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Social Insecurity – A Cat’s Tale

We knew we were living on borrowed time. We’d known it for years. Our cat, Scooter, had used up most of his nine lives and on December 1, 2012, he used up his last one. We had to say our final goodbye to our beloved cat after nearly 17 years of snuggles and companionship. We were grateful to have shared our lives with Scooter for so long, but anyone who has ever loved a pet knows that it’s never long enough. Trying to lighten our mood, Oregano turned to mathematical calculations for comfort. He determined that we had been lucky enough to have nearly 6,000 wonderful days with Scooter and only 1 really bad day. That one bad day was a doozy though.

The loss left us with an empty space in our hearts and a lot less cat hair on our furniture. Having never been an only cat, Sam seemed to miss Scooter, too. After a week of all three of us moping around the house, Oregano and I visited Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary where he has been volunteering for the past 3 years. We weren’t ready to bring home a new feline family member, but we needed to reassure ourselves that, while we couldn’t replace Scooter, we’d be able to fall in love again.

When we arrived at Tabby’s Place, one of the staff members greeted us. We explained that we were looking for an easy-going, adult cat, preferably one that would live forever. Discounting our immortality requirement, she gave it some thought. The first cat she had in mind was a very shy, gray and white, middle-aged gentleman named Bolaris. The name seemed odd for a cat and the surprise must have been obvious on our faces. The staff member explained that this cat came to Tabby’s Place during the week of Hurricane Sandy, so they named him Bolaris after the TV weatherman from Philadelphia.

After she explained the origin behind his unusual name, the staff member pointed to a crate that appeared to be empty. When we peered inside, we saw one white paw sticking out from under a blanket. Oregano reached in to find the rest of the owner of that paw as the staff member explained that Bolaris is painfully shy and prefers to pretend he is invisible by hiding under a blanket.  He purred and flopped from side to side letting us pet him until the blanket fell off and he bolted across the room. We visited a few other kitties and then we went home to think it over. We weren’t ready yet.

Even though he was the first cat we saw that day, Bolaris stuck in our hearts and we talked about him over the next few weeks. He was the definition of a scaredy cat. Everything and everyone spooked him.  We prefer our cats to be on our laps not under our bedding so we were hesitant to adopt Bolaris. Still undecided, we went back to visit him again, but he was even more skittish than before. We tried to rationalize his behavior. He came from a shelter in New York that had closed and he had only been living at Tabby’s Place for 6 weeks. He was in the largest suite and one of his roommates camped out beside his crate waiting to pounce on him. Each of those reasons by itself was enough cause for blanket-burrowing anxiety.

This was a tough decision that only a consultation with a crystal ball would have made easier. I was unsure of taking a risk on such a timid cat, but Oregano wasn’t. Because Bolaris would be buried under a blanket, he would literally be overlooked by many potential adopters. Oregano convinced me that a younger, more outgoing cat would be able to charm his way into a forever home, but Bolaris wouldn’t. We hoped that once he was in a quiet, loving environment he’d come out of his blanket-wrapped shell. It was a gamble, but his golden eyes, sweet face and little gray soul patch convinced us that he was worth taking a chance on.

Now that he had a new home, he definitely needed a new name. Since he had only been Bolaris for a few weeks, we figured he wasn’t attached to his name. We brainstormed our options and even considered giving him a spice name, but none of those seemed right. We thought about his personality and realized that he reminded us of a smart, blanket-loving character from the Peanuts comic strip; Linus. It was a perfect fit!  We had a new name for our sweet, shy boy.

Knowing how shy he is we wanted to give him time to adapt to the sounds and smells in his new home. We set up our guest room for him and in addition to the usual necessities and deluxe model scratching post, we sprinkled blankets everywhere. During those first few days we frequently went into the room, saw the Linus-shaped lump under the comforter and talked to him so that he would get used to hearing our voices.

There are really two cats in this picture.

There are really two cats in this picture.

We are patient, but we never had such a shy cat before and had no idea when, if ever, he’d feel comfortable enough to venture out from under his blanket. Much to our surprise, it wasn’t long before he would slide out of his hiding place when he heard us enter the room. We sat nearly motionless on the floor since even a slight movement would send him diving back under the nearest blanket. He tentatively started making wide circles around us. With each lap he got closer. Eventually, he began purring loudly and was close enough to head-butt us for pets. It was fun to watch him learn to trust us.

