The Cat Hustle

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My family is in a state of change. Everyone is moving. My parents are moving to Washington state, my grandmother is moving in with them, Giovanni’s family recently moved, my dad’s brother and his family are selling their house, and my mom’s brother and his wife are selling their house. Everyone is going on an adventure.

Even though we’re splitting up, I’m happy for my parents, because they chose a house they love and will be able to rescue lots of animals. They wanted me to move too and go to the local college, but after racket-balling the choices, I’ve decided that I want to stay in California. There are plenty of reasons why, but most importantly so I can stay with Giovanni, continue studying at a great junior college, and live in my favorite state (after leaving it before). It took some convincing, but they’ve accepted the idea. My dad occasionally remarks about how he’s going to really miss me, and I think it’s cute how worried he is, opposed to my mom, who wants to move today and says I’m going to be fine.

I’ve been listening to my heart much more since I visited Washington with Giovanni and my parents. We all drove in my dad’s van and during travel time had plenty of time to sleep. And that is how Gio and I passed the time. Between naps, he told me about an inspiring dream he had and that before it he spoke to his heart, like Santiago from The Alchemist (a book we read in our first semester English class). When another nap haze swept over, I tried doing the same. It didn’t speak at first, as my conscious remained awake and rambled over both of us. I don’t know when my conscious quieted down and my heart began speaking, but it did. My heart spoke so calmly, without fear, doubt, and negativity, but honesty, love, and kindness.

The communication with myself has since strengthened my decision-making, and following my heart has lead me to be happier than before, despite the frequent ups and downs with depression. What my heart tells me now is to stay. Beginning my adventure of living with Giovanni and his family in a homely little trailer (and a house in 2-5 months, depending on what we find). 🙂

The trailer isn’t ready until August 15th, however, leaving everyone living between Gio’s grandmother’s and Gio’s aunt’s. While most of the animal family members moved onto a family friend’s ranch, the cats needed a place to stay as well. Thus beginning a new, secret adventure…

About a year ago, Gio’s outside cats (that hung out in his backyard for food but weren’t exactly his family’s) had a final litter before they were taken to get fixed. Since the kittens lived outside, they were shy and often hid upon human sighting. Aging around everyone made them slightly more social, but particularly around Gio’s younger brother, Memo, who named, fed, visited them. Whenever they wanted food, they climbed up this screen door outside the living room (Stewie is the one climbing).

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Left to right, top to bottom: Cookie, Mustache, Jace, Oreo, Stewie, Tiger, Chocolate

Unfortunately, the aggressive ranch dogs murdered a few of the cats, while others got killed on the nearby highway. Others could have passed away from sickness. I’m hoping that a majority of them decided to become hunters, but I really don’t know… Giovanni told me that the previous owners of the house abandoned their cats, and that’s why they were here in the first place. The whole situation was pretty upsetting.

So eventually there were four cats remaining: Stewie, Tiger, Oreo, and Cookie.

Stewie was the chubbiest kitten and looked like his mother and Cookie: mostly white with black and grey spots on his face, body, and tail. He was Memo’s favorite, after Chocolate. He got hit and killed by a car. Memo burried him in the backyard under the rose bushes.

Tiger, as the name implied, looked like a miniature grey tiger. After Stewie passed, he began acting like the “aplha male,” chasing Oreo and Cookie around and spraying everywhere. Memo had no idea what spraying was until we caught Tiger spraying on a metal pan right in front of us. He meowed a lot, and Memo joked that he only wanted to be friends with the other two, but nobody liked him. Tiger didn’t know how to make friends yet. He got hit and killed by a car. He was buried in the rose bushes.

The final night we all stayed at the house, Gio, Memo, and I made plans to take care of Oreo and Cookie at my house, until the trailer was ready. In the morning, we bought the cats their essentials and a cardboard cat carrier that opened on the top. Not a smart choice. We tried getting Cookie in first and fought for escape immediently. Oreo reacted no differently. We tried a few more times with Cookie, as Oreo would go no where near us, until Gio got an awful scratch on his arm. Because he and Memo had work, we had to leave and get them tomorrow. I tried one last time to coax Oreo closer, but he simply starred before jumping off the porch and running into the field. Cookie ran away from us whenever we approached, and nestled herself up in the rosebushes.

