Adopting an animal has always been something I wanted to do, but there were so many "what if's" that I always backed out of actually doing it. So when my beloved cat passed away after being hit by a car, I can honestly tell you that adopting another kitten was the last thing on my to-do list.
In fact, after my cat died I vowed I would never have another cat, ever. I even moved towns so that I didn't have to pull out of my driveway to see the spot where he died every day. It was rough. My ginger tabby, named Draco Malfoy, was my world. He was a gift from a close friend before they moved away, and helped fill the gap that our parting left behind. Now he was gone.
But here I was, crouched in front of a cat cage with the tiniest little kitten I'd ever seen shivering in front of me. My partner Mark said we would just go to "look" at the kitten who had wandered into a family member's home that day, but he knew that my heart wouldn't allow me to leave it behind.
He was so small, and all skin and bone. It was the beginning of winter and obvious to us that if he hadn't found humans that day he would be dead soon enough. So, like the softy I am, I agreed to take him home.
We bought all new things for him, bowls, toys, litter, blankets, a house, even a collar, yet we weren't even sure he was going to survive. He had a cough that we feared might be the flu, and if we took him to the vet they would have wanted to euthanise him. "Just one day here to see if he gets better," I told myself. "One day." And he did. The next day he was shivering and barely eating, but the coughing was gone.
We had him wrapped in a blanket on our tiny couch, and food and milk were brought up to him so that he didn't have to move at all. To anyone else it would have been the life of luxury, but he still fought us every time we took him to the litter box. The poor baby we terrified of anything that moved.
Rusty the Day He Came Home to Us
Once he gained enough strength to roam around, he turned into a good little cat. He liked water enough for us to give him the bath he so desperately needed; he was filthy because he didn't know how to clean himself, and riddled with fleas. He had only two potty accidents in the house before he learnt to use the litter, and ate like a starving lion. He was going to survive.
This is when we saw it fit to give him a name. For three days he sat huddled behind the couch ignoring everything we tried to call him. My favourite was Aladdin until Mark came up with Rusty. "He's a little bit Rusty, so it's fitting!" he'd said. Rusty it was.
The next hurdle we faced was finding Rusty. He was small enough to sit in the palm of your hand and too scared of everyone to come to being called. He hid behind, in, or underneath anything he could just to avoid being looked at, and feeding time took a lot of waiting and pretending to ignore him while he crept up to his bowl.
In all honesty, I was heartbroken.
I had gone from having a cat who loved to cuddle and play, to a kitten that didn't even want to be in the same room as me. I was frustrated and angry that I had let myself take another animal into my home when I was still grieving for my lost friend. I told Mark that as much as I tried I couldn't love Rusty, and maybe we should find him a better home. I didn't know then how selfish I was being.
But then that all changed. One day while Mark was at work, Rusty climbed up onto the couch across from me. Then next to me. Then into my lap. Then onto my chest. And before I knew it, Rusty was purring like a chainsaw. He had never done that before. I cried.
That was just the beginning for us. Rusty quickly became my best friend. He followed us around the house everywhere squeaking for attention (He hadn't learnt to meow.). He always wanted to be on us and we even joked that he had imprinted like a duckling, and he was now our furry son. We were all so happy and had a quiet life with our new, strictly indoor, cat.
And then things got weird. We had tackled Rusty hating us, his fleas and worms, his feral attitude at nighttime, his running away whenever he went outside, but this was something Mark and I were clueless about.
Rusty was vomiting constantly, three to five times a day. He couldn't hold down any food, he was extra clingy, and all of a sudden couldn't keep his balance. We took him to the vet to be told he needed surgery to remove an ear polyp that was causing him dizziness, nausea, and poor coordination. They put him under and did the surgery by using tiny tools to scoop out the polyp, in the hopes that it wouldn't grow back. He was fixed at that time also.
If the polyp grows back, Rusty will have to undergo a more invasive surgery to remove it, but it has been over a year since the procedure and everything is going well so far. He has displayed signs of having asthma but the vet thinks he is fit and healthy as of now, and he has certainly grown into a large cat. He is tall and thin and shows the signs of having a wild cat in his blood, but we don't mind at all.
You could say our little man is a fighter. He's tough and strong-willed, but honestly, he'd never survive out on his own again. He can't hunt very well and runs away from all forms of confrontation. He's scared of cars, loud noises, strong winds, and dogs. He puts himself to bed every night at 8:30 PM without fail, and won't eat in the morning unless you let him outside to use the bathroom first.
Nevertheless, we love him.
I've never met a cat more loving and friendly than our Rusty. He loves to cuddle every night and will climb into bed with you, even when you say no. He comes to greet every visitor at the door and has even made himself welcome with our neighbours, and once jumped into the bath with their son (I told you he likes water).
This one little cat has shown me how much animals feel and understand, and there are days when he shows me just how much he loves us for taking him in, and I am so grateful that we get to love him. He still jumps at loud noises, and won't play near the road, but he's no longer afraid of storms and will come to snuggle on your lap once he's done getting wet.
If you're thinking of adopting a cat, go and adopt a cat.
You won't regret it.
My Little Model
If you'd like to see more about Rusty and hear about his adventures, please check him out on Instagram at @kittycatrusty. He is also heavily featured as my main model on my Photography account at @mn.w.photography.