Whit’s End: Home is where the cat fur is | PostIndependent.com

Whit’s End: Home is where the cat fur is

They say when you know, you know.

OK, when they utter those words, most people are referring to true love, a soul mate, the person they'll marry. I'm talking about my cats.

Insert your favorite crazy cat lady jokes here.

Say what you will, but it's true. When the time is right, the right animal seems to find you.

I've lived with cats nearly all of my 36 years. There were a few months here and there, but I firmly believe a house isn't complete until it's filled with a pet's love. And though I've lived with dozens of family cats, only Kitty, Emma, McCartney, Harrison and Bailey have called me their own.

Emma was the first cat who owned me in my adulthood, and I was devastated by her death. I spent days marching around my house declaring, "No one better give me a kitten!" and crying myself to sleep. But it didn't take long before I started thinking about when I might be ready for another cat. My aunt mentioned an orange tabby a coworker was trying to adopt out. "If that cat's still available when I'm ready, maybe he'll be my cat," I thought. I began daydreaming about names: What about McCartney, Mac for short? Ooh, but what if it was a female ginger named McCartney? I knew most orange cats were male, but what if?

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I returned home that afternoon—four days after Emma's death—and found my roommate holding an orange tabby. "I got her for you, but if you're not ready, she can be the house cat," Abi said.

She?

My response was simple: "Well, hello McCartney." It was love at first sight, and it was mutual.

After one roommate moved out and took her cat with her (the nerve!), Mac insisted I adopt another cat. I thought I was a one-cat gal, but my Macca bear craved a playmate. I resisted as long as I could, but a conversation with a friend who fostered cats led me to like the Facebook page of a rescue organization. Have A Heart Animal Rescue's cover photo was a ginger kitten.

And that's how I found Harrison.

Just as with Mac, the connection was quick. When I met him, his brother was uninterested in leaving the kennel, but Harry quickly stretched out in my lap and began purring. I was still nervous about adopting a second feline; how could he compete with Mac? But he moved into my home a week later, and my heart grew to encompass his love, as well.

That's just what every parent promised would happen.

Mac died earlier this year at age 7. She had more health issues than any cat I've known, but she also filled her short life with love. Harry and I felt her absence deeply — we still do — but we also knew it wouldn't be long until more love arrived in our lives.

A newspaper story carried me to Colorado Animal Rescue in July, three months after Mac's death. I visited every feline in the cat room that night, and I returned days later for yet another visit. A different cat demanded my attention each time. I thought I knew who was going to adopt me. And then I met the medium-haired ginger they called Cody.

That day I decided to meet literally every cat in the building. There weren't that many, after all. After I visited with the cats in the kennels and the cat room, I asked to walk upstairs and meet the few who were in their private rooms.

Cody's photo had repeatedly grabbed my attention on CARE's website, but he was half of a bonded pair. I knew I couldn't fairly bring two more cats into my home, and so I had written him off. But as we walked upstairs, the woman guiding me said the shelter was open to separating the two. The brothers had spent less and less time together in recent months, and they'd been in the shelter quite a while.

I sat down with Cody, and I was done.

His name is now Bailey—named for the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital at Auburn University, where Mac went through radiation treatment. The shelter staff was surprised by how quickly we took to each other; he was a shy guy, and some of them were only beginning to see his personality. But from our first meeting, Bailey was quick to purr, knead and offer head butts. Within days of his adoption, he and Harry became best friends.

I might be a crazy cat lady. I embrace the title. Thanks to this pair of ginger fellas, my little apartment is filled with love.

And cat fur.

Carla Jean Whitley would love to show you more pictures of her cats. Email her at cj@postindependent.com.

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