In Which I Make a Friend
I see a cute little gray cat hanging around the parking lot. The first time I see her she runs away but the second time after she adorably meeps at me for a few minutes, she lets me come pet her. I call her Lola. She’s very small and her ribs protrude a bit. Her belly looks like she’s done some lactating at some point in her life.
She seems to live outside. I notice the neighbors have put food for her on their porch.
In Which I Learn Lola’s Story
My neighbor with the cat food on the porch is out for a smoke and I strike up a conversation with her.
Apparently my neighbor (Lauren) found Lola in the Walmart parking lot and obviously Lola was super sweet and friendly. Lauren went in to the store to get the lil kitty some food and when she came out Lola was hanging out with the Walmart employees and they said a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE FAMILY had brought in the cat with a litter of kittens and abandoned them in the parking lot!
WalMart found a cat rescue for the kittens but not for Lola so Lauren brought her back to her apartment complex and has been feeding her but Lola’s been living outside (and there’s a feral cat who hangs around who we’re both a little nervous has knocked Lola up)
But, Lauren won’t be here for long and has cats of her own who’ve been living with her mom while she lives here temporarily waiting on a house she’s buying.
I spend more and more time thinking that I would like Lola to be my cat. She is sweet and affectionate and goofy. She likes to play fight but is gentle with her teeth and claws. She has a sweet dark gray nose and a tiny precious meow. She loves rolling around on the floor on her back.
In Which Lola and I Witness an Emergency
Sunday night, I go outside for my usual evening hangout with Lola. I pet her, she rolls around on the ground, everyone is happy.
THEN I hear pained meowing. It’s not Lola. After some investigating and obtaining my phone to use its flashlight function, I discover there is a cat trapped underneath the porch, in the crawl space under our apartment building. There’s a grate through which it’s meowing at me, and I try to loosen the grate (crawling through prickly shrubs to get it it) to no avail. Then a neighbor comes to assist me, and informs me that there’s a little door in the back of the building to get into the crawl space. I go into it. No sign of the cat. Then I go around the side and find another door. Boom, when I open it, I am hit with the smell of cat urine, and know I have found the right place. This one has a very low ceiling. I army crawl through (through the puddles of cat urine!) and get near to the cat, but it is terrified of me. It’s also at this point that I realize the cat is hurt- it has a big gash on the right side of its neck. I try to maneuver around the side to urge the cat out the door to the crawl space, but this does not work. I back out and the neighbors and I try many methods to lure the cat out. Eventually (every step of this took a long time) we get the cat to come out to drink some milk out of a bowl, and I shut the door of the crawl space behind him.
We realize we need to call in reinforcements. I call Animal Control. They are closed and say to call 911 if it’s a true emergency. I call the local animal hospital. They say unless we want to assume full financial responsibility for this cat, we should call Animal Control. We call 911 and they say since the cat is injured, they’ll call in someone off duty from Animal Control, but he’ll be coming in from another county, so it’ll be at least 45 minutes. We continue to monitor the cat, keeping him in the range of light of the phone’s flashlight beam but trying not to scare him too much with the light. We are being EATEN ALIVE by mosquitos during this time. Also, curiously, Lola hangs out the whole time, sitting near the other cat. Seemingly just keeping him company. Keeping an eye on him. It is very sweet.
45 minutes go by, 50, 55… and OF COURSE, shortly before the guy comes, the cat manages to make a break from our range of vision (we’d had him near the building, underneath some stairs up to one of the apartments’ patios) and runs into the bushes. We cannot find him ANYWHERE. The bushes are dense, there’s a fence behind them he might have hopped, we just have NO IDEA. Then animal control shows up, and we decide the best plan is to set a trap. We are concerned since Lola is still happily bopping around and will obviously climb into this awesome box with cat food in it at the very first opportunity.
And THAT is why… Lola spends the night in my apartment. My new roommate has just arrived and is being very chill. Lola isn’t sure how she feels about indoor living but then I microwave a Trader Joe’s tuna burger for her (they aren’t very good, IMO, but i’m making good use of them now!) and she’s a fan.
I wake up on and off all night feeling super anxious about what to do with the cat situation.
At three am, I go out to check the trap and discover a random , uninjured neighbor cat with this expression on its face like “I did not intend to get myself into this situation”. I release him and he zooms off running faster seriously than I’ve ever seen a cat run. And the animal control guy did not explain to me how to reset the trap, nor do I have any bait for it, so I trudge back to bed, frustrated and further mosquito-bitten.
At that point Lola is like THREE AM IS THE BEST TIME, RIGHT?! I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE AWAKE SO WE CAN PARTY TOGETHER!” so I let her outside. I am also concerned she would otherwise pee in my room.
In the morning I leave an elaborate note for animal control explaining the situation.
In Which an Animal Trap Saga Ensues
Monday night I go home after work to discover that Animal Control has re-set the trap. I hang out with Lola for awhile in my apartment (luring her in with tuna). I hope that keeping her away from the trap will give the injured kitty time to wander over and be tempted by the food. Lola enjoys watching The Bachelorette with my roommate. Then I am ready for bed, and Lola wants to go out and party, so I look her in the eye and beg her earnestly not to go in the trap, entreating her that it is for the injured kitty.
I wake up Tuesday morning and go to check the trap, and Lola indeed is not in the trap, hurray! However, rather than the injured cat, I discover a rather bewildered possum.
