We adopted Big Ben from Toronto Animal Services in late October. We had been talking about the possibility of getting a cat for a while. I had finished school in August and, after our Europe trip in September, I was now looking for a job. I was spending a lot of time at home, alone, and starting to get a little squirrelly. When Piero suggested that we seriously look for a cat, I think it was to give me some company more than anything.
We started visiting shelters around the GTA, with the intent of just seeing if there was a cat anywhere that we connected with. We wanted a friendly cat, one that liked being held and was very social. Piero grew up with dogs, so an aloof and independent cat would be too much of an adjustment for him. We also wanted a bit of an older cat, so that we knew their personality was formed, and also because people are often reluctant to adopt the older cats.
We went to six shelters, and found Ben at the fifth. Among all the scrappy kittens and daintier cats at Toronto Animal Services East, Ben was a stocky elder. He had a big round face with jowls and a solid tabby body. When we let him out of his cage, he doted on us, rubbing against our legs and letting us pick him up without any hesitation. At the same time, he kept the scrambling kittens at bay, swatting at them and coolly hissing to keep them away before returning to climbing up into Piero’s lap (my dog guy was pretty much sold on cats at this point). Ben was a cuddly boss man, and we loved him.
But we wanted to be absolutely sure. We visited one more shelter, and met a beautiful ten-year old female cat who had been at the shelter for over a year. I so badly wanted to get her out of there, but she was so timid after spending a year in confinement that she wouldn’t even leave her cage when we opened the door for her. We left, feeling sad for her but knowing Ben was our number one.
So, we said we would think it over for one night. The next day, if we still thought Ben was the cat for us, we would go back and pick him up.
And we did. We got a carrier (the Animal Services lady said that we should bring our own, since the cartons they give out for free would not fit his, erm, girth), we signed the forms, and we brought our little boss man home. When we walked in the door of the apartment and let him out of the cage, it felt so surreal. Are we really doing this? Caring for a little creature? It felt like a lot of responsibility. For the first two nights, neither of us slept much, worrying about him.
We found out from the shelter that Ben was brought in as a stray. He had scratch marks around his neck as though he’d been in a fight, and he was missing a tooth and a half. He had worms. Our vet said that his previous owners must not have cared for him well, based on her exam.
On the contrary, we, perhaps, care too much. But Ben is our baby. Our baby who is toughened to the hard world outside. For being a stray, Ben is remarkably trusting and snuggly. He likes to be held like a baby (a 16-pound baby). He has always slept on his back, with his belly exposed, a sign that he feels at ease.
Why “Sleepy Kitty Sunday”? Ben is my self-care. These past couple months have been hard at times, but he has been my little (big) companion. There is nothing quite like having a furry creature curl up beside you and snooze. So, every Sunday, I will be sharing a photo of sleepy Ben (not always accompanied by lengthy cat stories, I promise), because before the busy-ness of the week starts all over again, I’d like to take some time to learn from Ben: to be at ease, to mellow, and to allow myself some time to just be lazy.
Do you practice self-care before you begin the week? What’s your way of caring for yourself?