Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Rescue Story: Murphy, and the Happy Entanglement of Rescue

calico cat
Murphy in her window.

This story brings together details from several other rescue stories I’ve written including Cookie and the woman in the blue house who I witnessed rescuing the tabby and white cat. At the end of this story I ended up with Cookie, and that’s always given me a few things to think about.

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By the autumn of 1992, after I’d lived in this house through two winters, I decided that the neighborhood wasn’t full of cats who people let roam outdoors, nor cats who were born and lived outdoors. I moved in here in October and immediately began seeing cats roaming all over, and who came to my door through that first winter. Some were indeed indoor-outdoor cats as I learned from getting to know my neighbors. But winter and summer and spring and fall I’d pulled in a number of cats from my own back yard, and yet they kept appearing, some older kittens but mostly adults, and all friendly.

I’d just begun to learn a bit about feral cats and, remembering Moses when she had first come to me only five years prior and was now a loving but reserved and cautious adult, I determined that these cats had belonged to someone at one time in their lives. I had also learned that nearly all the big Victorian houses on the street just below me on the hill were actually made into multiple apartments, and the overgrown area between our yards where an alley was never constructed because of the steep hill and irregular topography made a great hangout for cats living outdoors with just enough people who would feed them. Eventually I discovered many cats were leave-behinds from people who had moved and left their cats or had simply been put outside when their landlord had discovered a cat living in a “no pets” apartment. I’m fairly certain, after meeting a few people who’d “lost” their cat, that some cats had intentionally escaped a dodgy fate indoors, finding the dangers of living outdoors a more desirable choice than living with some humans.

calico cat
Standing up so you can see all her best features.

In September that year a very nicely rounded calico cat sauntered through my yard, resplendent in her glowing white fur, a hat and little jacket in patches of black and orange, a white ring on her tail just near the end and a bright orange speck right above her beguiling yellow eyes, which had a slightly amused crinkle at the corners, and even a little kitty smile on her face. I knew this cat did not belong outdoors. She knew it too, but was not of the notion that beggars could not be choosers; she was no beggar, and she was choosing her new household carefully. The fact the last one had not worked out was no fault of hers, and she was not living that mistake again.

I asked around the neighborhood if anyone knew or was missing this cat and got no response that anyone knew her or knew of her. One of the people I asked was the woman who lived in the blue apartment house who would later rescue yet another kitty wandering through my yard and I remember agreeing with her that this kitty was likely a stray, we’d seen her around too often at different times of the day. I agreed to take the kitty in since she felt one cat in her small apartment was enough, and she really only wanted to live with one cat at a time.

So in she came as I continued to search for a possible owner and put up signs describing her on all the telephone poles on all the streets around me. I never liked to feed cats in my back yard because for the short while I had done so I had so many cats coming to eat and many of them ostensibly owned by neighbors. I also didn’t trust some of my neighbors and didn’t want to make the cats or me a target. And Stanley was livid when he saw other cats in his yard, and when Stanley was livid he peed on the nearest thing, whatever it was. Best not to let any of that happen if I could avoid it.

I had established my four-week rule by that time, that any new cat stay in seclusion in the spare cat room for four full weeks. During that time the cat saw a veterinarian, received vaccinations, and was spayed or neutered if necessary, and I got to know the kitty, taking photos for a future adoption. I named her Sunspot for the tiny orange spot on her forehead that looked like a splash of color from the little orange hat on the top of her head. She was unbelievably nice, sweet and playful, talking in a murmuring voice, purring all the time. My veterinarian reported she had already been spayed, her blood tests showed no illnesses, and she was probably two or three years old. As soon as the four weeks were over I let her mingle a little more each day, and there was not one conflict among them. They’d already smelled her under the door and on me, and likewise she had smelled them, there was no mystery. She became a part of the household right away.

A few weeks after she’d joined the household another kitty came into our lives, just about December 6, in fact, a little tortoiseshell kitten who I named Cookie

calico cat on mante,
Murphy on the mantel.

I had moved into the house with six cats, then Sophie, our housewarming cat, joined us just as I was going back to work in November 1990, though later she went to live with my mother for a while. All the other cats I’d taken in had found homes, and the foster cats had just returned to their home, but Sophie had returned by autumn 1992 when Sunspot joined us, and then our house was eight. Cookie spent her time in the spare cat room and then was permitted to mingle, being turned into a round little soccer ball by Stanley and Allegro, and for a few months my house had nine cats, seven of whom I considered permanent.

