Friday, May 23, 2014

Sometime, You Get a Pet by Accident

More often than not, you go to the pet store, or to the pound, and you choose an animal to take home with you. You plan ahead, you save your money, and you prepare by purchasing pet food and supplies. Usually, you plan to get a pet. Usually, you get a pet on purpose.
But sometimes, a pet that you didn’t even know you wanted just appears in front of you and chooses you to be its person. Sometimes, you are needed by a homeless or abandoned animal, and you find yourself with an animal that picked you. Sometimes, you get a pet on accident.
That is what happened to me; I got a kitten on accident.
In the fall of 2011, when the leaves were falling and the nights were getting cold, I got home from work to find a small black kitten sitting on my front porch. She appeared to be waiting for me, but she wasn’t mine. She was at the front door, white paws on the threshold, black tail wagging left to right, like a dog waiting to come in from the yard. I didn’t want a cat; I’m allergic to cats. I shooed her off the porch, and as she went traipsing across my yard with leaves crunching under her feet, I went inside and forgot about her.
The next morning, in a rush to get out the door on time for work, I almost stepped on a small black kitten sitting on my front porch. She was still waiting for me, even though she wasn’t mine. She was, once again, at the front door, head tilted, tail wagging. I laughed, but I didn’t feed or pet her. I didn’t want a cat, and I know that stray cats stick around if you dote on them.
When I got home from work that evening, this stubborn kitten was still on my porch. She was waiting patiently, tail gently wagging left to right, whiskers twitching. It was cold. I knew she must be cold, and the nights were only getting colder. Rather than shoo her off into the leaves again, I scooped her up. Nuzzling into my chest, she began to purr, and before I was even able to put down my bags, this little black kitten had crossed her paws over her eyes and dozed off.

Sometimes, you get a pet on accident.
I needed to find her home. She was too clean and groomed to have been away long, and too small to have survived many cold nights on her own. Her people must be missing her. So off I went, sleeping kitten in my arms, knocking on doors up and down the block. Neighbors sympathetically shook their heads, not knowing where she came from. One neighbor said he’d been feeding her and had even put a bed out for her on his porch. “But she eats and runs,” he said with a grin, “she hasn’t slept here once.”
When it started getting dark, I headed home, still holding a sleeping kitten who surely believed by now that she wasn’t sleeping outside tonight. I begrudgingly knocked on one last door, hoping for a miracle; I didn’t want a cat. “Oh, yes, I know where she belongs,” my elderly neighbor told me, “that couple up the way, about 5 blocks that way, they got her for their son about 2 weeks back.” She went on to explain that the parents had gotten their son a kitten, and then the kitten got out fairly quickly; instead of looking for her, they replaced her. “When this kitten came home, they turned her away,” my neighbor told me, shaking her head. Poor baby; they’d just dumped her.
Still, I didn’t want a cat.
I felt better about leaving her outside, knowing that a neighbor was feeding her, but it was pretty chilly. I walked back to his house and set her in the bed he’d left out, hoping she’d realize her good fortune and make a home there with him and his family. She sat on the bed, tail wiggling left to right, eyes wide, as I headed towards my own home. But for the first time since I first saw her, I wasn’t quite so certain about not wanting a cat.
Sometimes, you get a pet on accident.
I decided that if she was back on my porch the next morning, I’d let her inside and look for a home for her. Surely if I posted her photo online, I could find a friend who wanted her; she was adorable and tiny. Headed to bed that night, I hoped she’d stayed on the neighbor’s porch, where she would be cared for, or at least given a meal every day and a fluffy bed on which to rest.
Not only was she there in the morning, tail wagging, paws on the threshold like my house was her house, but she was still there after work, as though she hadn’t moved a muscle for ten hours. “Alright,” I shrugged, “come on in.” I opened the front door and in she pranced, like she’d lived there for years. She did a few laps of the living and dining rooms, sniffed around the kitchen floor, then sauntered to the wall cadet heater in the living room, stretched, yawned, and laid down. Within moments, she was asleep, warm air blowing at her backside. And there she slept. She was there when I drove frantically to the store for pet food and a bowl, nail clippers, and a litter box set up. She was there while I cooked and ate my dinner, and she was there when I headed to bed.
But when I woke up in the morning, she was curled up in a tight ball, sleeping soundly on the floor next to my bed. I had gotten a pet on accident. I’d never wanted a cat, but now I wanted this cat. There she was, asleep on the floor beneath my side of the bed, content and warm. She had picked me.
That morning, I didn’t have to work. Despite my intention to post her picture online and find her a forever home through my social network, I instead found myself in the car, abandoned kitten in my lap, driving to the vet. I had her examined, groomed, and microchipped, and – after a pregnancy scare during her exam – I scheduled to have her spayed a few days later.
I named her Juno, after Ellen Page’s character in the movie, because she was young and adorable like the Juno in the movie, and also because the vet had mistakenly told me she was pregnant. The name made more sense initially, when I thought my new kitten was going to be a teen mother, but it stuck even after the pregnancy news turned out to be a false alarm.
This little black kitten, with her white paws and long whiskers, had picked me; I was her person and she was my pet, and it would seem I had no choice in the matter. I got a pet on accident, after I rescued the tiny black kitten that stood her ground on my front porch until I caved.

What I have learned about rescuing an animal that is otherwise homeless or abandoned, is that animals provide unconditional love in any way they know how. Juno is now three years old; she is chubby and has asthma, and a bad hip that keeps her from jumping onto the kitchen counters. She loves to sit in front of the patio door in the sun, but she loves nothing more than to curl up behind my knees, under a blanket. I didn’t set out to bring a cat home, but instead I accepted that this cat was just going to make my home, her forever home. And I may have never wanted a cat, but I certainly love and cherish my cat.