I worried for the rest of the day as to how we could catch them, and whether they could stay at my house. Fortunately, there were only two issues that would effect my catsitting: fighting and spraying.

For years I’ve researched how to properly introduce cats to one another, after my family made the mistake of plopping a bunch of stranger cats together. I have seen war among such cute creatures, and I have learned.

Spraying was not much of an issue, since the two were girls… or so Memo thought. The first time we tried to catch Cookie and Oreo, I saw Oreo had male parts… not only that, I found out that only the female cats were fixed (Gio’s parents didn’t think “chopping off their balls” was right (Gio’s word choice)). Both Memo and Gio felt unsure about catching Oreo since the discovery, but I assured them it would be alright… somehow.

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The next day came around (July 25th), and we ran our errands before returning to their old house. When we got into the backyard, Cookie was sitting in a corner, barricaded by rosebushes, while Oreo was absent. Memo knew the cats best, so he managed to get Cookie out of the bushes. We failed a couple more times by accidentally scaring her, but I got an idea to carry her into the laundry room, wait for her to calm down, and then get her in the carrier. With some patience and persistence, it worked! Now we waited for Oreo.

Memo stayed with Cookie, while Gio and I called and waited for Oreo. This is when we started realizing that he wasn’t coming back. He and Cookie were the final cats of the group, and Cookie had been tamed while Oreo grew feral. Even after all that happened, Cookie stayed in the backyard, as if waiting for us, people, to come and feed her, but Oreo wasn’t waiting. Gio also pointed out that Oreo could be right outside the fence but choosing not to reveal himself. Even before, Cookie came up to people and purred when being held, while Oreo kept a distance and tensed when held, strangling to get down. At first I felt heartbroken about “leaving him behind,” and guilty about him not being neutered, but I considered their different personalities. These cats were feral, born and raised outside. Sure, they had some domestic traits in their blood, but they knew the outside world.

In the Japanese movie, Wolf Children, *spoiler* Yuki and Ami are both wolf and human, and throughout their development from babies to teens, they must decide what they want to be. Yuki grew closer to the human world, and Ami grew closer to the forrest; Yuki chooses to remain a human, and Ami remains a wolf. *end spoiler* This explained Cookie and Oreo’s growth to me perfectly. Cookie grew closer to humans while Oreo grew feral, living on his own as a hunter. Cookie had waited for us to come back, but Oreo wasn’t with her waiting. Maybe he ran away, went to explore, or realized we, the food source, were gone and he needed to hunt to survive. I had argued with this notion, thinking about how Oreo’s lifespan could be reduced by not staying with us, but then I considered how he might never be happy living inside with humans. He wanted to be an outdoor cat, and we could no longer provide that for him. They grew into two unique cats, searching the world for their own happiness, just as people do.

I do not regret this choice, but I do regret not having him neutered first, as I don’t want to contribute to the stray cats and dogs problem. I’ll probably regret it my whole life, but I’ll do my best in working to spread the word about fixing your pets and adopting. I understand that you may disagree with my actions, and I take full responsibility for the mistake.

So as this entire cat catching and rescue went on, I decided to not tell my parents. I live in the remodeled storage area of our house, and there are no doors inside the house to get in, making me a little disconnected from the rest of the house. I planned to reveal Cookie’s presence after she got comfortable living around me. Getting her here was stressful enough, so none of us needed the stress of introducing her to my parents, who were also stressed with moving. My heart whispered that ultimately they would be okay with it, and if not at first, they would be okay with it once I told them she had no other place to go. Who turned me into an animal lover and rescuer after all? Them! 🙂

Despite being terrified of carriers before, Cookie got quite comfortable in it and spent her first night at my house sleeping inside it, even when the door was left wide open.

