How I Learned To Love Being A Single Cat Lady
Growing up, my family never had pets. In fact, animals never played a major role in my life until a now ex-boyfriend became my gateway to the feline world. After we broke up, I found myself single in my late 30s ... with two cats.
After adopting and falling in love with my two rescue cats, Kip and Petie, I wanted to volunteer for a cat rescue organization as a way of giving back. But working in the New York City advertising industry meant long hours, often including weekend work, so this didn't seem feasible. Then it hit me. Why not open my home to foster cats and kittens?
Like many animal welfare organizations, the group from which I adopted relies on foster homes to care for and socialize the cats they rescue, as they don't have a physical shelter. Since I'd adopted both my cats as adults, I was excited at the chance to interact with kittens and experience their cuteness firsthand.
Some people might resist fostering cats for fear of growing too attached. My friends and family feared I'd end up single in the city – with a house full of cats! I did not share their concerns. In my mind, two cats were more than enough for a single woman living in a one-bedroom New York City apartment trying to snag a life partner. Plus, in my opinion, three of anything was too many - be it cats, dogs, bikes, boats or guitars. After two, it's a collection, and I had no desire to be seen as that kind of woman.
The only question in my mind when it came to fostering was, "how will my existing cats tolerate a rotating cast of characters coming through their apartment"? I liked the idea of running a "halfway home" for rescue cats before they found their forever homes. I wanted to be part of their little journeys, be it nursing them through a cold, or socializing them (a.k.a. smothering them with love!).
Kip, my first "born," is a very outgoing man's man of a tabby cat. He's extremely dapper, masculine and social, and all the men in my life gravitated toward him.
And then there is Petie, my chunky grey tuxedo who looks like a teddy bear but is scared of his own shadow.
From the very first foster kitten who put a little paw in my home, it was Kip who deemed himself the welcoming, supervising and bathing committee. Each cat or kitten was given a thorough once-over by him after which every nook and cranny was properly cleaned. I found it sweet and maternal from this otherwise macho cat.
Petie, on the other hand, preferred to go on with his life as though nothing had changed. He practically bulldozed fosters should they be in his path as he crossed the room. Tiny kittens would literally jump on him Ninja-style and ping off of him like corn kernels hitting a hot skillet as he continued along on his journey, unfazed. His attitude seemed to be that if he didn't acknowledge them, they weren't there.
Things went relatively smoothly for the roughly twenty-plus foster cats and kittens (not all at once, of course) ... until I crossed paths with one foster named Haddie. She was only around 5 months old and seemed sweet enough, even with an eye infection that required many drops and ointments. Little did I know I'd met my match.
As a foster parent, it was my responsibility to take Haddie to adoption events at the local Petco on Saturday mornings. The first few weekends went smoothly. Like clockwork, upon returning home, Kip would have to bathe Haddie again to make sure she smelled "right." After a few weeks, however, things took a turn.
Suddenly one Saturday morning, Haddie was nowhere to be found. After an exhaustive search, I finally found her hiding place, under my bed in the furthest corner, against the wall, barricaded in by plastic storage bins. To free Haddie from her self-imposed exile, I slid under my (dusty) bed, slithered up to her on my belly and grabbed her by the nape of the neck. Victory was mine.
Haddie proved to be a fast learner. Soon coaxing her out of various hiding places became the new normal on Saturday mornings. My next attempt to retrieve her looked something like this: Haddie bolts from under the bed, runs out of my bedroom, down the stairs and to some alternate hiding spot, leaving me under my bed, dusty and catless.
I then began a new strategy: try to outwit her. I thought I could put the cat carrier out days in advance to throw her off her game. No dice. She had a sixth sense when it came to Saturday mornings and would conveniently be missing just when it came time to leave.
Weeks passed and unwittingly - and perhaps subconsciously - I stopped trying to capture her on Saturday mornings. I viewed Haddie as my own personal squatter. She'd found a nice Manhattan apartment with toys, food, and a love interest. It didn't help that Haddie had also made it clear she'd found a boyfriend. She had to be in proximity to Kip at all times – often touching – be it paw or tail.
Then one day, I received a call from the rescue group. Haddie had been in my care as a foster for a full year - the group asked if I was going to make an "honest girl" out of her and officially adopt her. Though I loved her pinched face that allowed me to capture her eyes, nose and little mouth all with one big fat kiss, I wasn't sure how I felt about making it official. That would make three cats.
Three, my self-proclaimed tipping point. Plus, I would be that much closer to proving my family's prediction about me right.
But she'd grown on me, and Kip had become accustomed to grooming her multiple times a day. How could I turn my back on her now? So, I took the plunge, thereby joining the ranks of those who have achieved the cat triumvirate.
So there I was a year later. Single, pushing forty, looking for love – and learning about it and receiving it – from my THREE cats.