When we were home to supervise, we left the door to Linus’s room open so that he could begin to explore the house, if he dared.  By the end of the first week, he was brave enough to come all the way downstairs. He wandered slowly through the house, his loud, squeaky meow acting as a tracking device for us. Once he began making regular forays through the house, we started to notice some signs that made us think that he has not been in a home for a while. The sound of the toilet flushing or the heat coming on makes him freeze in his tracks. Windows and televisions fascinate him. He climbs into an open dishwasher or refrigerator thinking it is just one more, much smaller, room to explore. He also hasn’t yet learned that the other gray and white cat he is afraid of is just his reflection in the mirror.

Each day he is gaining confidence. Now he loves to be in the room with us and has realized that he has an unlimited, lifetime supply of snuggles at his disposal. He loves to chase the red dot from the laser pointer and anything with a feather on it. When he is in the mood to play, he will drag his toy throughout the house until he finds us.

Sam didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for Linus, but as a rescue cat himself, he gave Linus the space he needed to adjust to his new family. Of course, there was some half-hearted hissing on Sam’s part during their first few encounters, but Linus got Sam’s message loud and clear and walked away. Sam, being the gentleman that he is, didn’t chase after Linus. Now they have started eating and playing together. They have each claimed a couch cushion and nap there regularly. They are well on their way to becoming good buddies and Oregano and I are well on our way to accepting the fact that it is only a matter of time before we’ll be banished to the floor while the two of them are comfortably napping on our couch.

The comedian George Carlin used to say that when you get a pet you know it is going to end badly. It is inevitable; every pet is a small tragedy waiting to happen. I suppose on some level he is right, but hopefully it will be many years until that day. In the meantime, it is so worth it.

Linus is making himself comfortable in his new home.

Linus is making himself comfortable in his new home.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

80 responses »

  1. Lovely story and a happy ending.

  2. I love your story!
    My eldest cat is just shy of 18 years and I know I have anywhere from a few days to a few more years with her. I feel blessed for everyone of them and will be heartbroken when she goes. However stories like yours help remind me that, although you miss the one you had, you can fall in love again and give another sweet creature a home.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the story.

      We definitely miss Scooter and talk about him frequently, but Linus has emerged from his blankets and is such a character that it was hard not to fall in love with him.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

  3. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks!

  4. Oh I loved this! I don’t know how I missed it when it was originally posted. I’m so happy Linus has a good home. The first few months with a new pet are always the most fun, at least for us pet lovers.

  5. Hello there!
    I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award

  6. Linus is a great name for your cat! I’m glad he’s giving up his security blanket.

  7. aw, Linus is such a sweetie. sorry to hear about Scooter, but how wonderful that your new shy little guy has a forever home full of love and cuddles. our previous cat adopted us when she was about 3 years old, and we had the privilege of enjoying her company until she was almost 21. she left a huge gap behind, and i will never forget her. her tribute appeared last March over at p&k.
    in any case, after that last good-bye we took our time finding another. a prime candidate was found on the website of a local pet adoption place – a two year old girl cat who had been given up by her family and was in need of a home. we fell in love with her story, the description of her character and her photo, and tried to get in touch with her foster home, as one of the people working at the shelter had taken her home.
    finally we connected, however it seemed to be difficult to pin-point a day when we could actually go and meet her, and in the end there was a message left on the phone one day by her foster caregiver which said, sorry but the thought of giving her up was unbearable and the caregiver was going to provide a permanent home. she was no longer available for adoption. so for her, our inquiry had been a good thing. i believe animals are aware when they are just in transition and thrive so much better when they are in a home they know is theirs forever.
    however we were quite disappointed. and then just a few days ago, our current boy-cat joined us – already over 6 years old, and the fact that he was a boy-cat when we were considering another girl cat, and he simply is everything we had discounted in our original quest. he has lavishly proved us wrong, and is one of the most demonstratively affectionate cats i have ever met. he is such a little joy. maybe not little. but a joy nonetheless.
    so i share your joy over Linus, and congratulate you and Oregano and Sam on your new family member. how cool is that! just a cautionary word – they may take over the couch, but it probably really isn’t yours anyway, bless their little hearts 🙂

    • Thanks for leaving such a wonderful comment, Kris. Congratulations on the arrival of Timmy to your family. I saw his guest post over on your blog. He’s quite the handsome gentleman and I’m certain we’ll be seeing a lot more of him 🙂

      Sounds like Timmy, Linus and your almost little girl cat all got the loving homes they each deserved. I’m not so sure if we pick our pets or if they pick us. I do know that we are the creatures in the house who have been trained.

