For quite some time I wasn’t so sure my next stop was much better than where I’d been. I was in another wire thing not much bigger than the one the lady had carried me in when we left the other place, and though I had my babies with me we had no safe place to nest. You could see right in, humans walked around all the time and I could see and hear and smell many, many other cats, and off in the distance I could hear dogs! When I looked straight ahead all I saw were more cats in more wire things, some with babies, some without, all of us pretty unhappy.
My frequent urge to talk about things, mostly to myself, became a loud wailing that I could not control at first. I was just pouring out my fear and confusion, my life had always been one frightening experience and another and I had no control over any of it. Worst, I felt I couldn’t even keep my babies safe. I cried and cried until people came to me and though they seemed comforting I ran to hide in the corner, being silent and making myself as small as possible. When they left I began crying again until it seemed I frightened even my babies. Finally, I curled with them and licked them talked to them as they nursed. What would become of us?
To shield my three babies from all these things that were new and frightening to me I used everything that was available to me, covering them with blankets and papers, putting them behind the digging box and even just shoving them in the corner and pressing myself against them while I turned my back on all those horrors.
The difference here was that, although all the humans were big and loud and smelly, they were all, well, nice. There were humans I saw all the time, and others who I never saw again, but I never felt any anger or danger from them as I had with many other humans, though I didn’t like when they touched me and my babies. I hid myself in the corner and couldn’t stop trembling whenever they approached.
The problem with kittens is that they just aren’t afraid, and it takes a good cat mom to keep them under control and teach them right from wrong. But they kept escaping from my careful nests and running around the little place, and people would stop and look at them and make happy people noises. I will admit, my babies were the most beautiful babies I had ever seen, all my babies were, but those human faces were so big and humans are so loud! I just had to run to my corner and hide my face and hope for the best.
So concerned at first that I wouldn’t be able to feed myself, I was very grateful for the food that was always available, without any worry in finding it under a porch or catching and killing something around the place. And between that bowl of food and bowl of water, and the digging box in the corner that I suddenly remembered being taught to use, I envisioned just a little bit of a memory of being a kitten myself, with my mother, and in a place with people, and being very happy.
My kittens were now at the stage when they grew very fast and became as agile as adults and the little place was hardly big enough for all four of us. Humans would come along and actually open the door and take them out—my babies, in humans’ hands! But any mother understands praise of her children in any language, and I could tell the humans were admiring their beauty and sweetness, and though I still kept myself in the back of the place, I watched with pride as humans cooed and kissed them. One by one, I said goodbye and watched them go off with humans, while those humans I’d come to know would try to pet me and always speak softly and comfortingly to me.
At least I felt my babies were now safe, and I could just disappear. I had no interest in living in this strange world of meowing cats and barking dogs. I didn’t even try to escape because I barely remembered anything I might want to run to. I just sat in the back of the little room all day, facing away from everything outside. Even the day soon after my last baby left when someone actually took me from the space and something very awful and unexplainable happened, I awoke in another place feeling as if I’d been in a horrible fight with such pain in my abdomen, I didn’t fight when they took me back to the little room. I just huddled in my corner, managed the deep pain and eventually felt better.
Much time passed, I have no idea how long. All the cats around me left and more came in, even the humans changed. Other kittens and cats appeared in my cage and tried to be friends with me, but I paid no attention. Sometimes humans stopped to look at me but I pressed my face into the corner, squeezed my eyes shut tight and even held my breath until they left. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. If I acted as if I didn’t exist, they would leave. But now and then my cage door would open and I felt hands on me, even lifting me out and holding me. One of the familiar humans would always make comforting noises for me and all the humans were very gentle. Over and over I would hear the story about the cats who were “rescued” from the basement, how I had come in with kittens, all the parts of my own story, even some that weren’t right. But I didn’t care, and I always ended up back in the little space.
Until one day when one of the people who had handled me and put me back in the cage actually came back later. I knew her by her voice and then by her smell, and she was very kind and soft and I knew right away she’d never ever hurt me, though I was still trembling and hid my face against her.
I don’t understand, she’s so pretty, didn’t anyone else want her?