My manager at work, Diane, was also a cat lover as well as a dog lover, and later I would meet her cats Harley and Baby, another calico who had been with her and her twin sister Donna while growing up. Diane had helped me find homes for a few cats among her animal-loving friends, and in the spring of 1993 told me her sister was looking for a kitten or cat to adopt.

Donna had divorced and moved back home, gotten her own apartment and decided she needed some companionship.  She wasn’t looking for a certain color of cat, any certain breed or age, I remember her saying she loved calicoes because of Baby but any color or any age would do, she just wanted one that needed someone to love it and take good care of it. What rescuer wouldn’t ask for a home like that?

I let her know I had two cats for adoption and she could come and visit and make her choice. She petted and played with and held both cats, and asked me, “Which one do you like?” In the end she chose Murphy. It was a clear choice—Murphy was friendly but it was easy to see she adored Donna from the start. Cookie was still a kitten and never liked to be picked up and held, and besides that, she was meant to be with me, as I’ll explain later. So it all worked out the way it was meant to.

calico cat
Sitting on top of her cat tree.

Donna lived in a small town so Murphy lived mainly indoors, and only went outside when Donna could watch her. “She loved the cat scratching post I had and the nice, big carpeted shelf in front of the bedroom window… you could always find her there laying in the sun,” Donna said of Murphy. “Awwww, I do miss her and I’m tearing up just thinking of her. Murphy was a great cat and I loved her. ”

Murphy got a fluffy calico sister and a nice big orange brother over the next few years, and I remember Donna affectionately calling her a “butterball”. Murphy developed cancer in later years and peacefully died at home in 2005. Donna sent me photos twice during those years which are the photos I’ve used in this post.* I was so thrilled to see this girl so happy in her photos, and pleased that Donna and Murphy had been so happy together.

. . . . . . .

I came to two conclusions from this rescue and adoption. First, while rescuing cats was time-consuming and expensive and often sad though very much worth it for saving and bettering the life of another living creature, so the letting go of a cat whose life you may have saved, with whom you’d spent time to gain her trust get to know her personality, her likes and dislikes in toys and affection and food, was worth it for the joy of matchmaking, of finding just the right person or family for this cat you’d come to love. Watching Murphy with Donna the day they met, knowing they were strangers but a bond was there already, I thought of the first time I’d met each of the cats who’d come to share my life and though there’d been a distance between us, in time the distance closed and I would die for them. I couldn’t keep Murphy as much as I liked her because I felt nine cats was too many—and it was, though I lived with families of nine cats for nearly two decades—and I could clearly see that more cats were out there to be rescued. In that case, what could be better than the perfect person?

And when I received the first reports back from Donna, it was as if I’d given a very dear gift to her in introducing her to Murphy, and knowing Murphy’s sweet personality I’d also given Murphy a gift in introducing her to Donna. I could see Murphy’s glowing happiness in those photos. How could I be sad for myself in letting her go when I’d made two other living beings so happy, and I still had a house full of cats I loved? From that point on, finding homes for cats I’d rescued became a joy as I carefully pursued the right person for the cat I’d come to know so well and shared these people and cats with each other. I heard such loving stories through the years and shared their losses, often adopted another cat or two to the same person while or after they lived with the cat they’d initially adopted, and made lifelong friends with the person who adopted and often their family and friends as well.

tortoiseshell cat on leaves
Tortoiseshell Camouflage

And second, the cats who come to share our lives, even by chance such as this, are the ones meant to be with us. I enjoyed Murphy’s friendly and outgoing presence from the first time I saw her walk through my yard, and her easygoing personality with the other cats and her affection with me, it was as if she’d always been part of our family. But I adored Cookie. From the first moment we met I felt a bond with her, the sad, withdrawn little kitten who turned into my cheerful and self-appointed lady-in-waiting. I looked back at those moments as a time I might have lost Cookie and was fearful lest I have another such close call in the future, letting go of a cat who was meant to stay here. But I trust that if we put aside our fears and just follow our heart and do the right thing, then the right thing is returned to us. In this way I also felt that rescuing cats at the rate I was proceeding was the right thing for me to do, of all the things I could be doing at that time in my life; the cats needed to be rescued, and so did I, in my own way.

In the end, both Donna and I ended up with the right cats. And I got to share 20 years with a cat who loved and supported me in ways no person ever has.

. . . . . . .

*I keep all these photos, yet I could not find the photos Donna had sent me with her letter, so these photos are ones she scanned and sent to me. It gave me a wonderful reason to talk to her again.

Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.

Also read “Cookie’s Homecoming Day”, Cookie’s own account of being rescued and joining our family.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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