From Homeless to Ruler of the Roost
By Bonnie Council
Let me just say this: it had never been my intention to adopt a handicapped cat. I had never given it a moment’s thought, one way or another. But a 2011 Pet Rescue ad explaining that the beautiful tortoise-colored cat with the soulful eyes staring back at me had a congenital neurological condition that caused her to have difficulty walking, running and jumping caught me like a snare. She’d been born, it went on to explain, at the shelter to a mother who had distemper (Feline Panleukopenia), and had lived in foster homes her entire life, which at that time was about five years, because apparently cats that are not 100% normal are difficult to find permanent homes for. That was all I needed to know. Pleading with my partner Rudi, I said, “We have to adopt this cat.”
We brought her home in early 2012 from a foster home in Stamford, where she’d been living in a room by herself in a lovely house full of very loud dogs. Even though we were her first permanent home, we think her patience paid off. Having finally hit the jackpot, Missy is now the queen. And we are her staff.
Missy, by the way, is the name that had been given to her at the shelter. Since it was a name she seemed to recognize and respond to, we decided she should keep it, in spite of my previous desire to dub her with something more exotic and literary, like Annabel Lee.
We were told that, because of her handicap, she should remain an indoor cat. Missy would never be able to defend herself against predators, we were told, or even do well in a fight with another cat if it came to that. She walks with an unsteady, staggering gait, looking quite drunk, in fact, as her front end goes in one direction and her back half goes the other and then flops over like a wet paper sack. She is unable to jump higher than the seat of a chair, and even that with great planning and difficulty. Oddly, she can run pretty well, and truly loves to sometimes, especially up and down our long hallway in pursuit of a toy or the laser light, but each trip usually ends with her on her side, sliding the last few feet to her goal, as her body betrays her instincts every time. The funny thing is, she never even seems to notice.
Other than those little inconveniences, she is a perfectly normal cat, and the joy of our lives. In the past few years, after noticing how transfixed she would sometimes be staring out the window at birds and squirrels, we started carrying her outside, gradually introducing her to the fascinating world inside our fenced yard. Initially, she would howl as if she was being murdered, so unaccustomed was she to being anywhere but indoors, but gradually she came to love it. Now, on nice days, she begs to go out, where she sits on the patio or near our back door in the sun for hours on end, patiently watching for prey, which, until recently we thought she could never catch. She had us fooled there though. One recent afternoon she proudly presented me with a dead vole. And once last fall we rescued a tiny chipmunk from her clutches.
Just the other day she scared off the FedEx delivery man by yowling loudly as he approached the back porch with a package. Really, she was just terrified of him, but he didn’t know that. He thought she was the ultimate “Watch Cat.” Yep, that’s our girl.