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Five Rescue Stories In One House

How we acquired five cats over the course of five years.

By Ashley McGeePublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 12 min read
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Baby Bunny fast asleep in the cat tree. My "youngest". All photography was taken by myself and my husband.

When my stepson was about six years old, he asked if we could go to the shelter and get a cat. That was in 2015. After looking around, my husband decided that it wasn't quite the right time, and I rather agreed with him. When we left the second shelter, my stepson had tears in his eyes. I tried to comfort him as best I could.

"Don't worry, pal. We'll get a kitty soon. You know, the best pets aren't the ones you buy. The best pets you'll ever have will be the ones that wander into your life. We don't find them. They find us."

Two months later, we had two cats. A year later, we had a third. Two years later, we had a fourth, and a year later we had a fifth.

My friends and family have come to the conclusion that I am in fact The Cat Lady, but I stand by what I said in 2015. The best pets that you'll ever have are the ones that show up when you least expect them.

Most people settle for two or three. We've learned not to settle. Here's four rescue stories for five cats.

Ash and Leigha

Ash and Leigha, 2015. I have no idea which is which in this picture.

The first week of November in 2015, my sister called me at work, frantic that I meet her in the parking lot of the auto shop I was working at. She had found two kittens when she had dropped her kids off at the bus stop in Manor, TX. She had them in a cardboard box in the front seat of her truck, and couldn't take them inside. Her large dogs were not great with cats. She bought them a can of cat food, which they devoured. They were a pair of orange tabby twins, littermates who seemed to have been abandoned. She said they had no fear of people, and had approached her, begging to be picked up. She cried when she realized she couldn't keep them.

I met her at the shop and washed the fleas off of them as well as I could in the big stainless steel sink with the sprayer on low. They complained, but once I had them cleaned, I called my husband to come get them.

They slept and ate for a week with little or no activity. When I was ready to take them to the vet, terrified they were sick, they began to perk up. They played and ran, and began getting into everything imaginable. They demanded to be in my lap from the moment we woke up until we left for any reason. They loved music videos and dangly toys. They ate like crazy. And they were inseparable. They groomed each other and played together. They've endured a lot, including the addition of more siblings and a new apartment, but they're love for each other never changed.

Leigh and Ash, 2021. Leigha has chewed all the hair off of her tummy, but it grew back in.

Earlier this year, Leigha became very ill. One of her kidneys doubled in size, and she lost weight. We changed her food, and tried to calm her as much as we could. And miraculously, the kidney went down and her blood and liver levels returned to normal. She was sick out of nowhere, and then was well again out of nowhere. We think it might have been a treat she was eating out of my cereal bowl every morning--pea milk. Once I stopped letting her drink after me, she began to get better. Since we still don't really know what was wrong, we're not sure what we did right. We're just glad she's still with us.

She was supposed to be Princess Leia, but I spelled her name wrong, so it's pronounced "Leia" but spelled "Leigha".

Ash, whom my sister insisted was a boy, but turned out to be a girl. My stepson wanted to name her after the Pokemon character, and now I have a cat with my own nickname.

Baby Squirrel

Baby Squirrel, October 2016. She is roughly six months old, and unbeknownst to us, very sick.

I was introduced to Squirrel by the neighbor. Her cat, Hope, had escaped the apartment, and I helped catch her. She offered me the sister, and I agreed to take her. I didn't hear from her for a week. On my way home from work, my husband called and sent text messages of pictures that he took while he fed her on the countertops. Ash and Leigha were losing their minds. I rushed home as fast as I could. The second I sat down, she jumped out of my husband's lap and crawled into mine, and she and I have been inseparably bonded ever since.

My husband had been cooing to her, "you're a little baby squirrel, aren't you?" and the name stuck.

A week after she was brought to us, she began getting very serious diarrhea, so bad that she was desperate to get away from it. She would use the box when she remembered, but by then was afraid of her own poop and so ran as fast as she could through the house, trailing doodoo behind her. It was a mess every day. I finally scraped together the $200 I needed for tests and medication. She had an infection in her lower intestine. I gave her medication, and switched her to a grain free diet.

She had one urinary tract infection before I had a chance to spay her, which brought the runs back for a bit, though they have cleared up and never plagued her again.

