As a dog lover for my entire life, I never thought I would be the proud pet parent of the world’s most adorable and confused cat. Bandit, aka Mr Bubs aka Senior Bandito, is a black, medium haired little ragamuffin we adopted almost a year ago now from our local SPCA, who behaves like a dog and I’m pretty sure it’s my fault.
I’ll go back 15 years to start this story from the beginning, to explain why I am such an advocate for animal adoption and how I ended up a crazy cat lady.
During my elementary and high school days, I was required (like most students of that age) to accumulate 40 hours of local community service. My location of choice was the Hamilton Burlington SPCA and God bless my dear mother for driving me there everyday from Freelton until I got my license. Graduating with 200+ hours under my belt was all thanks to the fuzzy little furballs and the caring compassionate staff, who stole my heart and made me want to keep coming back day after day.
Through the junior humane program and summer camps offered by the SPCA I learned to care for many different kinds of animals, helped develop their social skills and my own, and even got to help name a few of the strays that were brought in by animal control. (Here’s lookin’ at you Torpedo, Talladega and Rockafella!) In a home already filled with dogs, fish, and newts, my daddy’s only rule was this “Love them and take care of them while you are there, but DON’T BRING ANYTHING HOME!” And I kept my promise, caring for rabbits, rats, cats, hamsters, and dogs, without bringing a single critter home even though I wanted to desperately. The reason why we had to start this story way back at the beginning was because I was never a huge cat fan, my parents were not cat fans and until I met my fiancé and visited his feline filled world, I was never interested in being a pet parent to a snobby, entitled furball who ignored me or scratched my furniture.
Last spring, after purchasing and settling in to our new home on the Hamilton Mountain, my fiancé suggested it was time to expand our family and my heart instantly leapt to thoughts of a little puppy. But with our busy lifestyle and nomad-esk travel habits in the summer, he thought a cat might be a better place to start.
Not completely sold on the idea, we set out for my old stompin’ grounds: the Hamilton Burlington SPCA. I had spent so much of my youth there I knew exactly where the kittens were kept and what all the short form information meant on each cage and it felt good to finally be on the other end of the adoption process. There were dozens to choose from, a fact which instantly broke my heart. Kittens, these tiny little cat babies had been left out in the cold, dropped off in boxes and bred in such a shallow gene-pool many had a few extra toes and lord knows how many other health conditions. A small box of about 8 kittens had been dropped off earlier that week, too early to be separated from their mother. Sadly a few didn’t make it, the ones that did, looked terribly thin. How anyone could abandon them is beyond me.
All of a sudden my take-em-or-leave-em attitude toward cats faded away and I instantly wanted to take them all home with me so they would never be alone again. Once again acting as the voice of reason, Dan suggest that maybe it would be best to start with one, seeing as I had never owned a cat before and our home is not exactly the Taj Mahal.
I circled the room once, trying to make the horrible decision of which kittens I would be leaving behind and then, just like a Sarah McLaughlin commercial, Bandit (named Kalahari.. at the time) reached out from behind his little bars and grabbed my shoulder with his little paw, and my heart, with his giant black puss-in-boots eyes. I thought: that’s it, he’s the one, I can’t leave here without him”. The terribly embarrassing waterworks ensued shortly after that as Dan filled out the paper work and I just kept blubbering “we really get to keep him?!” “he’s coming to live at our house?!” – a moment I will never live down and I am sure the staff at the shelter will never forget.
Now, almost a year later, Bandit has become a beautiful, healthy, well-behaved house cat with a sense of adventure and a dog-like disposition. Since I had never owned a cat before, I treated him like a dog; he now fetches, snuggles, loves wearing his leash and harness, plays outside in the snow, goes for boat rides at the cottage and even shares a water bowl on occasion with my big sister’s 6 month old, 50 pound yellow lab who we affectionately refer to as “Cousin Callie.” My parents too have shrugged off their former distaste for cats and consider Bandit to be their Grand-Kitty, he even goes for sleep-overs every now and then when we have to go out of town.
Needless to say, adopting a skinny little, sickly kitten from the SPCA was one of the best decisions we have ever made and I encourage you to consider adoption for your next family pet. Don’t be scared off by bad habits, medical concerns and things that can easily be fixed. The pure gratitude of an adopted animal makes them the most loyal family members you could ever hope for and they bring a new little heartbeat into your home. There are so many incredible creatures waiting to be loved and so many more that are in terrible situations and living conditions like my Bandit was, that are waiting to be rescued every day.
Thank you to the staff and volunteers at the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA for the good work you do and to other shelters and animal services across the country for dedicating your lives to saving theirs.
Officially a crazy cat lady,
– Kat Cullen
Broadcasting – Television & Communications Media, ’10
Follow Kat @katkx947