My other two cats, Tina and Gibson, greeted Cookie with curiosity. Gibson, the leader of all wars, hissed at her in the cage, but otherwise let her be. Tina didn’t fully understand what was going on and left Cookie alone. We even tried feeding them together, and though Gibson hissed a couple times, the meal was peaceful.

The second day in her new home, Cookie left her carrier and explored! I tried playing with her, but the toy’s bell scared her. To teach her that the toys are safe, I trailed some kibble up to the toy. She also found a new sleeping spot.

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A few days later, she slept on the bed with Gio and me for the first time, and a couple days following, starting sleeping with us every night. Her social growth makes me so happy, and when I wake up in the middle of the night, I check if she’s still there.

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Which brings us to current day.

My mother discovered Cookie first. She came downstairs to ask about some boxes, and Cookie had been sitting by the glass door. I didn’t say anything right away, but after we spoke, my mom wandered to the storage room where Cookie was hiding and started cooing at her with, “Hello!” A huge smile stuck to my face, and I tried not to laugh at the unplanned discovery that turned out fine. My dad met Cookie a similar way, asking me, “Where did you get that?” As if I stole a neighbor’s cat. I explained to him I was watching her for Giovanni, and he was fine. Despite how well they handled meeting her, I think the secret hustle was best.

Giovanni and I took her to the vet last Wednesday for a wellness check. The vet said she is a very healthy cat, and explained the vaccines we should get. We did most of her vaccines then, and have to go back in four weeks for a booster on one (forgot the name…) and a couple others. After her shots, she had the anesthesia face, and Memo kept laughing and calling it her “Dubai was lit” face. I don’t want to tease her, but it was a little funny and quite adorable.

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She loves playing together with her toys, although I’m trying to make her more active. She’s really good at catching it when it’s flying around her or at her but not good at chasing. Yesterday, I held the string toy behind me and ran around with her following. The fifth or sixth time, she dashed in front of me, caught on my foot, and got flung into the wall. It was awful! But I kept laughing, because it happened so fast. I don’t know why or how it happened either, unless she was trying to run beside me or ahead of me. I managed to soothe her out of hiding and played a little more, and then I fed her to remind her I’m a safe being and mean her no harm. Thankfully we are friends again!

She is so much like Gibson, running to the door when Gio and Memo show up, trying to eat out of everyone else’s food bowl, grabbing food out of her bowl and then eating it from her paw… she also runs to Gibson whenever he comes up to the glass door, and even tried grooming him once (after he sat by her). Although he growled a few times, he eventually just let her lick him.

Maybe it’s a Senpai/Kouhai relationship, and Cookie just wants her Senpai, Gibson, to notice her… because he seems to ignore her. Sort of. Giovanni thinks it’s love. And writing it down makes it sound like a budding romance…

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Yesterday, Giovanni and I bought collars for Cookie and Gibson (Tina doesn’t go outside, so we figured it’s safe for her to be without), and although she didn’t like it at first, she’s already adjusting. We wanted a pretty, floral collar for Cookie but ended up getting plain black, since it was a better deal. Gibson’s tag has a skull and the collar has a printed chain design. I think the skull fits him, as he’s always bringing me innocent little mice, making him their grim reaper. 😦 When Gibson moves, I’ll have his old collar to keep with me until we can live together again. 🙂

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Having Cookie officially join the family has been a wonderful adventure. I made her an Instagram page to document her future with us, so feel free to give the page a follow and keep up with her!

Thank you for reading!

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3 thoughts on “The Cat Hustle

  1. Aww this was so brave of you. I don’t think your choice with Oreo was wrong, it’s really hard to make decisions like that. I really look up to you for taking care of them too because a lot of people I know would have just called animal control and had them taken away. I also hope more people will one day learn that spaying and neutering is so important. I know you’ll be posting on Instagram but I hope you keep us updated here too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate your words! There was a lot of back and forth about the cats, but I always knew we would find a way to take care of them.

      I was worried about how the Oreo situation would be taken, and honestly considered leaving it out, but he was and is part of Cookie’s and our lives, and I couldn’t neglect that.

      There will surely be future installments of the Cookie legacy! She has her own blog tag and everything. 8)

      Liked by 1 person

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