When Kate, my kitten of 13 years had to be suddenly euthanized, I was devastated. She’d been the first animal that had been fully my responsibility. She was the one who’d first made me a mom.
I soon discovered that I hated going home to an empty apartment, too, so as soon as I got my next paycheque, I headed to a nearby Toronto Animal Services shelter to adopt. While I waited for payday, I perused the site often, looking for who my next felines loves would be. I knew I didn’t want to have only one pet living with me, so my plan was to get two, possibly from the same litter. And I wanted them to be as different from Kate as possible – I wanted boys, I wanted something other than a tabby (except maybe orange tabbies, because how cute are they?!) and I wanted little kittens who would distract me from my Kate heartache a little bit with their kitten-y antics. Plus, Kate had been a good 3-4 months old before she came to live with me, so I was looking for someone younger this time.
I saw and instantly fell in love with a young tuxedo chap the shelter had named Chimneysweep. He had huge long whiskers and was fluffy and black and white and perfect. Well, almost perfect – he was about 5 months old at the time, they estimated, but he was so cute I’d overlook the slightly older-than-I-was-looking-for age.
The time finally came for me to go find my new kittens, and I bullied Tim into coming with me. I went from room to room, kind of looking at the various cats available to adopt, but wanting to first see if my luck had held out long enough for Chimneysweep to still be there.
It had, and he was!
I scooped the little fool out of his cage and after about a 3 second cuddle he jumped down and played with some/all of the toys available in the room. He was a scamp and a half, that little guy, and I was delighted! After watching and playing with him for a few minutes, I put him back in his kennel with the promise that I would be back for him, and headed off to find him a new brother.
On the way, though, I bumped into one of the volunteers who told me that Chimneysweep didn’t really play well with other cats. He might do well with an older, bigger cat who would put him in his place, but otherwise, he was a ball of energy that would be taken out on me and my apartment if he was an only pet, or on an older cat, which was not what I was looking for. They suggested I try him with another kitten to see how they did together, and decide from there.
In one of the other rooms, a young brown female tabby had been trying to get my attention while I was talking to a little black kitten in the cage next to her. Tim suggested we try the tabby with Chimneysweep, as she didn’t seem the type to take any of his roughhousing crap. I reluctantly agreed – I mean, she was female, and a tabby, but at least she was brown instead of gray, and I’d have Chimneysweep around to keep me laughing if I ended up taking both. I figured it was worth a shot, anyway.
As we walked into that room, however, a little black paw shot out from a lower level cage and snagged my pantleg. I looked in to see who was pawing at me, and saw this cute little black ball of fluff the shelter had named Tabitha. I remembered seeing her on the website, though she hadn’t really stood out to me at the time. In that moment, however, all I could envision was how cute her little black and white fluffiness would look with Chimneysweep’s little black and white tuxie fluffiness, and decided to try the two of them together, instead. One of the volunteers took Tabitha out of her cage and blew on her white patch of belly fur to see how long ago she’d been spayed. She had fully healed, so she carried her back to Chimneysweep’s room, with Tim and I following behind. It would occur to me later that the most prevalent feeling I had in those moments was tiny stabs of jealousy. I wanted to be the one carrying her.
As soon as she and Chimneysweep got to the same floor, the wrestling started. Well, he started wrestling. Tabitha was more pinned on her back with a confused and helpless look on her face as he chewed on her. After a few moments, we decided we didn’t like the way he was playing with her, and pulled him off. I held him, the volunteer held Tabitha, and looking at her now-dishevelled little face, I knew she was the one I had to adopt. If only to apologize for what she’d just been subjected to on my account. With a touch of sadness and a little confusion of my own, I placed the kitten I thought I’d be taking home that day back into his cage, and told him I was sorry. I also mentioned that, if he was a good boy, he’d be sure to be adopted soon, because he was just too handsome not to be.
(Chimneysweep was adopted not long after, actually, but that day was the beginning and end of our story).
So there I was, still with one kitten chosen, but a different one than had been chosen mere minutes prior. I still had to find another one, and by that point (having just given back what I’d held as my one certainty), I was so confused, I decided to just let them choose me, instead. The little tabby was still waiting in the other room, and as she had chosen me first out of all of them, I decided to give her and Tabitha a shot together. I was a little apprehensive, since poor Tabitha had just been worked over a bit as it was, but I was hopeful that the introductions would go better this time.
And they did. The girls wrestled in silence for a few moments – no hissing, or meowing – and both were involved. It wasn’t one chewing on the other. Then they broke apart and took turns exploring the room, and coming back to check on me.
I had my cats.
The shelfter had named the tabby Linda, but I have an Aunt Linda, and was determined to find a different name for her. Something that suited the little curl at the tip of her tail when she walked. The main glitch, however, was that she hadn’t yet been spayed, so I couldn’t actually take both kittens with me that day. In fact, further problems would crop up and I wouldn’t be able to take Linda home for at least a month, if at all.
