About 8 months after our first store opened, Simon and I finally decided that the store would not burn down if we weren’t in it. So we slowly started to pull back and take evenings off.
I’m a stress eater and I gained some 15 lbs in between our wedding and when we opened our store in 2012. The weight stayed on through our first few months open and once we were able to start pulling away from the store, I finally pulled myself out of an environment where I was constantly surrounded by food. I remember pushing Simon to join a gym because I wanted to get in shape and so we ended up boxing. I went to a boxing gym for about a year before we met and I loved it. I punched out my stress and all of my odd aches and pains melted away. So we started going back and while I was sore all the time, it was amazing.
In the evenings after the gym, we’d get home around 8:30 or 9 pm. I remember that the summer of 2013 was almost unbearable because it was so hot. The gym wasn’t air conditioned and we felt even worse when we left because the sticky air just clung onto our skin. Sometimes when we went home, we would find squirrels sprawled across the ground, just panting, and we would debate on whether to come back down with an ice cube for the squirrels. The squirrels would always run away if we came too close and so we decided it was better to leave them alone than for them to waste energy finding another cool resting spot on the ground.
Eventually, we found a tuxedo cat laying on the ground near the squirrels. The cat always looked exhausted and never seemed to have the energy to move. It seemed odd that a squirrel and a cat would share the same space, but the heat seemed to make everyone do odd things. The cat was mostly black with three short white socks and the back left leg had one long stocking. After the second time we saw him, Simon approached my sister and me and told us, “I think…Mr. Socks should be inside instead of out there.” He had named the cat and so the cat was now ours.
Simon and I were not cat people. By the age of 26, I had seen maybe six house cats in my life. One of them, my childhood friend’s cat, cautiously avoided me because my friend was not very gentle with her cat. In my early 20s, I would go over to my boss’s house to help his wife make PowerPoint presentations and they had two cats. She confided in me once that she was convinced that one cat wasn’t very bright. The other cat aggressively asked me to pet her and I was very allergic to her. So I never touched any other cats and I only casually looked at the cats living in the parking lot on my street. I didn’t know what we were supposed to do with a cat and I was so sure that I would be allergic to it.
My sister, who’s also our roommate, knew a little more than I did. She had been a cat sitter for our neighbors from elementary school through high school. She was open to taking in Mr. Socks and she told us that our neighbors had fed their cats Friskies. Cathy revealed that some of the flavors were more popular than the others amongst the cats and that some of them even looked delicious to her. She told Simon that she would take him to the supermarket to pick out the popular and tasty looking flavors.
Within 24 hours of Simon’s announcement, we had 6 cans of Friskies, 0 litter boxes, and 0 Mr. Socks. Cathy started carrying around a can of salmon & beef flavored wet food in her bag all the time. I refused because I still had mixed feelings about this cat situation. But over the course of a few weeks, we became discouraged because the heat wave waned and we didn’t see Mr. Socks (or any squirrels) outside again.
One day after the gym, I went up to my apartment first and I received a frantic phone call from Simon. He had found Mr. Socks! He asked me to come down with the food. At that point, Cathy was housesitting for someone and my other sister, Caryn, was visiting. Caryn went down with the food and since I didn’t know what I was doing, I grabbed a laundry bag because I figured we could bag him up and drag him home (what was I thinking?!?!).
When I walked outside, I could hear Mr. Socks crying desperately across the street and when I ran over, I saw that he was NOT Mr. Socks. Simon had found a 4 lb grey and white kitten. All four of his legs and the underside of his belly were white and he was less than half the size of the original cat we were hunting for. But this Mr. Socks was nice and he would frantically rub across our legs while running between two cans of Chicken & Tuna and Beef. He cried sometimes and sometimes hid behind a fence, but he kept coming out to eat. When I pet him, I could feel his ribs and I knew that he was hungry. Simon still couldn’t believe it when I told him that this was absolutely the wrong cat. We still named him Mr. Socks anyway.
Unsure of what to do, we watched Mr. Socks eat and once he finished one can, he rubbed across my legs. I figured he was a nice cat so I picked him up, rolled him up in my shirt, and carried him upstairs. For two hours afterwards, we video chatted with Cathy and fed Mr. Socks while he sat on my lap. Every time he wanted to move, I squeezed him and he stayed. I didn’t sneeze or have any sort of allergic reaction from holding him. I didn’t realize until many many months later that I was very lucky to find such a docile cat.
We locked him in the shower overnight since we were afraid he was carrying parasites and he cried hysterically the entire night. Simon bought him a litter box, which he chose to ignore and he pooped on our towel instead. The next day, he went to the vet’s office to get his shots and to be examined. Mr. Socks was dirty, but in perfect health. When he came back, he was much whiter than I had imagined and he smelled like baby powder from his bath. I beamed with pride when I saw that he got an $8 discount on his exam for good behavior! I was instantly a cat lady.
Mr. Socks was already fixed when we found him, a sign that he probably had another home. How he ended up on the street will always be a mystery, but I suspect that it’s because he pees outside of the box when he’s stressed out so he was probably left outside for being a bad pet. That didn’t deter us at all because within two months, we had two more cats. We told ourselves that they were companions for Mr. Socks, but they are really companions for us as well. Within a year, we were officially at 4 cats.
Mr. Socks started a revolution. He changed the way Simon and I work, he changed how we feel about rescue animals, he led to us adopting more cats, fostering more cats, and become bona fide cat people. If you asked us if Mr. Socks was grateful for any of it, our answer is that he probably isn’t! If you asked Mr. Socks, he would probably tell you that he deserves a million dollar mansion and for us to only pet him 3 times per session and that we should hire someone to cook him dinner (chicken or beef plz. NEVER TURKEY!!!), the litter box must be scooped 12 times a day, and we make him a bed of fresh laundry daily. Until we can fulfill all of his needs, I hope he knows how much I appreciate him. When Friskies asked me about hosting an event for their new line called Cat Concoctions, I thought about what Mr. Socks meant to me and how we picked out those 6 cans to catch him. If we didn’t have the cat food on us that day, we wouldn’t have Mr. Socks and for me, it was a no brainer. I love my cat and I love the hundreds of cats that I have come across since meeting him and the hundreds more that I will meet. Mr. Socks is the beginning of my story as a cat lady.