Monday, June 3, 2013

There's a Cat In My Heart, and Something In My Eye

I foster cats. My wife and I work with a group called the Washington Heights Cat Colony, they find stray cats, and then we hang on to them until they can find a suitable home for them. They usually stay with us for anywhere between a few weeks and a couple months. People will often ask me how I avoid getting attached throughout that time and the short answer is that I don’t avoid that. I get sad just about every time one of them leaves me. Except for Scotty, Skitters, and this one that had one bald paw.

This is Skitters. She was kind of mean.
Today my latest foster cat Sebastian is leaving me to live with another family. This one hurts. I wouldn’t say that Sebastian is a particularly well behaved cat. He likes to bite my toes while I’m sleeping. He also likes to bite my feet if he thinks I’m not feeding him quickly enough. He really just likes to bite. But he never bites that hard, he knows the rules. We’ve had Sebastian since late January, which is a while in foster cat terms, and that’s part of it. But only part of the reason this is such a tough pill to swallow. Shortly after we got Sebastian people broke into our house and robbed us. During the ordeal Sebastian got out the broken window. 

The missing cat led to some confusion. The foster group thought that Sebastian was catnapped and was being held for ransom. This was stupid. Most robbers will break into a home to steal things they can either use or sell. Most don’t take a cat in the hopes that there will be a reward for the taken cat. This also assumes that the robbers will just assume that no connection will be made between the people who took the cat and the people who now have a cat to sell. What’s more likely is that some guy saw a missing cat sign and called the number asking for a reward knowing full well that he could just pick up any shitty grey cat and demand the reward money. Plus the robbers of all people should know that I was just robbed and wouldn’t have a whole lot of discretionary income to be blowing on a cat I already had. Regardless he was gone.
Have you seen me?
It’s hard not to feel a sense of impotence when people break into your home. I’m a man. Nominally so, but still I’m technically a man. My home is supposed to be my castle. And as the king of the castle I’m supposed to be responsible for my subjects. So after Sebastian went away I will admit I lost it a bit. I’m no mental health professional, but I remember enough of Psych 101 to remember the concept of transference. I chose to ignore the fact that I let wife down by not being the kind of guy who could protect his own house. And I piled all of my guilt in the idea that I was tasked with protecting a cat and couldn’t do it. The cops were surprisingly little help in this endeavor. It turns out that in a city of 414 annual homicides they have better things to do than to track down a missing cat. I failed in protecting the cat, but by god I was gonna find the cat. The next few weeks I spent some time walking around Washington Heights in the middle of the night with a can of 9 Lives Ocean Whitefish & Tuna Pâté (his favorite) and made kissing noises. This was a bad idea. Also it didn’t work. 

Several weeks later there was a tip! Someone at the cat colony had spotted Sebastian just a couple blocks away from my house living in an alley with a bunch of other cats. They saw him, but he wouldn't let anyone approach him. I decided to start going out of my way to walk through the alley. Again, bad idea. One day walking through the alley I spotted him. I went home, grabbed a cat carrier, and went back. He came right up to me and I put him in the carrier all the while fighting off a half dozen other cats who wanted in on his pâté. I took him home and felt that now I was, at the very least a guy who could keep a cat safe. 

The only ransom I needed.
This isn’t the only way I’ve kept him safe either. Three times he was almost adopted and three times he’s stayed here. A lady who did improv tried to adopt him once. He went nowhere. A guy with a popped collar who lived in Murray Hill came to adopt him. Still he stayed. A lady actually took him to her home, but promptly brought him back because he bit her too much. Sorry lady if you can’t handle nibbles you got no business in the cat game.

But this time he’s leaving for good. He's gonna be someone else's responsibility now. Unless of course I rob them. 


  1. "The next few weeks I spent some time walking around Washington Heights in the middle of the night with a can of 9 Lives Ocean Whitefish & Tuna Pâté (his favorite) and made kissing noises. This was a bad idea. Also it didn’t work."

    Best blog quote ever. Followed very closely by "if you can't handle nibbles you got no business in the cat game."

  2. I don’t know what has happened to the custom of delivering consistent good articles. I hope that the custom comes alive after this..thumbs up for your work

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  3. Yet while normal and understandable, this is also something that's addressable. (Not entirely fixable, of course, but at least addressable.) But facts aren't the way to do it -- simply getting better at announcing the who, what, where, and when of things won't really convey the flavor of this lively place. For that you need stories.
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