So, again reluctant, I left that day with one kitten. Tabitha. A female, about 5 months old, so even older than Kate had been. But at least she wasn’t a tabby. But the other one was. What had I done?
I got her home, and she seemed to feel comfortable in the apartment and with me right away. I read all this information about how to introduce a kitten to a new home, to another kitten, etc, but Tabitha didn’t seem to require any of that. She knew she was home.
For my part, I knew she couldn’t keep the name Tabitha. The little trouble-maker was going to require a shorter name – perhaps one I would lengthen when using it as a term of endearment. But shorter for when she was causing trouble. I’d wanted to give both kittens some kind of cute pair name, but I wasn’t sure if Not-Linda (as I’d taken to calling her) would ever actually be able to come home, so while I toyed with the possibility of Scully and Reyes, it didn’t really fit either kitten, so I ended up going with a name from my youth that was making a comeback with a new film in the decades-old franchise.
That’s how Tabitha became Flynn.
As a kitten, Flynn was super cute and had a habit of getting into everything. Or it seemed like everything. She drooled a lot, kept knocking decorations off my Christmas tree so she could bat them around the apartment, and her favourite toy was a stick with a feather attached to the end that she dragged around behind her until the feather more or less disintegrated. She had no idea how to ask for the kind of attention she wanted, nor did she quite know what to do when she got it. She seemed happy for the most part, though, and sincerely wanted to be loved. And to explore. She was very floppy and you could do pretty much whatever you wanted with her. She was very tolerant, and very light. She looks big because she’s so fluffy, but there is barely anything to her, even now. She likes to be near me more than she likes to be on me, but I am slowly teaching her how to lap cat. She’s not a fan of pooing in the litter, for some reason, but prefers the mat next to the litter, instead.
The vet said maybe something happened before she got to the shelter that made her not like the sensation (she doesn’t cover anything up after, either), or perhaps she was separated from her mother before she learned how to cat.
Regardless, I’ve tried lots of different things, and in the end, I decided that it’s better just to work with her as she is. Sometimes she acts like maybe she’ll poo on the floor instead, and all I have to do is say her name, and she goes over to her usual spot instead. So at least there’s that. We’ve developed an understanding of sorts. She also usually waits for me to be around before she goes, because she knows I’ll clean it up right after.
I remember, for the first day or so, I was kind of stand-offish with her. She wasn’t Kate – at all – and yet I couldn’t figure out how to love her. I feel like we just kind of watched one another for the first bit. Also, she smelled like shelter, and I wasn’t sure she knew how to groom herself. I wasn’t sure I knew what to do with a cat who didn’t know how to cat. She had zero traction on the hardwood floors, and sometimes I wondered if she even had claws, because they never seemed to come out, even when we would eventually play together. She’s gentle and loving and….like…pretty simple. She’s like a perpetual innocent, that Flynn. Just wanting everyone to be pleased.
A day or two into our new life together, I put her on the back of the toilet seat, and got some paper towels together. I wet them, and used them to wipe down all of her fur. She purred the whole time. Her purr is super quiet and I had to put my ear up to her to hear it at all, but I could feel it vibrating throughout her body. She was happy, probably to be getting more attention from me. I probably could have given her a full bath, but I was hoping the damp paper towels would induce her to start grooming more. For whatever reason, it worked, and she stopped smelling like shelter, and instead got even fluffier the more she cleaned herself.
Then, despite the fact that she had the apartment – and me – to herself for at least a month, she remained curious yet welcoming – her usual gentle self – for every other animal and human that comes through the door. She has gotten a bit better at defending herself during play wrestling time, but she won’t be winning any titles any time soon. She is getting much better at being a lap cat, sprawling longer and longer in my lap, and more and more often now.
She loves hand lotion…I have no idea why.
She rarely throws up furballs, so when she does, she appears to be confused as to what the hell it was that just came out of her.
She has a stomach like a steel trap and can eat pretty much anything, yet still remains as light as air.
Her eyes were yellow when I brought her home, but now they are usually green – darker green when she is in a particularly good mood.
Sometimes she still plays by herself, much to my entertainment, and she and the dog have taken to occasionally grooming one another. Which is weird, but awesome.
In some ways, Flynn needs me the most, and sincerely wants me to love her as much as she loves me. She is silly, and adorable and in some cases, I think if I were to have a favourite of the brood, it would be her. I don’t know where she came from, or how she ended up in a shelter, but I’m glad she reached out and grabbed my attention that day. Once I got over the fact that she wasn’t Kate, Flynn grew into a new part of my heart that I hadn’t realized existed.
And now we just keep growing, together.
Tabitha –> Flynn – December 2010 and counting
Does the tabby in Flynn’s Kennel Card photo look familiar? No idea if it’s the same cat, but wouldn’t THAT be a story?!