my cat’s person?

We often hear that cats choose their person, rather than the person choosing their cat. When I adopted Oscar, we were in sync immediately – there was a connection and, by the end of our first day together, a strong bond. We were meant to be together. Since adopting Toby almost a month ago, I’ve contemplated that “cats choose their person” adage. I chose him but wondered whether he would have chosen me. Let’s face it, I had the power in the adoption decision – even if he had jumped into my arms at the rescue shelter, I had the final say about whether to adopt him or not.

When I was looking online for a cat, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of who was available and where (e.g., MDSPCA, BARCS, etc.). This helped me make the process real and less abstract – it was orderly and methodical. I found that I didn’t really have a “type” or “look” that I was going for. I was drawn to some more than others, but not because of their coloring. I sorted the cats into categories based on whether they were in the shelter or foster care, had health issues, and were between 1 and 6 years old. Cats living in foster care rather than at the shelter were going to be a little more complicated for me – I don’t have a car and would have to set up (potentially multiple) appointments to meet individual cats. After caring for Oscar in his last months, I wanted a break from having a cat with health care needs, so was looking for a cat with no apparent health issues. As for age, I didn’t want a kitten because they are often underfoot, which would not work for my mother, and I didn’t want an older cat because I wasn’t ready to think about how long they might live or find myself dealing with health care issues again. Sadly, many of the cats up for adoption were older and I felt a little guilty for putting them into a lower category.

It’s a challenging time to meet pets, in part because of COVID. The MDSPCA had paused their shelter tours and were doing meetings in people’s cars, so that wasn’t optimal for me. I started with BARCS and was surprised to see how few cats were actually there and available for adoption, as several had notes on their cages indicating that they had already been adopted. I also was surprised at how many of the cats had health issues. I was beginning to think that the adoption process would be a long one.

Tobias was in a room by himself and was hanging out in the sink in front of a large window that looked into the hallway. He was people-watching and seemed mildly amused (and bemused) by all those who paused to say hello to him … and that appealed to me. He was one of two cats that caught my attention – when I indicated that I’d like to meet both cats, I learned that the other had just been adopted. When I met Tobias, he seemed calm and friendly and is a lovely cat – very handsome – but I can’t say we had a special connection. Yet, there was enough of a spark that I decided to move forward, despite hearing that he had a heart murmur. I’ve thought about that decision over the past few weeks and wondered whether I was hasty. I’ve thought about the spreadsheet and that he would have been in category B because of his health issues. Did I adopt him because there weren’t a lot of other cats available when I went to the shelter? He has a lot of energy – should he be in a more active home? Am I unintentionally keeping him from “his person” or will he come to love me as “his person”?

Of course, I love Toby and think he is starting to love me. But, he is the first pet with whom I didn’t have that immediate bond. When I was a child, we had a dog and a cat, though at different times. We got both of them when they were very young, so had that instant attachment that seems to come with babies. Toby is the first pet I’ve had where it wasn’t so much “love at first sight” as it was “really like at first sight”. My growing bond with Toby is like when you are quite taken with someone but each needs to ease into the relationship. It’s different from the intensity of love at first sight, but has its own unique flow and energy. In the past week, he has shied away from me, studied me, purred while licking treats from my finger, played with abandon, and snuggled in bed with me – in other words, we’re finding our way. I can’t speak for him, but for my part, there was something that told me that he was the cat for me. I hope he loves his new home and feels like my mother and I are his people.

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