agreed. That night there was a horrible storm and he surely would not have survived alone. Shortly after I took him inside, mom cat showed up with four or five more kittens. They tumbled around under the deck, looking adorable and fuzzy. They kept poking their heads out through the lattice under the deck and romping around in the way kittens do. I couldn’t help myself and kept looking at them. Getting on my hands and knees to peek at these adorable playful balls of fuzz. (How many times have I since told people not to do that!!) What kid can resist baby animals? I tried to restrain myself, and would immediately go away if mom happened to be there with the babies.
Unfortunately I was not able to save Smudge’s brothers and sisters. I woke up one morning and they were all gone. I don’t know what happened to them, but I hope that mom simply moved them to someplace where there wasn’t an overly excited fourteen year old girl spying on them. It’s a much better thought than the alternative, which involves the raccoons that run rampant in my neighborhood. We did try to find something to do with mom and the babies, but this was back before TNR was as well known and before I had all my shelter knowledge. The only shelter I knew at the time was the Anti-Cruelty Society, which we may or may not have called before babies vanished.
After we brought Smudge inside I spent as much time as possible with him. He was kept in the tiny bathroom in our basement, and I could only let him out into the rest of the basement if I was down there with him. Since the bathroom was so small I felt I had to let him out as frequently as possible so he could play and run. At least that was my excuse, I also fell in love with him; after all I was still a kid, obsessed with kittens and he was a new, cute, fuzzy “toy” to play with. So I went down there every day after school and did my homework with him. I went down every morning to check on him and probably every evening. I think somewhere deep, or not so deep, inside I hoped I could keep the little Smudge baby. Sadly my mom wouldn’t let me keep him and he was adopted out to a friend of a friend’s sister.
Looking back at that rescue with years of cat rescue and shelter experiences behind me, I see so many things I did wrong, or at least could have done better. But I was a kid still, and had a no knowledge about rescuing. I did what I could, the best I could.
And I saved a life. Sometimes I wish I knew what happened to Smudge, if the girl kept him all these years, but I figure it’s best not to know. I also wonder what happened to his siblings, but I figure at least some of them made it, seeing how many cats there are in this neighborhood, and how many of them are black and white. (Though I don’t think all his siblings were black and white.) I was so proud of myself for rescuing Smudge and saving his life, but so distraught at not helping his siblings. I know I did the best I could though, with what I had at hand. And I saved a life. A life I came to love, and missed horribly when we adopted him out. I learned so much from rescuing him, how rewarding and how heart breaking rescue work can be. How hard it is if you don’t have the resources. But mostly how wonderful it is to know you saved a life and made a difference. (And therein lies the danger. In a world where it’s so easy to feel unneeded, under appreciated and your daily existence seems pointless, it’s just wonderful to feel the unrequited love and need of a rescue cat.)