Jane Ear's Happy Story March 2008
I volunteer for a cat rescue organization working in their adoption center, Feline Friends' The Cat House. Many cats come to this organization needing immediate medical attention. Last fall, a cat who had a disfiguring skin cancer on one ear came to us, and most of that ear was removed before she was placed for adoption. The woman who names our rescued cats decided to call this one Jane Ear. Certainly her name's literary allusion appealed to me, but it was her personality that made me fall in love with her.
Jane was very clear about needing personal space by swatting (with claws out) people and other cats who got too close too fast. Yet she also loved attention. If I started petting her before she realized human hands were touching her, she would purr and nest in her bedding. None of the other Cat House volunteers would touch her because she swatted at them. Jane's affection and playfulness with me perplexed the other volunteers.
I volunteer at The Cat House only one day a week and I thought about Jane Ear often between my visits. I found myself fantasizing about bringing her home after one of my two, old, male cats dies. (I know it sounds awful, but that was the only scenario I could imagine for getting another cat. I have long resisted being a three cat, single, 30-something woman because it's much too close to being a cat lady.) But, as I've learned, Jane E is a cat worth making exceptions for. It got to a point where I couldn't stand seeing Jane E living in the Cat House any longer. It was excruciating to see her living in this constantly busy, communal living space when she needed to be alone. She had been there for 4 months - the longest of the cats who are not permanent residents. Most cats are only at the adoption center for a few days to a couple of weeks.
I finally gave in and brought her home in March. After sniffing her room briefly, she started purring and rubbing against me and rolling around on the floor so I could pet her. I was astounded that she was so obviously happy so soon after arriving home. She's an entirely different cat at home than she was in The Cat House. She's been affectionate with everyone that she's met and Jane E rarely swats without giving warning first. I'm glad that she feels so safe and loved at home, but it's disheartening to know that she was so uncomfortable and unhappy in the adoption center that she was always poised to fight.
Jane E has her own room in my house that she knows is safe. The other cats don't breach the doorway without her permission.
In her room are the pink cat beds that came home with her. She has an affinity for anything hot pink. I, on the other hand, very much dislike pink. But for Jane E, I have made an exception to not having pink in my house. In fact, I've bought her pink toys and blankets! Perched in the window in her room, she can view three bird-feeding areas. Jane E was surprisingly quick to explore the entire house. One day, early on, I heard a chorus of growling in another room. When I investigated, I found my two old cats huddled together on the couch watching Jane consider entering the living room. I wish I had a picture of these two, enormous (part Maine Coon), geriatric cats terrified that this dainty, young girl was even CONSIDERING ENTERING the room! 8-) Overall, the cats have all been great about giving each other the space they need as we adjust.
I'm glad I made an exception for Jane Ear to join my family. She skips when she's happy, which I'd never seen a cat do before. She also drools excessively when she's being petted or held. More than once I've had big drool puddles on my clothes after cuddling with her. Neither of my other cats are lap cats, but Jane E is. She has a unique chirp, a loud purr, and an infectious joie de vivre. She's changed all of us. Even the least social of the old cats is in higher spirits and has become more social, playful, and affectionate since Jane E arrived. We are as lucky as she is that we've ended up together.
Update to the story: Jane Ear died the day after Thanksgiving in 2007. About six months later, I adopted another very special cat, Greystoke, from Feline Friends.
(Published as the lead article in the April 17, 2006 edition of The Update: Pierce College Employee Newsletter.)