      It’s funny that you hadn’t considered getting a male cat. We’ve only had male cats and they have all been affectionate and playful. We actually considered getting a girl this time, but Linus snapped us up before any of the ladies could.

      Enjoy Timmy!

      • selfish reasons ruled out boy cats for me. Sammy moved in before our little girl-cat did, and he was older than we knew. after only a few years he had some extremely challenging little boy problems – painful for him. it was while i was still studying at university, and one of the first pay cheques from my summer job paid for a surgery which was necessary, as the only other option the vet gave me was euthenasia, which was not an option for me.
        he was such a trooper, and handled the surgery and the subsequent medication very well. however, as i had been advised before the procedure took place, it might not be successful or have long-lasting results. within two weeks poor Sammy was right back at square one, and although different medications were tried, they were not successful, and it was with a very sorrowful heart that i said my last good-bye to him.
        in fact, his loss was so unbelievably hard that i promised myself never to adopt another cat again. fortunately the following girl-cat had the good sense to override my silly promise, and i realized how selfish that was and how much more compassionate it would be to have an open home for another cat that needed one.
        she lived to be almost 21 and so it was simply an assumption that girl-cats are probably healthier and so it would be less stress to deal with. but then Timmy had the good sense to override that silly notion, too, and i cannot believe our good fortune that he has moved in with us.
        in any case, he will appear in future posts, and i look forward to future posts about Linus, too, as they are bound to appear here 🙂
        and short! that is my motto for future comments 😀

      • I know there is a particular boy cat problem that is painful for them and costly for those who love them. I’m sorry that Sammy’s procedure didn’t give you more time together. I’m sure it was a gut wrenching decision to have to make. It’s so hard to go through that, but as bad as that is, living day to day in a home without a cat is even worse.

      • so true. purely selfish and simply silly to forego the warmth and joy that the comforting presence of a cat in the home provides.
        the financial cost is never as tough as the emotional one, even as a university student, so many hundreds of years ago, more or less. good old Squeeky who lived as long as she did (we didn’t name her) was such a sweet, gentle cat and the good-bye was tough when it came. those tough good-byes only speak to how wonderful they are.
        but that was then, and this is now. i am grateful that this is now a new story, when they move in and all the laughter and adventures they go through. and that we are privileged to experience as we enjoy their company.
        i personally think that when it came to creating cats, there was a lot of fun and wisdom in that. i am grateful. it is all good!

      • Our furry boys are a constant source of laughter and smiles in our house. As awful as it is to lose them, it would be more awful to not have the joy they bring. There’s something warmer about a home with a pet.

      • oops, that was supposed to be a comment from pix & kardz, not Timmy. if you would like to edit the name above, feel free! 🙂

      • I knew Timmy was your little guy. He’s welcome to comment whenever he wants.

    • Hear, hear. We would never trade Timmy for any girl-cat. He is such a huggable bear. Am always thankful that the cats that move in put everything into perspective 🙂

  8. Sorry about your loss of Scooter, but it sounds like you have a real winner with Linus. I loved your story.
    We lost our Tumbleweed when she 17 and it took me several months before I was ready for another cat. Make that two cats – within two weeks – I brought one home from the Farmer’s Market (much to my hubby’s surprise and delight), then our seond one was adopted from a shelter.

    • Thanks, Judy. I LOVE the name Tumbleweed. I know what you mean about coming home with a cat. I won’t even go to the pet store on days when they have adoptions. I feel so bad for those kitties that I want to put them all in my purse and bring them home. I have very little willpower over a kitten so I avoid them.

      Linus is an absolute snuggle bug. We consider ourselves very lucky to have such loving, cuddly cats in our lives.

  9. Although I already knew going in, that Linus was going to adjust, that still didn’t stop my tears. He is a very lucky cat to have you guys. I do have a suggestion (what teacher do you know who is without a suggestion?) – since his name originally was Bolaris, I kind of like Linus B. It has a certain ring to it. Seriously, keep me posted on his progress.

