JUST ABOUT two years ago to the day I looked at Kelly and decided her story needed to be told for my Tuesday rescue story. I remember, just two weeks after we’d lost Cookie, Kelly and I were finally feeling comfortable with being at our desk without her, Kelly settling on my lap for her bath, having it all to herself for the first time in her life. I felt very close to my last senior girl at 19 years old, she so timid but loving and friendly; I had a sense we didn’t have long, though I didn’t realize how brief that would be, and I knew I wanted to focus attention on Kelly from myself and my readers, and most importantly to tell the story of a kitty whose journey was long, confusing and often painful, and needed to be shared.
After telling many others’ rescue stories through the years, I sat down with Kelly intending to write the usual post outlining the highlights of her rescue knowing I’d tell more some time later, calling it, and intending it to be, “A Little Bit About Kelly”. Little did I know that even that “little bit” would grow into a five-part series, each part written with Kelly sitting attentive on my lap, very much a part of the process, as we told of her life with a stray/feral colony, her kittens and her rescue as the building was to be demolished, chosen for adoption in a shelter because she was to be euthanized for being frightened, and slowly learning to love another cat, and a human, and finally end up in my home. I am writing the series into a book; read about that at the end. Now hear Kelly tell her story.
. . . . . . .
I’m not certain how I came to be where I was, and I didn’t know how to get away from it because everything else was much more frightening than the dark and dirty basement where I found myself.
I was very young and had gone from being a kitten with my mom and siblings to being with a bunch of people somewhere, all I remember was legs, they were so tall and loud and frightened me with big loud feet so close, so I ran one day for where it was quiet and peaceful, and then I couldn’t find my way back. I looked and looked and found nothing familiar so I just started trotting around the streets, crouching behind bushes, under cars, I had no idea where I was or what I was looking for. I was so hungry and realized the food that had always been available had come from those people, and the water in nice bowls like I was used to…what had I done?
Just desperately trotting, I had no idea how long or how far I wandered, but the day grew dark and more quiet, then became light again and noisy. There was just house after house, and cars parked and moving down streets, even at night, and those long-legged people who terrified me more and more.
Other cats were on porches and in yards and I thought they might help me, just answer a question, but they clearly told me to keep out, even the one who looked like my mom and I thought she might understand when I tried to explain, but she yowled some feline profanity my young ears had never heard and slapped me across the face.
My chest tight with fear and sadness, I ran and ran and ran until I was so tired and hungry and thirsty I thought I just might die, but I smelled and sensed other cats again and I was so desperate for just the presence of others like me that I slowed down and stopped, quickly washing my face, swiveling my ears and bobbing my nose to catch the little threads of sound and smell…yes, cats, many cats, and I even smelled the deep birth smell there, the first smell I remember ever, even before the smell of my mom.
And I smelled food. It seemed to be coming from a building across the street, and then I saw an orange cat come out from under the porch, and in the darkness under there I could see other cats too.
I slowly approached, and if it had not been for the enticing smell of food I would have been much more polite and even waited until after they had gone to move forward but my stomach was already gurgling, ready for food and in a daze I started to talk about food and how hungry I was and I walked across the street and into the yard and through the brambles around the porch and the little opening in the criss-cross wood behind it.
The smell was intoxicating. I saw a bunch of cats of all types gathered around a big bag of food, ripped open and the dry bits falling all over and still mumbling to myself I hurried forward in a daze grabbing several pieces from the dirt with my mouth and barely chewing before swallowing, getting a sharp swat from one of the cats already at the bag.
Without any awareness of danger or proper feline etiquette, I shouldered in, under and between two cats and got my face in that pile of food talking vigorously through mouths full of dry crunchy wonderfulness, getting more swats and shoves and jostles and warning sounds through their mouths full of food, but I think they were just as hungry as me, and for the first time since I’d nursed with my siblings from our mother I felt the comfort and warmth and smell and sound of another cat, and for that moment reveled in the community I’d found.
. . . . . . .
This is the fictional portion of little Kelly’s rescue story, the part no one really knows but her. I’ve pieced it together from the bits of her early history I know, from observing the arrivals of many other young kitties who have found themselves a member of a stray and feral cat colony in an urban setting, and included as much of Kelly’s innate personality as I guess would have influenced her activities.
On that note, I make reference to Kelly talking and mumbling and explaining. It is one of the most endearing things about Kelly, for all her timid and cautious nature she is one of the most talkative cats I’ve ever known. She always has something to say, either simple remark or a complete sentence. She’s quite the storyteller, and talks not only to me but to herself as she goes about her daily activities.
I felt it was about time we told little Kelly’s story! She was a part of this home since 1997, joining us along with Namir as fosters from a person who was traveling to California for graduate studies and hoped to take them at some point but never found stable enough housing before we decided they belonged here.
Pieced together from long-ago records, we do know what Kelly was found with a stray and feral colony in an abandoned building in Oakland, near Pittsburgh, in the midst of several colleges and universities, so it was assumed she’d been adopted by a college student and either escaped or been abandoned.
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:
The five parts I published were each the first and only drafts as I felt an insistence to get Kelly’s story “on paper”, intentionally brief for publishing here, hardly ready for publishing as a book. I’ve put them all together as chapters and filled out the story with more detail, looking back though my years of cat health records, researching photos and planning illustrations and putting together a little book which I’ve titled Love’s Shining Circle. You can read about that book here, and also read the other four original parts of Kelly’s story with the links below.
And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.
Read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!