Her spay was an absolute nightmare. She had her incision open and stitches pulled out before we even got home. I had to turn around and take her back for staples. She had to be sedated for a week, and we had to keep her confined. I didn't know what I know now about how to spay problematic little girls. Ash and Leigha had no trouble with their spays. Squirrel seemed determined to die from hers. I put her in a little jacket and her cone, and kept her on a sedative. We slept in a bathtub for a week. I was also working and going to school at the time. I got so little sleep. I cried three days into it, desperately tired and overwhelmed. She crawled up to my chin and licked my face, convinced within herself that I was ill and she needed to comfort me. Even in her own plight, she thought I was the one that was hurt.

Baby Squirrel and I in the bathtub the first week of her spay.

It was, in total, the longest two weeks of my life. But after the third week I took her to get her two remaining staples out (she pulled the other three out through the suit because she's a psycho), and she never has been anything but in perfect health ever since. Her barrel chest and wide shoulders and hips morphed from a lean little demon into a very large girl, and she is not afraid to throw her weight around. To this day she is my snuggly girl. We snuggle whenever we can. She developed some trust issues after the move, so sometimes she can't sit still for long, but she always wants to be close to me.

Check out Baby Squirrel on her Instagram account @manysleepsofsquirrel

Bunny

Bunny, two weeks after her spay, January 2020.

After the fiasco of Squirrel's spay and illness, I firmly put my foot down that we couldn't have anymore cats. I couldn't go through another horrible recovery and nightmare spay. I couldn't handle another litter box. Ash, Leigha, and Squirrel had only just begun to get along. I couldn't throw them into upheaval again.

I was working one Friday when my husband sent me the pictures of a little girl he had rescued from the parking lot of HEB. She was running from car to car, looking for a puddle to drink from. My husband noticed she was running funny. He described her "hopping" like a little bunny. The name stuck.

We watched her struggle with a terrible limp for a week and decided to take her to a new vet, a Dr. Patel here on the South Side. He decided to schedule her spay and take a look at her hip and leg when he got her sedated. He found a hernia immediately, noticing the bruising after shaving her down for the spay. He corrected the hernia during the spay surgery.

I learned some powerful lessons from Squirrel's spay. I bought her a recovery jacket online instead of cobbling one together, and bought a dog kennel to confine her in instead of trying to keep her still in a single room. She was a little confused at first, but couldn't argue with a soft bed and fresh food whenever she wanted it.

Bunny on the piddle pad of recovery in her jacket of comfort in the cage of temporary healing.

Fresh out of hernia and spay surgery.

Her spay recovery was so perfect, but she did chew her way through the recovery jacket. We gave up on it and opted for a special salve given to us by her vet. Dr. Patel believes in a homeopathic approach. The salve was a healing recipe that was also repulsive to her, so she was discouraged from pulling the stitches and licking, even without the jacket.

She latched onto Squirrel almost immediately. They were bonding very quickly, and I was certain no one would want to bond with Squirrel except me. Squirrel even tried to suckle Bunny, but had to stop because a three-month-old has sharper teeth than a three-week-old.

Squirrel and Bunny, hanging out on a short hiatus from the cage of temporary healing

That bond didn't survive the move very well. Squirrel is now very protective of her personal space, and Bunny wants to rough-house. Bunny's favorite game is a sort of half-fetch with little yellow balls that are meant to be Nerf gun bullets. She'll chase them across the house, and sometimes brings them back, though she doesn't always.

If she can't find her ball, she'll wander the house, and it's almost like she's calling "Mamma!" so that I'll come play with her. She's a precious girl, if a bit bossy.

A Baby Bunny in the window, 2021

BooBoo

BooBoo will sleep just about anywhere.

So, after the fourth one, and the addition of another litter box and some more insanity, I put my foot down. No more cats. We couldn't do it. The girls were finally settling out from the move. Leigha was finally getting well. I couldn't possibly bring another one in, let alone a boy cat.

And then there were five.

BooBoo was a neighborhood stray. I would sometimes see him on walks through the apartment complex. Ourselves and a couple of other families were feeding him on our front porches. There were probably five families invested in his survival. My husband had started calling everyone BooBoo, and as soon as he saw the cat, the little nickname stuck.

My stepson fell in love with him. He would come sit on the porch with us in our lawn chair, letting us pet and cuddle him.

BooBoo before the big transition from being an outside boi to an inside boi.