Tuesday evening, I take a long walk on the beach. Then I come home and Lola is caught in the trap. Meowing pathetically. I let her out. Fortunately there is a YouTube tutorial on resetting these traps, so I bring Lola in and re-bait the trap with more of my tuna burger. Again Lola hangs with the roomie and me for the evening. I am becoming increasingly emotional about the well being of both the injured cat and Lola (a long day in the surgical trauma ICU contributed) and I send my roommate back home in Chapel Hill an earnest email asking about the likelihood of her hosting Lola in our apartment for a few weeks by herself before I’m done with my internship.
Again the trap isn’t sprung before my bedtime. I let Lola out, confident that she will now avoid the metal box with whom she now has a negative history.
Wednesday morning the trap is bare. My tuna burger did not give off enough of a scent, perhaps.
Wednesday evening I get off work. My Chapel Hill roommate very reasonably requests that Lola not come to our new home til I do, and politely but respectfully makes clear that she is not interested in cat parenting and this is my jam with which to deal. Meanwhile, I am concerned that Lola is not the brightest bulb in the pack when I have to rescue her from the trap for the second time.
I bring her in for the evening (again hoping her absence will give the injured cat a chance to spring the trap), give her some food (so she’s less tempted by the trap), and she joins my roommate and me in watching 27 Dresses.
A few hours later the trap is still set but I’m ready to sleep. I let Lola out, telling her sternly to stay away from the trap. I brush my teeth and go out to check the trap one last time for the night. Lola is sniffing around it again, EVEN AFTER HER SECOND RESCUE. I bring Lola in and lock her in the bathroom with a snack. She springs herself free after five minutes. I really don’t want to keep her in my bedroom for the night, as I don’t know what fleas or critters she may be harboring (I cleaned my room in a panic after Sunday night). So I shut her out in the living room and cross my fingers that she wont trash it too much.
An hour goes by. I think I hear meowing. I’m too nervous she’ll pee or poo on my carpet. I let her out.
Thursday morning. Lola is in the trap. Apparently she has decided she’s willing to experience a period of confinement as long as it is preceded by a can of food. She is adorable when I rescue her and very appreciative. She follows me into my apartment like “Hurray! This is the cuddles and snacks place!”
Thursday afternoon. I decide it’s time to just do the damn thing. I go to the pet store and spend $120 on:
- a litter box with a dome that looks like something from Star Wars
- kitty litter
- flea and tick meds
- fancy healthy dry food
- fancy healthy wet food
- cheapo unhealthy wet food to mix with the fancy food since apparently cats find it more palateable
- a scratching post that comes with a little bag of catnip
- dental health cat treats
Because Lola is THE BEST LITTLE CAT IN THE WORLD I plunk her down in the litter box and she starts feverishly spinning around in circles and sniffing. Once she decides there’s no other kitty leaving stuff there, she has herself a little pee. I reward her with enthusiastic hugs and treats. GO LOLA!
In Which Lola and I Establish a Pleasant Domestic Partnership
I go off to work. I say a little prayer to myself each day that that day will not be the day the student housing manager decides to pop by for a visit. I arrive home and greet Lola with, “Hello my love!” She is always pleased to see me/get dinner. I learn that Lola:
- Loves hair ties more than any toys.
- Is wary around men (LOL not like I’ve had gentlemen callers, but my roommate’s male friend and my buddy Nate who was visiting, both of whom are pretty gentle dudes who grew up around cats, still freaked her out)
- Loves mooching for human food, even things she will obviously not enjoy, such as chocolate ice cream
- Meows with a noise that sounds like “murrrrrrp”, sort of a purr slash meow slash hum. So I call her Murp and also sometimes Mrs Murp Murp. Animals know you love them when you give them nicknames.
In Which Lola and I take a Road Trip
Captured in this charming photo, oy.
Myra and Alex, being amazing friends, offer to mind Lola for the remaining four weeks of my internship, so I don’t have to live in a state of low grade panic on a daily basis, convinced I’ll be busted with Lola and banned from all future student housing (which would be a BIG OLD PROBLEM since I will require it for my fall internship as well).
But of course that means road tripping with Lola, who is NOT a fan. I get her a carrier, but she pees in it about 20 minutes into the trip and her meows, which had been loud and frequent, at that point become hysterical and unceasing. So after waiting the interminable distance between highway exits in the North Carolina countryside, I bail out to a Bojangles and fling the carrier in the trunk and do my best to wipe off the urine-soaked cat. And she spends the rest of the trip as pictured above. Oy vey.
I take her to the vet for an exam and her shots. I learn that Lola is about a year old and is in pretty good health but for a slightly broken tooth (which fortunately for the moment will be managed by watchful waiting and nothing else). She gets her immunizations. Another $90, and spaying is in the hundreds range. PETS ARE EXPENSIVE, FRIENDS.
Anyway, that’s the story, for now. Lola is off with Auntie Myra, Uncle Alex, and cousin Lochsie the daschund (thus far the kitty and doggie have only interacted through closed doors- I think starting slow is wise). They have already coaxed some purrs out of her, and she fancies a little perch on the closet shelf in Alex’s office.
I love and trust M+A and know they will spoil her relentlessly, as they do with every animal they’ve ever encountered (their dog gets organic Whole Foods goat cheese as a regular snack). However, I still feel like a little piece of myself is missing! I just really love my little side kick!