a cat-adoption story


June is National Adopt a Cat Month.

All three of our cats are rescues.

Our dear Lila (Princess Lila Crankypants) was born to a pregnant cat who’d been dumped at a friend’s barn.

In part two of this tale, I’ll introduce you to Miss Olive.

This first part is Leo’s adoption story.




It all started with a nose boop.


About a year and a half ago, we were at the annual dinner / fundraiser / auction for our local humane society. Volunteers at this event always carry adorable, adoptable puppies through the crowds of people inspecting silent-auction items. They are adorable, and we happily ooh and aahh over them, but we’re not dog people.


That year, though, there was a big cage in the back corner. And in it were two tabby kittens. The brown one was literally climbing the wall through the cage and was a squirmy little guy when A.J. tried to hold him. When I picked up the orange one, though, he gave me a nose boop and then nestled in my arms and let me carry him around the room. We looked in on them later in the evening, when they (well, squirmy boy, at least) felt a bit more worn out from the excitement, and they were snuggled together. Best friends, clearly.


We were ready to take the orange kitten home then and there, but we couldn’t leave his high-energy buddy behind. We thought they should be allowed to stick together.


We’d been debating for years, actually, whether to get another cat. Our elderly Lila (nearly fifteen at the time) was extraordinarily territorial in her younger days, and we weren’t sure whether she needed a friend or preferred to be left alone. Or whether she would even tolerate another cat in the house.


But, we reasoned, if we come home with two kittens, they’ll play with each other and leave Lila alone.


The next day, we drove over to the humane society and filled out adoption papers for both kittens.




As we were signing out, we noticed a weird, hairless patch of itchy-looking skin on the orange kitten’s tail. The folks at the humane society wanted their vets to take a look at it before releasing him and, as it was Sunday, we took our new squirmy brown tabby kitten home and (temporarily) left our orange kitten where he was.


That first day and night, we kept little Leo (we had dubbed him Emperor Leopold the Magnificent) in the small downstairs bathroom, which we’d outfitted with food bowl, water, litter box, and a scratching post with a bed of sorts on top.


website-LeoBaby1-phone-20141125But this was the same kitten who’d been climbing the walls when we first met him and who jumped and climbed on us whenever we sat in the bathroom with him. So on Tuesday, against all the prevailing advice on introducing new cats to a household, we let him out for some supervised play time.




Lila didn’t actually seem to notice him at first (she did sleep most of the time). And Leo happily alternated between galloping around the house and napping.


Later that day, A.J. picked up our new orange kitten (whom we’d decided to call Max) from the humane society. A.J. called me on his way home with the bad news: they suspected that the spot on Max’s tail was, in fact, ringworm. I immediately made an appointment with our vet, for that same afternoon, and they suggested keeping Max separated from everyone else until we could bring him in. So as soon as he came home, into the bathroom he went, while Leo stayed out. But Leo seemed to know that his best friend was locked away; he meowed and meowed and peered under the door separating them, while Max howled from inside the bathroom.


In talking with our vet (and considering that they had already been living together for some time), and seeing how desperately Leo was trying to get to Max while he, in turn, loudly protested his incarceration, we decided that they would need to spend Max’s quarantine period together. We simply couldn’t separate them. Later that evening, with both kittens locked in the bathroom and not hearing any crying, we peered through the bathroom window. They were fast asleep, snuggled together on their scratching-post bed.


The next day, we turned an empty bedroom into kitten-land. And so began the period of “kitten quarantine.” We had to keep them separated from Lila, and from us (and disinfect all of the places Leo had been in his day of freedom), for three weeks. All while giving Max his medicine twice a day, and taking them both to the vet once a week for anti-bacterial baths.


Every day, we could hear them in their room, wrestling and playing. And they loved it when we came to visit for breakfast / medicine time and dinner / medicine time. Leo was still (always) full of energy and, invariably, trying to escape, but Max would purr and ask to have his ears rubbed.


After his three weeks were up, Max was declared ringworm-free, Leo hadn’t caught it, and they were released! (And we spent a lovely weekend deep-cleaning and disinfecting their quarantine room.)


Max was such a sweet little guy and would curl up for naps on A.J.’s chest. He didn’t eat much, though. And while Leo was clearly getting bigger, as kittens do, Max wasn’t, as they say, thriving.


Back to the vet we went, several times. It turned out that, in the midst of everything else, Max had already been sick with an incurable something-or-other that was basically shutting down his intestines. Our sweet little boy was starving.



Just a week after we’d released Max from kitten quarantine, on Christmas Eve, we made the difficult decision to say goodbye. This wonky, out-of-focus photo from my phone is the best picture we have of him.


Although Max’s time with us was far too short, we think he got the best outcome he could have had. He was adopted, loved, and cared for, and he had his best friend with him the entire time.




There’s a pet-adoption saying I’ve seen on bumper stickers, which says: “Who rescued whom?”


I think it’s usually meant in terms of pets and their people.


But with that nose boop that won me over, Max managed to rescue both himself and his best buddy. Leo is still the most rambunctious, high-energy kitten I’ve ever known, and also the absolute sweetest.


As sweet, silly, and adorable as he can be, Leo still hasn’t won over his big sister, Lila. But that’s all right, she still sleeps most of the time.


He’s certainly won us over.


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Hello & Welcome

I’m Jennifer: reader of fiction, cat whisperer, nerdy introvert. Possessor of a vivid imagination, a massive streak of curiosity, and a love of puzzles. Firm believer in — and ready to help you discover — the health-and-happiness benefits of reading and quiet time, whether indoors or out; “everyday” mindfulness; gardening; and walks in nature. Artist, writer, and founder of the Read. Purr. Collective.