What does it mean to be a cat lady?
Neither of us would have guessed all the things that would fall into place after Simon announced that he wanted to bring Mr. Socks inside. How could we have known? What are the chances that finding an ungrateful cat would lead me to three more – one who loves me so much that it gives him anxiety, one who can’t find his food 70% of the time, and one who sleeps next to us, not out of affection, but so she can know when breakfast is going down?
Simon and I are first time cat owners and the cats we adopted are all perfect. They came to us as tiny and cute kittens, they were rescued too young to have any memories of anything harsh or cruel, they came without any serious medical issues, and even our aloof cat isn’t that shy. Mr. Socks pees outside of his box when it’s not clean enough for him or when he is very stressed out, but it’s emotional, not medical. Even if he doesn’t show me affection regularly, I know that when he’s sick, he sleeps on my pillow so anytime I catch him on my pillow, I cover him in a blanket and let him find his comfort until he feels better.
It wasn’t until I fostered my first cat that I had a glimpse of the darker side of rescue cats. Buttercup was one of 30+ cats who came from a hoarder that eventually abandoned them when evicted. We took her in eagerly, but she was so distressed that she didn’t eat at first. We took her to the vet for shots to stimulate her appetite and we force fed her with a syringe after the third day. We even fed her KFC as per the advice of some other rescuers (which actually worked, but really isn’t practical or healthy as a long term solution). We bought her two dozen different kinds of foods to see if she would eat anything and when she rejected them all, we contacted her rescuer who described the color of the dry food bag that was found at the house. We went out and bought all the bags that matched that description and it turned out that our two year old cat had been eating a kitten formula. We medicated her through a parasite, and helped her lose weight by transitioning her to adult dry food, and when we discovered that she ate pork, bought her every variety of wet cat food made with pork just in the hopes of getting her ready for adoption.
After her, we had three sickly kittens. They were incredibly sweet and adorable, but they required a lot of work, too. They were covered in dead fleas, which somehow seemed to persist in their fur after several baths. One had goopy eyes. After a few days, we noticed that one had different sized pupils and at the vet’s office, the words mentioned were stroke, brain injury, and death, but over two months, her pupils evened out and we were no longer worried about her survival.
The next set we had were borderline feral. They had ringworm and kept escaping into our living room, which made us worried for our own resident cats. We bathed them weekly and medicated them daily. They liked hiding in places where we didn’t want them to be – inside the air conditioning unit, below the sink, inside the storage part of the bed. One of them gave me a scar that I have to this day. I remember feeling overwhelmed and that we weren’t experienced enough to have cats like those. But I hoped that one day, I would be.
When we were opening Meow Parlour, it never crossed our minds to try to have only super adoptable cats at our space. Emilie and I both have imperfect cats and we’ve seen cats who wouldn’t have had a chance if the right person didn’t come along at the right time. I didn’t know much about cats, but I thought we might have a shot at making a change for just a few. We asked for scared cats, harder to adopt cats, cats who don’t do well in cages, and black cats. We’ve had four three legged cats, one cat with scarred eyes, more than a dozen black cats, cats who played too hard, cats who were scared of people, cats who didn’t like open spaces, cats who had been abandoned or suffered abuse, and just an unbelievable collection of stories over the past 18 months. We thought that we could help. We’ve been able to do so by providing another chance to these cats – something that was different than what was offered before – and by starting the dialogue with our guests on what it really means to be a cat owner.
This past Wednesday, Friskies invited me to emcee a press event for their new line of cat food – Cat Concoctions. Throughout the evening, I overheard several conversations of the guests and spoke to others about being animal lovers, the odd things our cats do, and our relationship with our pets. I had the opportunity to meet not only the celebrity cats, Grumpy Cat, Nala Cat, and Waffles, but also to meet their owners and learn more about their stories. It’s made me think a lot about cats, the internet, and the human connection.
I’m glad to be part of that conversation in any way that I can. Meow Parlour exists and its success in a large part relies on the internet, social media, and our dialogue with our customers. Three years ago, I would never have imagined a life beyond my bakery, and today, I hope that Meow Parlour is able to make a difference in many lives – even if it’s through one cat at a time.