He was happy for the attention, and loved the food. Finally, after telling them all "no" for a week, my husband decided to bring him in. I had concessions to make. First, he was the only boy cat I had ever worked with since my teenage years. He would need to be neutered immediately, and I couldn't bring him inside without at least a rabies shot. In the middle of the pandemic, there was no way to get him into Emancipet here in Austin, so I made him an appointment at the humane society on the off chance we could catch him. We began feeding him regularly in the mornings, hoping to get him used to coming to see us. The morning of his surgery, I couldn't find him, so I stepped over to the neighbor's unit. Sure enough, he was asleep on their whicker chairs. I called him over, but instead of a quick breakfast, we bundled him into the kennel and whisked him off.

The humane society gave his ear the snip, gave him his first rabies shot, chipped him, and neutered him. I scheduled a follow-up with our usual vet, the good Dr. Patel. I knew he had to have tape worms, and Dr. Patel agreed, though we did do the additional stool sample tests and all the blood work, as I couldn't bring him inside until I knew he didn't have FIV or feline leukemia.

Dr. Patel gave him a clean bill of health and we brought him home. He spent three days in the cage of temporary healing before it became clear he couldn't tamed. His neuter was a complete success.

The problem with poor BooBoo is that the girls only just tolerate him. Leigha hates him. Bunny has only just begun sharing the window with him to watch the birds. Squirrel at long last is beginning to let him play chase with her, but, again, he wants to rough-house. The only other cat we have that wants to rough-house doesn't want to rough-house with BooBoo.

BooBoo spends a good portion of his day in his favorite chair.

I admit to having a little trouble bonding with BooBoo, or rather BooBoo had a little trouble adjusting to the household. He had been an Outside Boi his whole life, and suddenly found himself an Inside Boi. He would lay by the door, waiting for us to let him out. However, for better or worse, the girls aren't vaccinated all the way for rabies, FIV, and feline leukemia. Until I get them all fully vaccinated, we can't let him go in and out. His reduced freedom, coupled with the constant harassment from the girls, made it difficult for him to enjoy his new life. I'm happy to say that with a lot of love and patience, he's much happier now. His favorite activity is sitting in the window and watching the birds, and chasing bouncy balls. He sleeps in his tall whicker chair most of the day.

At night, when he wakes up, afraid of the dark in ways that only strays and rescues are, he comes and gets into our bed and lays between us, making biscuits in the bed sheets and sucking on the blanket. He does this for about 10 minutes, feels better about things, and takes himself off for a bite of food before finishing the night out in his favorite spot by the bathroom door.

A Full House

Since moving into this complex, we have become known as "the cat people". Even the children in the neighborhood have started bringing us cats. They bring us kittens they find (we unfortunately can't keep all of them. Some do have to go to shelters--and thank goodness Austin is a no-kill city). They bring us strays they think belong to us. One time they even brought us someone else's cat.

The kids in our building come hang out by our unit in the morning and wait for the bus, waving to the kitties sitting in the window, giggling crazily. Once, the neighbor's baby wandered over to our porch while her mamma loaded the car up. She pointed to Squirrel in the window, and I said to her "Gatita" or "little kitty" in Spanish.

I have no idea how anyone could not want a cat. They are the most beautiful creatures in the world, and when you get to know them, you realize how closely bonded they can be, and how much a part of your family they will quickly become. They are the most precious things in the world, and bring our household nothing but joy. Yes, they've scratched up the couch and have broken a few things, but cats bring character and love and playfulness to any household.

If you have a chance to adopt, please do so. Whether you pick up a rescue, or find your furever friend in a shelter, adopting takes the weight off the shoulders of the people caring for them, and improves their quality of life. I am so grateful that these kitties were all sent to me. I wouldn't have it any other way, even if I am the crazy cat lady.

Baby Squirrel and me. Sorry I look crazy and tired.

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About the Creator

Ashley McGee

Austin, TX | GrimDark, Fantasy, Horror, Western, and nonfiction | Amazon affiliate and Vocal Ambassador | Tips and hearts appreciated! | Want to see more from me? Consider dropping me a pledge! | RIP Jason David Frank!

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  • Sandra Tena Cole11 days ago

    What a beautiful and uplifting story! Thanks for sharing it ❣️ Also, you don't look crazy in that picture, you look contented and satisfied! And all your cats are absolutely beautiful x

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