    Jenny went home to Rochester with her cat last week, and I do miss Waffle (and so does Mobley) – although I don’t miss the litter tracking on my beautiful hardwood floors (a small price to pay).

    Love, Paula

    On Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 7:37 PM, Good Humored

    • Technically, Linus has a last name: Van Pelt. I guess his full name for important legal documents can be Linus B. Van Pelt. He sounds so official.

      We are so amazed at how much progress he has made in such a short period of time. We can’t stop wondering about his life before he arrived at Tabby’s Place, but at least he knows now that he has a safe, loving home.

  10. Great post cats and dogs have been my friends forever. Love ’em

  11. I loved reading this. I like cats and have two strays, but there are so many people who can’t stand them (some being in my family and friends). One of the cats I share with the next door neighbours is called Puss and she is also a scaredy cat. She’s been with us for years but still runs away if you take one step in her direction.
    Sorry to hear about Scooter passing away (great name by the way).

    • Thanks, Emma! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. I really wasn’t sure if I should post this one or not.

      I don’t know how cats get such a bad reputation. I’ve had cats since I was 3 years old and they have always been loving pets. Their affections may not be as obvious as a dogs, but until dogs learn to purr, cats win in my book. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting on the couch with my cats purring in my lap.

      I hope one day Puss will not run away from you. Keep trying.

  12. A new addition; what a wonderful occasion. I hope you had a bang up welcome to the family party with a large Chocolate Cake and hot chocolate for all. There I go again, dreaming about chocolate. Congratulations!

    • Linus hasn’t quite been up to visitors yet. We were afraid having people over would send him back under his blankets. We think he is now ready to receive admirers, so we may be having that chocolate cake and maybe some tuna for our feline friends.

  13. Hi Paprika!!! Love the article. Especially since it really touches the heart of anyone who not only has brought a 4 legged fur bearing hunk of love into their lives only to say goodbye at some point. God lets us have his creatures to care for them but He will want them back at some point. I guess it’s His way of being with us too! We had our Molly for 16 years before her kidneys got the best of her; what a fighter! We now have our Max – little black, 4 legged have no idea what he is. Closes his eyes and he disappears into himself. Each in their own way has given us so much more than we could give back. A good home, meals, toys. Both were onlies never wanting to share us with anyone. Well, Max is 11 now and brought back a piece of Molly to us in his own way. He too will join Molly one day and then we’ll be looking for the next one. They gave us too much joy to be without it for long.

    • Thanks, Margie. So glad you enjoyed the article. I had a feeling pet lovers could relate to this topic. Pets really do add something special to our lives. Not a day goes by that our two furballs don’t make us laugh. I can’t imagine our home without them.

  14. Bravo Paprika, Oregano & Sam! Scooter is watching from Heaven bursting with love and pride. I’m sure he orchestrated the whole thing : ).

  15. I started reading this last night, while looking at my ancient dog (we’ve been fearing the worst every day for nearly 3 years now) and my heart went out to you for your loss. Pets are just a part of us — we are allowed to be sloppy in love with them. It is expected and encouraged.

    But I got distracted and couldn’t finish the post. So w hen I woke up and clicked on Linus’ story this morning you have given me my morning smile. I’m not sure who is luckier, you and Oregano or Linus. But Linus sounds like the perfect followup to a much loved Scooter.

    • Elyse, “sloppy in love” is exactly the right term. We brought Scooter home when he was 6 weeks old and we spoiled him and then Sam when he arrived 10 years later. We used to joke that we go to work in order for them to maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

      I’m not sure if it is Linus or us who got the better deal, so we’ll call it a very happy tie.

  16. So sorry about Scooter, but that is such a beautiful thing you did and Linus is my favourite Peanuts character!! I couldn’t wait to read the outcome and am so glad you chose him. As you say, he probably would have been overlooked by less discerning folk! Here’s hoping for many happy years!

  17. Losing any of our cats would be debasing but giving a cat who is so insecure a chance is wonderful and rewarding. Cats like this in shelters are often hiding a wonderful and loving personality.

  18. So glad you took Linus home with you in the end (he sounds *adorable*) – and very relieved to hear that Sam has taken him under his wing. You’re right, one never knows how a cat will react to another cat moving into its territory. Let’s hope they will continue to be best buddies!

