Here I am, returning to the Athens Area Humane Society one year after adopting Leo. Dear Leo, the cat I wasn’t sure I wanted now had me contemplating a second. A few days earlier, I had received the mechanical mouse I had ordered for Leo. It wasn’t so much watching him chase the mouse that gave me pause, it was the sad, soft, lonely meow he uttered when the mouse stopped moving. I had been thinking about it for a few months, and I realized that Leo did indeed need a companion.
It had taken me quite a while to decide to adopt Leo. I had always been a dog person, but now my age and my knees prevented me from considering another. Would I like a cat? It was a hard decision because I had never owned one, and I wasn’t sure what was involved.
By happenstance, a neighbor mentioned she was reading about a Foster Cat Study conducted through the UGA School of Veterinary Medicine. The program studies the benefits of bringing together a senior person without pets with a cat that needs to be adopted. I could foster a cat to decide whether it was a fit for me. I had four months to try it out, and if I returned the cat, it would be with the knowledge that it was going to a no-kill shelter. The study seemed to be the perfect way to find out if a feline friend was for me.
I met with Dr. Sherry Sanderson at the school, and the principal investigator for the project. I learned that there were additional benefits to being part of the study. Dr. Sanderson and her team answer questions and provide support as needed and for one year provide the adoptive cat’s food and litter.
It has been a fascinating year, watching Leo grow from a 9-week-old kitten to a one-year-old cat. When he was just a kitten, he would burrow under the covers on my bed and sleep at my feet. How he could breathe I’ve never figured out, but it was his routine. Nothing was as cute and as sweet as watching that little mound work its way to the top of the covers when he realized I was awake. He sleeps on top of the bed now, but occasionally crawls under the throw at the edge of the bed, with one front leg and his nose sticking out of the edge.
And we have a very special morning routine. I don’t want to get up and he wants me to get up. Since he knows he is not to get on the night stand, he reaches out and paws the remote control off the table top. Three times each morning he crawls across me, perches on the edge of the bed, and puts one paw on the nightstand. Three times each morning I reach over and push him off the bed. I have no idea why three seems to be the magic number, but it works. After the third try, I am up and Leo is happy.
My cat worries were for naught. Leo behaves well. He knows where he shouldn’t be, but he does test me when he walks around the coffee table and places those front paws just on the edge and looks over the top, much like the silly remote routine of the morning. And I have decided that when I see his paw prints somewhere he’s not supposed to be that perhaps I was hasty in shooing him off. What’s the harm if Leo is adventuresome? Has he trained me?
I read Facebook a little differently since I am a cat owner. All those posts about them are true. They are their own creatures and they will love you on their own terms. I have spent this past year with Leo playing, petting, and loving (as much as a cat will let you love it), which has made him a beloved pet and me a crazy cat lady. I realized I had officially gained that title when the Fed Ex guy delivered a box of litter refills and that mechanical mouse for Leo. I went to the door, and without giving it a thought, I told the young man I had forgotten about my order and had told Leo this delivery was not for us. He snickered, which didn’t strike me as unusual until I had closed the door, and I realized that I had told him I was talking to my cat, as if one usually does talk to their cat. And in my case, I usually do. Hence, I am proudly a cat lady. If I have learned anything over the last year, it’s how much love and humor a cat brings to your life. So now, I am headed to the Athens Area Humane Society because Leo needs a playmate.