As you probably have heard on the news, there have been lots of storms across Texas. So last Sunday, April 17, I brought the little cat inside. Again.
Slippery slope, indeed.
But instead of simply cratering to the cuteness, I began actively looking for a home for her. I emailed her photos to all my cat-loving friends, as well as my pet sitter. I posted on Facebook. I circulated an email to the entire Austin branch of my office. And then, success! A Facebook friend who went to my high school wanted to add the little stray to her brood of four. She has a larger home than I, room for five cats, and I could tell from her posts on Facebook she’s an avid kitty lover. She promised kitty would be an indoor kitty, along with the rest of her cats. And there would be no declawing. But there was a bit of a hitch: she lives in Houston, so I’d have to transport little kitty to her.
Luckily, I had a meeting in Houston Thursday morning, so the plan was for me to drop her off before my meeting. I planned to stay at my mother’s house through Saturday to run the estate sale we’d planned for Friday and Saturday. With the severe flooding in Houston, things were touch and go whether the meet or the estate sale would take place. The area where kitty’s new mama lives (and where my mother’s house is) got the worst of it. Video clips appeared on national news of my mother’s neighborhood: people being rescued by boat and paddling around in kayaks. But mom’s home was spared, as were a few others on her street. The prospective cat guardian’s house was spared as well, and by Thursday, the roads were passable enough for me to transport kitty, attend my downtown meeting afterward, and then head to my mom’s for last-minute sale preparations.
The drive wasn’t too bad. Kitty meowed about the first thirty minutes, and then settled in for a nap. She was so quiet that at one point, I checked to see if she’d had a heart attack. She was fine, but for the fact that I woke her, and the meowing began again. Kitty settled down quickly this time. And after two hours of driving in the rain, I pulled into the drive of a home in a pleasant neighborhood, feeling optimistic about kitty’s new home.
Kitty’s new mama answered the door and gave me a big hug. Instantly I was bowled over. By the dank and overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke. The foul smell permeated the room. I imagined it clinging to the drapes, the upholstery, seeping into the paint and the sheetrock. As we walked around to meet the resident cats I took in the scene. The house was filled with clutter. Ashtrays were overflowing with butts. The carpet was dirty and stained. Her resident cats looked well enough. And then she introduced me to her eldest, Rufus: “He’s got some goop in his eyes, but don’t worry. None of the others have it.” She showed me the litter box area: the corner of the laundry room with multiple covered boxes filled with heavily-scented litter. Little kitty was out of her carrier exploring. I asked to use her restroom.
Sitting on the pot, I pulled out my iPhone and typed a text to my best cat-loving friend:
“They smoke inside! I don’t think I can leave her. What should I do?”
When I finished peeing and she hadn’t texted me back, I sent a second message:
“I can’t do it. I’m not leaving her here.”
I came out of the restroom and faced the issue head-on.
“You smoke inside?”
“Yes,” she said. “I thought about telling you. I should have told you.”
“Yes, you should have told me,” I agreed.
“But my kitties are all fine.”
“How do you know?” I asked. “Little kitty lungs. I’m so sorry, but I can’t leave her.”
She said she was near quitting, a halfhearted plea I dismissed as I put kitty back into her carrier.
I drove to my mother’s house, where we’d been setting up for the estate sale that was to begin the next day. I got kitty settled in a bedroom with a bowl of water and cat toys we’d been planning to sell. I had no litter box. No food. No plan for what to do with her over the next two days during the sale.
I sent an email to the meeting leader and explained my predicament. That I wouldn’t be attending the meeting in person due to a failed kitty adoption moments ago. And then I dialed in. I was chided a bit on a conference call by a roomful of lawyers, as well as two judges, one federal and one state, in attendance.
“Who do we have on the phone?”
“Ella’s here,” I said.
“Oh, it’s Ella and her cat,” the meeting leader said.
Ella and her cat.
After the meeting ended, I ran out and bought a litter box, litter, and food. By Thursday night I was trying out names for her.
“I think you look like a Lucy, I told her. Or maybe Petunia.”