Friday, January 10, 2014

Nine Lives

Cats in the United States have nine lives. Cats in Italy, Germany, and Spain are said to have seven lives. And cats in the Turkish and Arabic regions of the world are said to have only six lives.

Update 10/16/2014: The above information was gleaned from the Wiki article called "Cat." Having traveled to Turkey and surveyed a number of locals about cats, it seems as though Turkish cats actually have seven lives -- not six.

Meet Russell and Mitzy. These kitties are American kitties, so they are fortunate to have nine lives.

Mitzy & Russell.

I adopted these two furr balls nine years ago. They were the children that I was never going to have.

These are the most adorable kitties in the world. I love them with my whole heart -- plus some. I love their long, soft furr. I love their loud, soothing purrs. I love Russell's big, wintry beard (he's a true man of the Pacific Northwest) and how he snores when he sleeps. I love how Mitzy sits inches away from my face in the mornings, patiently waiting for me to rouse from my slumber.

I love how these kitties have loved me unconditionally and have been my most loyal confidants over a good part of the last decade.

Wrestling furr balls.

My handsome baby boy, Rusty.

My beautiful baby girl, Mitzy.

I made the final push to end my downsizing efforts last March. I likely would have completed the process a year earlier, but I wasn't sure what to do with my kitties. I had committed to providing care for my cats for their entire lives. But, I couldn't take them on my bike adventures with me. And I wasn't comfortable putting my life on hold for 10+ plus years until the cats lived out their lives.

After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I needed to find a new home for my kitties. I grappled with this decision for a long time (where "long time" = "multiple years"). I eventually came to terms with the fact that I had given my little boy and my little girl nine wonderful years of life.

I was very picky about who would take my cats. For one, I refused to take them to a shelter -- the thought of my little kitties sitting in a tiny cage waiting to be adopted was unbearable. The cats must go straight to a home. The homeowner couldn't have other pets. Or smoke. Or be mean. Or have a dirty home. The homeowner must be committed to giving my kitties as much love and as many snuggles as I gave over the years.

I was extremely fortunate to find the perfect mom, Emily. Emily was looking for two adult cats who could keep each other company while she worked during the day. She had experience with cats and did really well with Rusty and Mitzy during our initial get-together.

As sad as it was to drop off the kitties at Emily's house a few days later (I cried the whole time), it was a huge relief for me. Not only could I move on with my dreams, but I could do so knowing that my love bugs were in good hands. Really good hands.

Asleep, dreaming of mice.

Russell, as a kitten.

Mitzy Moo, always sticking out her tongue.

I think about my kitties often. I wonder what they are doing. I wonder if they ever reflect on our good times together. I've been to visit them once, and it was great fun to see them all settled into their new home.

But finding a new home for my kitties hasn't dulled the shame I feel for giving up my cats. And so I've wondered how I can "pay forward" the love that Rusty and Mitzy have given me over the years.

Lazy love bugs.

My little pumpkin fits his body
within the sun shadow cast onto the floor.

Mitzy Belle smells a bouquet of flowers.

I decided I would "pay it forward" by volunteering at the Seattle Animal Shelter. The shelter is pretty amazing. It is run by the City of Seattle, and as such, is required to accept all animals. Although they do not use the term "no-kill shelter," they do not euthanize any animals that are adoptable.

I am on the "9-Lives" team at the shelter. We are a group of self-directed volunteers who work to improve the adoptability and living experience of the cats.

For two hours a week, I provide basic care and socialization for the adoptable cats. I hold them, and pet them, and brush them, and play with them. Being around these kitties is such a joy!

The collage below shows a handful of the kitties I have cared for as a volunteer. As of the date of this posting, these cats are awaiting adoption.

Top Row: Todd, Mr. Pig, Petunia, Satsup
Bottom Row: Godiva, Spirit, Thayer, Sugar Magnolia
(Photos from

It has been really neat to see how the animals have responded to the love they receive from the volunteers. Take Godiva, for example. She is a beautiful tuxedo kitty, with silky soft fur, alluring green eyes, and "elaborate ear furnishings." She is as shy as can be.

Two weeks ago when I opened Godiva's cage, she retreated and hissed in fear. She would not have anything to do with petting. But, last week when I opened the cage, Godiva welcomed my petting, rolled over on her tummy for a belly rub, and even purred with pleasure. The socializing Godiva has received from the volunteers over the last week has resulted in a huge improvement!

I'm happy to be a part of the 9-Lives Team at the Seattle Animal Shelter. There are a lot of other great volunteer teams at the shelter, too, such as: dog walkers and runners, critter caretakers, folks who dress up as pet mascots, pet therapists, and foster parents.

Rusty and Mitzy, please know that volunteering with the shelter is my way of saying that I love you lots and I miss you terribly!

If you are interested in volunteering, click here.
If you are interested in adopting an animal, click here.

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