Lots of people have looked at her, but she just rolls up in a ball and trembles and you can’t blame a person for adopting a cat who’s friendly instead. Like I told you, we love this little girl, she’s been here for months and she’s just scared. We keep hoping she’ll open up and trust us. You can see, she’s just trembling while you hold her, but she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, she’s never hissed or growled, never tried to scratch or bite anyone, ever. And when no one’s looking, I guess it’s when she feels safe, she talks to herself! It’s really cute, she just keeps up a running conversation. And she’s always washing herself, it seems to keep her calm. We just know there’s another cat inside her.
How does she feel about other cats? I did mention I have another cat—he’s really friendly, but I’m working so much a friend told me he needed a buddy to keep him company. That’s why I’m adopting. What do you think?
She came in with kittens and was a very good mother. While she’s been here we’ve tried introducing other cats to her cage, from kittens to cats her own age to older cats who are pretty mellow. She never tried to hit them or anything, but she just stayed in her corner. I still think she’s just scared and she’ll never change while she’s here, but if she got out of this shelter into a nice quiet house I think she’d be fine. I’d just hate to see such a nice kitty…we’d just like to see her have a chance.
So she’s kind of “next in line”? I had decided I would adopt “the next kitty in line”, meaning this would be the cat’s last day, just because I knew it would be hard to choose one and I could at least save a life. You mean she’s…
I hate to say it, I’m not trying to scare you, but yes, we have to have this cage for tomorrow. We’ve been getting litters of kittens with mothers in here every day, we have them in bathrooms, in peoples’ offices, even a few foster homes and more keep coming in. It won’t stop again until fall.
And her name is “Kelly”? Where did she get that name?
I don’t know, I think someone here just chose it for her.
Well, it’s a nice name, I might change it.
So you’ll adopt her?
After all that I can’t leave her here.
I felt the woman hugging me tighter and kissing the top of my head, then we were moving and she and the other human were talking as I heard sounds coming and going around us. She held me tightly in her arms; I stopped trembling but didn’t look up until they were putting me in a box as I’d seen around there before. I didn’t want to go in the box and started yelling and waving my legs, grabbing the edges of the box so I wouldn’t fit but they calmed me enough to get me in there.
For the second time in my short life I was in a container being carried by a human, and again it would change my life. If I had only known I was about to meet my soul-mate, my best friend Namir, the cat who would teach me it was good to live with humans and love me every minute to the end of his life, and I’d have all the best things a kitty could wish for I certainly wouldn’t have wailed so loudly in the moving box that she had to stop and comfort me. But I loved her already.
This person was not me—Kelly was saved by another kind person who ultimately brought her here with her forever friend Namir. In her final chapter next week, we’ll learn how Namir taught her to trust people, and she taught Namir more about being a cat, and eventually she came to live with me. Little Kelly has quite the epic journey! I wrote this section based on shelter records and what the woman who adopted her related to me.
And I mention that she was next in line to be euthanized in the shelter where she’d been taken, but as I know from all the open-door shelters I’ve worked with, the staff used all the means at their disposal to get Kelly adopted, as they did with every other cat and kitten who came through their doors.
Unfortunately, because people don’t spay and neuter their cats, “kitten season” starts earlier every year and lasts longer, and in order to make room for these new cats someone, somewhere, has to make the decision to euthanize a healthy cat—or dog—so that another homeless animal can have a chance at adoption. These decisions are not made only based on time spent in the shelter as many people think. In Kelly’s case, she spent several months in the cage because the staff knew she was a nice kitty who was frightened, but outside of the shelter she’d probably be a sweet and loving kitty, and so she turned out to be, and still is.
Kelly has been the sweet, quiet presence you don’t see as often as her more outgoing housemates. I’ve long tried to condense her story, but decided that didn’t do justice to a kitty who’s been through a lot. Because her story is long and involves details of the story of a stray and feral colony along with Kelly’s own long path toward learning to trust humans, I’ll be telling it in several parts over the next few weeks for my Tuesday rescue feature. She has traveled a great emotional and spiritual distance to be the kitty you see today, and who is right now curled in a happy purring ball on my lap, head turned upside down and hugging all her legs together.
Read the whole series:
Kelly’s story was so popular that I decided to take it from a five-part series to a book telling more of the story and more about the other cats Kelly met, and filled with the photographs you see here as well as drawn and painted illustrations.
And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.