    • Thanks, Reggie. We are so happy that Linus has come out of his shell and seems to be happy now. I’m sure he and Sam will continue to do well. I think the initial introduction is always the most stressful part of bringing a new cat home. Now, I just need to worry that they don’t conspire against me.

  19. Gorgeous kitties!!! Linus will have a great life now. ^-^ Kat

  20. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    What a great story! You guys are obviously wonderful people – ’cause animals just KNOW, y’know??: )

    • Thanks, Deb. I really think animals do know who is right for them. Clearly they are better are picking out humans than I am about choosing a cat. When we went to meet Sam for the first time, he picked us. We went to his foster home and out of the ten cats there, he was the only one who hopped up on the couch, marched across my lap and sat in Oregano’s lap with a look on his face that said, “Where have you people been? I’ve been looking for you.”

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody

        LOL – and Linus looks just SO tense in that photo too – belly-up, wirhout a care in the world… well, other than “Hey! Why’d you wake me up?!” and he’s very puurrdy, btw; )

      • He is a cutie! When we saw him sleeping like that without a blanket in sight, we knew he’d be OK.

  21. I am so glad you found Linus and he has turned out to be such a good kitty!

  22. Your essay was especially moving, having lost Cookie after 18+ years of being a part of our family. We still wrestle with the feelings of loss and the periodic flashes of expectation that she is still waiting for us when we arrive home. We haven’t taken the plunge to replace her and know the commitment to lifestyle and time that it would require. However, for a brief moment it was fun to experience the “what if” through your eyes…..thanks.

    • I really struggled with writing this post and wondering whether or not I should even post it on a humor blog, but I thought a lot of readers would be able to relate. We keep expecting to see Scooter in his usual haunts. It’s a difficult adjustment after you’ve had a pet in your life for so long.

  23. It is so worth it.
    (Scooter would approve)
    So glad you looked under the blanket ( Oregano was right – he would have languished and been left and gotten more forlorn.) I could hardly read fast enough to make sure you realized he selected you…you just didn’t see that invisible leash to your heart he attached the first time.
    RC sends a soft head butt to you …and a friendly paw wave to Linus!

    • I think you are right about Linus’s invisible leash grabbing our hearts. We couldn’t stop talking about him after that first visit. Originally, we planned to wait a bit longer before bringing home a new feline family member. Once we made up our minds that he was our guy, we couldn’t drive to Tabby’s Place fast enough to bring him to his forever home.

      Thank RC for the head butt. That is high praise. Linus waves right back and not from under the cover of his blanket 🙂

  24. Oh I love Linus! We had a shy cat Fritzi for many years who was, to the entire outside world, just a lump under the bedspread. But we so loved that lump.

  25. Cinnamon, I think I saw someone win the cat lottery on the show Hoarders once. You do NOT wan’t to win that lottery! Still, Linus is adorable, but Bolaris is such a cool name. It reminds me of something you might find from the intergalactic feline star of Disney’s, The Cat From Outerspace. Did your new cat come with his own ornate, glowing necklace and has he broken any furniture from freak accidents with telekinesis. Let us know.

    • Our new cat did not come with his own ornate, glowing necklace. Maybe if he had, we would have kept his name as Bolaris. Someone else suggested that his name sounded like some type of allergy medication.

      As for broken objects, I did come home and find a small statue decapitated. I assumed Linus had knocked it off the windowsill during one of his explorations, but maybe it was telekinesis…

  26. This post struck a chord with me. My oldest cat Jake has been having health issues for the past few months and I worry that each will be the last. When we lost our last cat, we also adopted an “unadoptable” cat. Hazel was shy and scared and a bit homely too. I was afraid no one would take her so she came home with us. She is still shy but mostly with strangers. She will commandeer the sofa and eat everyone’s food. She has grown to be a pretty cat with gorgeous eyes. Best of all, she gets along wonderfully with both Jake and Mollie. I can’t imagine coming home to a petless house.

    • I hope Jake will be OK. I know that anxious feeling you have every time you go to the vet.

      We are so relieved that Sam and Linus get along. You just never know what the interaction will be when you introduce a new cat to the house. Now that they are becoming buddies, I’m fairly certain that Sam is teaching Linus how to manipulate us.

  27. Yay for Linus! Can’t wait to meet him:)

  28. I’m so sorry to hear about Scooter, much love to all of you.

  29. Win win for all!

  30. Love love love rescue! Linus has won the cat lottery! Hurray!


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