I remember walking through the door to my friends' condo, and finding eight tiny little kittens running around. Audrey immediately sat down on the floor to laugh at their silly antics. They were jumping, and mewing, and playing robustly. One little kitten broke away from the pack, and crawled into her lap.
"This is Gilford." she said triumphantly. "This is my kitty."
"Are you sure, hunny? There are so many. Do you want to play with them first?" I asked, wondering if her decision was rash. "Of course it was rash, she is only three after all." I told myself.
"No Mom, I don't need to play with the other kitties. This is Gilford. Can I please have her collar?" Audrey rolled her eyes as she spoke, clearly impatient with my questions. I handed her the purple collar, and showed her how to put it on.
"Well, that was easy." I thought. "Now I just need to find my kitten."
They were all so fluffy and cute. How could Audrey make it seem so easy? So I took Audrey's lead: I sat down on the floor, and I played with the kittens. There were kittens crawling into my shirt, climbing on my shoulders, and sleeping in my hands; as cute as they were, I knew that none of them were my cat. I was feeling discouraged, and pressured to choose one. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my toe. I quickly looked over, and found the source of the pain: there was a kitten attached to my toe, happily chewing away. I don't know if it was the insolence of chewing on my extremity, or the way he seemed entirely comfortable doing so, but I knew that this was my Toulouse. I popped his black collar onto him, loaded our new family members into their kennel, and we drove home.
|Toulouse is on the left, Gilford is on the right. I think.|
They spent most of their first few months doing what kittens do--sleeping in their box, making messes in my previously immaculate condo, and generally raising hell. They were too small to climb into their litter box on their own, so I created a makeshift staircase leading up to it using a stack of hardcover books. They ate more than I thought possible, and their litter box was always full. But dang it if they weren't sweet as heck, just indescribably sweet.
|Apparently they didn't get the memo that you don't kiss your sibling with tongue. Awkward.|
Slowly, as they grew up, I started to realize the pitfalls of having two cats in a small condo: everything was covered in cat hair, no matter how many hours I spent vacuuming; the litter box would be full after only a day, so a second was required; most problematic was their penchant for playing from 1-5am--jumping across my bed, stepping on my head, usually with claws out. I couldn't leave the bathroom door open, because everything would end up on the ground and the garbage would be knocked over and strewn across the room.
|A deceptive photo; this was taken during his midday nap.|
While Gilford has always been an easy-going cat, Toulouse became more of a problem as time went on. He became very possessive of me, to the point that he simply wouldn't allow me out of his sight while I was home. He would follow me from room to room, climbing up my body so that I would be forced to hold him. Heaven forbid I should close the door when I had a bath--he would have a fit, scratching at the door and meowing like he was in pain. If my daughter wanted to snuggle with me, he would push between us and get cranky if I tried to move him. His most irritating habit was his licking; while it might be his way of showing affection, I was being woken up multiple times each night by him licking my face or arms. I am allergic to cat saliva, it turns out, so this led to uncomfortable hives and lots of itchy skin. He would lick and chew on our hair while we sat on the couch--basically, he was a bit of a (super cute, non-violent) menace.
|This is the face of a menace, I swear.|
I chalked this up to being a "stage"; he was only a year old, after all. I thought that with time, he would ease up on his intense need for affection and cool it with the constant kisses. "Orange cats calm down with age," said everyone I know with cats. "Just give him time," said they.
It took a long time to accept that I wasn't the right parent for my little furbaby. I just couldn't give him the love that he so clearly wanted, and needed. I loved him so much, yet he drove me beyond the edge of crazy with those sleepless nights--they caught up to me, and I knew that I needed to find him a new home.
|A rare moment where I'm kissing him, instead of the reverse.|
I couldn't bring myself to put an ad on Kijiji; I didn't want to give my baby to just anyone. I wanted him to go to a home that would love him the way that he needed to be loved.
On Sunday afternoon, that is exactly what happened.
A friend from work came over with her boyfriend, purely to "meet" Toulouse. They brought their furbaby, a gorgeous Border Collie named Burt, to make sure that there wouldn't be any personality conflicts between the two of them. After an hour and a half they had fallen in love with my little man, just as I knew that they would. I stayed calm, upbeat even, the whole time. Even while packing up his favourite toys, bed, dishes and litter box, I was calm. I knew in my heart that this was the right decision for Toulouse.
I walked them outside, and helped load my little boy into their car. I said my final goodbye (he would barely look at me, his anger over being shoved into a kennel and taken by strangers was written on his face), I stayed calm. It's the right thing to do.
Then I turned away from him, said goodbye to my friends, and walked back into my building. And good lord, did I cry. I ugly cried in my kitchen for over a half hour, again at my boyfriends' house, and even more later that night in bed. Deep down, I know that I did the right thing. He has only been at his new home for twenty-four hours, but he has already settled in nicely. He has claimed his spot on both their bed and couch, and has declared which windowsill shall be his throne.
I know that I did the right thing. But I miss this face more than I ever thought possible.