April 19, 2014

Welcome to the Family, Pepper!

On the first warm night of spring, J and I took an evening walk around the neighborhood with Tucker. It was the first day that we didn't feel winter in the wind, and wanted to take full advantage of the warm night. This winter was so frigid and felt like it would go on forever. The warm day felt like a trick, as if winter would swiftly come back with another polar vortex. But, it didn't happen. I thought,  "We finally made it to springtime!"

We took a long loop around the neighborhood. When we were just about home, we heard a noise. "Mew!" We looked in the direction of that adorable noise and saw a tiny collarless cat, less than a year old, hiding behind a fence. He looked at us longingly and glanced cautiously at Tucker before squeezing under the fence and following closely behind us as we continued home.

Every once in a while we stopped to pet him. His fur was soft and clean. He didn't feel an outside cat. He didn't act like an outside cat or seasoned stray either. He was extremely friendly; not like the other stray cats around our house. He also didn't seem to understand the concept of cars being dangerous. As I observed his behavior, I was starting to worry that this little guy had gotten lost. He continued to follow us, taking care not to get too close to Tucker. Tuck loves cats and showed interest, but the kitty wasn't ready to trust him.

I wasn't completely sure what I was going to do. I wasn't sure, that is, until he zoomed ahead of us (past several houses) and hopped up our stoop and flopped on his side. What!? I practically saw neon arrows pointing at him and flashing "help me, please!".

I then had 2 not-so-small problems to contend with. We cannot have cats at our house, and J is allergic to cats, sometimes badly. We borrowed a carrier, a blanket, and some cat food from a friend. That night, I placed the carrier next to the couch and slept with the cat, so that he wouldn't be alone. He was really attached to me, and treated me like I'd always been his mommy.

He meowed a lot that night, but I couldn't do much except tell him it would be ok. I had no idea if he was litter trained and couldn't let his dander spread around the house, so I couldn't let him out. He did seem to calm down when he heard my voice. He just wanted to know I was close by.

The next morning, I got him scanned for a microchip, reported him found to the local shelters, and canvassed the neighborhood to see if he belonged to anyone. No luck. I had to find somewhere for him to go and quickly. I called my brother and asked if he'd be interested in adopting a brother for his cat. I thought it was a long shot, but he told me that he'd just been thinking about doing just that. "Just one catch," I told him, "You have to take him ASAP."

I took the cat to the vet to most importantly get him checked for FIV/FELV but also for a general check-up. Once he was in the clear, I excitedly told my brother that this was really going to happen! He needed time to get ready, so we had to wait a few days. We found out that J is not as allergic to the kitty as he is to other cats, so having him in the house for a few extra days wasn't a bother. I even realized while we were at the vet that he would only go to the bathroom in his carrier and not on the floor. I had a sneaking suspicion that he was litter trained, and indeed he was.

My brother brought up a litter box and for the next couple of days, I let the cat roam in the living room with supervision. He mostly wanted to cuddle with me and follow Tuck around. He asserted his dominance by swatting at Tucker, but they also were known to hang out together in peace. Once they were finally becoming comfortable with each other, it was time to bring him to his new home and start all over again with another animal!

Pepper's new sister, Abbey
I spent a week at my brothers house, helping to ease the transition for his cat, Abbey. I spent time with both cats in separate rooms and made sure to switch rooms occasionally, mingling their scents. Once the kitty was neutered and healing up, I reluctantly headed home.

My brother named him Pepper. Pepper still looks to me for assurance, still treats me like his mommy. I don't know why he instantly attached himself to me, but he picked the right person to be his advocate. I fell crazily in love with this gentle little guy, so I am happy that he stayed in the family. I can visit him whenever I want some cuddles and purrs. Welcome to the family, Pepper, and welcome to your new and wonderful life!

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