It was getting late in the afternoon when I got a call about an unknown kitten that was chased up a tree by a dog. The timing was not good, as the leading bands of rain from an advancing tropical storm were very close and moving slowly closer. Even though the kitten had been in the tree only 30 minutes at the time I got the call, this was a rescue that could not wait.
None of the neighbors knew the kitten, no one wanted to be responsible for it, and there were no posts on the Lost Pets Facebook page for a kitten matching this description. The office of the Companion Animal Alliance (CAA) where I often take unknown cats was just closing. After I rescued this kitten, I would have to keep it myself until the next morning and take it to CAA at that time.
When I arrived, I found the kitten perched on the lowest branch of a large live oak tree. Right away, I noticed the unusual markings of both a gray tabby and an orange tabby. With spots of orange in the gray, I could see this was a torby and most likely a female. With the addition of her white bib, big eyes and cute face, she was a very adorable kitten. She seemed very calm and not disturbed by my presence there. She was perched only eight or nine feet high, and if I could get her to walk toward the trunk to the beginning of the branch, she would be almost in reach from the ground. At that point, I could probably just hold a carrier above my head and get her to walk into it. There should be no need for me to climb this tree at all.
Since the kitten was so calm, I decided to try to get her to walk toward the trunk by luring her in that direction with some food. I suspended the food from the end of an extendable pole and held it up to her. She was interested and came closer to sniff and then to take a bite. I moved the food closer to the trunk, and she followed. I moved it again, and, again, she followed. She was now about halfway there, but at this point she lost interest in this game and just sat down to do some extended grooming.
Additional attempts to get her interest in the food failed, so I got my net and extended it out to her. Cats are usually frightened by the net, and for that reason, I did not want to resort to using it. But I needed to motivate her farther down the branch, and I thought this would do it. To my surprise, she had little reaction to the net and no fear at all. I was almost able to scoop her up into the net, but eventually settled for gently pushing her along the branch toward the trunk. She was now at the trunk where I wanted her, so I put the food in the carrier and held it up to her.
She looked at me below, but she didn't look much at the carrier or the food inside. She wasn't moving because she was content where she was. I needed to get a little higher, and, fortunately, the homeowners were very accommodating by providing me with a bar stool. Once I stood up on that, I was within reach of the kitten, but she still would not walk into the carrier. I put the carrier down and put my gloved bag on. I could just reach her, so I touched her and she was comfortable with it. I scruffed her and pulled the bag over her. After stepping back down on the ground, I transferred her to the carrier. She took it all in stride and never seemed the least bit stressed.
I drove her home and set her carrier down on the floor of the room where she would be staying overnight. I left her inside the carrier while I prepared the room for her. She made an occasional weak attempt to speak, but was otherwise calm. When I let her out of the carrier, she was still remarkably calm and comfortable. It was as if she stayed here often and was already familiar with the room. I showed her the litterbox and the water bowl, but she seemed most interested in the chair. She jumped up onto the padded seat and curled up into a circle to sleep. This little girl was tired and wanted to sleep, so I left her alone and closed the door.
Each time I checked on her, she was happy to see me. She would visit with me wherever I went, and when I sat down, she wanted in the chair too. She would get next to me and purr loudly and freely. I set her in my lap, and when I leaned back in my chair, she came up to rest on my chest while facing me with her purr motor still running. Several times she crawled up to my shoulder and rested her head next to mine. This is a very sweet kitten, and she has clearly been inside and sweet with someone else before.
The next morning, in spite of the bond that was already forming between us, I took the sweet kitten to CAA. There I saw just how overwhelmed they are with both cats and dogs. I don't know how they manage it all. I left her there with some very nice people, and, with a terrible sense of guilt, I left. Still, I knew that with her sweet personality, she would be very likely adopted in time.
As I drove home in the driving rain, I began to think about how much time she would be spending in a cage there. I thought about all the other cats and dogs that were demanding the attention of the overwhelmed staff. I thought about the difference I could make in the lives of both the staff and the kitten if I were to prepare her for adoption myself.
"What have I done?!!"
Once I got home, I tried to put it all out of my mind, but that didn't work. When I went back to her now-empty room to clean up, I felt even more guilt. More importantly, however, I felt like I had missed a chance to do a good deed and make a difference in the life of an innocent kitten. I also missed a chance to bring some kitten joy, energy and love into my home.
I went back to CAA to get her.
By the time I got there, they had already "processed" her. My intent to take her back just added complication to that process. The best way for me to get her back was to "pre-adopt" her. They would spay, vaccinate and microchip her and allow me to have her then for a ridiculously small fee. Since I was adopting her, that would move her to the front of the line for her surgery, and I would be able to get her the next morning. I intended to do all that for her anyway, so I readily agreed and added a bonus contribution to my fee.
The next morning, I went back to CAA to get her. She was sitting quietly in her cage and offered no resistance when I picked her up and put her back in the same carrier that brought her there. She was quiet for the entire drive home.
When I released her back in her same room, she immediately started purring and walked straight to the water bowl. She was very thirsty and drank for several minutes. After she surveyed the room, she went back to the water bowl for more. We visited for a while, and she seemed very content to be back in her room. Later, she got in my lap and purred freely while she tried to find the perfect position, first on my lap, then on my chest, then on my shoulder, finally settling between my body and arm. There she went to sleep.
I told my wife that we need a name for this sweet kitten. "What shall we call her," I asked. "Mattie," she said. So, Mattie it is.