Going into the pet store on a Saturday is always a risky endeavor. Rescue groups and their charges crowd the area just inside the entrance. There is no way to get to the food and supplies in the back of the store without walking past scores of adorable cats with hard luck stories and sad faces. Other than steering clear of pet stores on weekends, the only other strategy I have at my disposal is to walk quickly and avert my eyes. Sure, I’ve bumped into a few people and displays, but I’ve managed to avoid the woeful stares of the homeless pets. As long as I don’t stop to pet anything, I can get in and out of the store without coming home with a furry family member or a guilt trip.
Oregano and I needed some pet supplies. Since it was late Saturday afternoon, the rescue groups were gone and we were able to safely maneuver through the store without having our heartstrings tugged. I grabbed cans of cat food and Oregano hoisted the 42 pound bag of litter into the cart.
“Is there anything else we need for the boys?” I asked surveying all the cat accoutrements in the aisle.
“Nope; just litter and cans of wet food. We’ve got everything else already,” he replied as he started navigating the cart to the cashier.
Our feet were not yet across the threshold of our home when Oregano exclaimed, “Crap! I forgot we needed dry food, too.”
After a brief discussion on the merits of remembering things like that prior to leaving the pet store and a calculation of how many days’ worth of dry food we had left, we decided we’d have to go back to the store the next day.
“Maybe we can get there early to avoid the rescue groups,” I suggested.
“You’ve made it through the pet store on weekends before. You can do it again,” he reminded me.
He was right. I’d been in the pet store lots of times on the weekends and I’d never come home with a cat. Maybe I had more willpower and common sense than I was giving myself credit for.
The next day we walked into a different pet store. There, in the center aisle, unavoidably placed, was a long row of crates filled with cats. A sad faced orange tabby caught my eye. I wandered over to him, scratched his forehead and read the bio taped to his crate. He was just a year old. It said he was very shy and needed a home with patient parents.
Within a few minutes, a volunteer from the rescue group wandered over with a huge smile on her face. “Would you like me to open the cage so you can pet Keebler? His fur is very soft,” she said.
“Oh, no. That’s OK,” I said. “I was just reading his bio. I’m not looking to adopt a cat. We already have two cats at home. I noticed that it says he’s shy. Three years ago, we adopted one that was very shy. We named him Linus because he used to hide under blankets all the time.”
“Linus is a cute name. Is he still really shy?” she asked.
“Not anymore. He’s a total scam artist. He was just looking for the right suckers to lift up his blanket in the shelter. He looked sad and terrified, but after a few months with us, he became a lap cat who constantly craves our attention.”
“You sound like just the kind of parents Keebler needs,” she said.
Oregano saw me talking to the volunteer and walked over. “He’s another fraidy cat like Linus,” I said.
The volunteer opened the door to the crate. Without even realizing what I was doing, I reached in and began scratching Keebler’s back. He started to purr and arched his back into the air giving us the “elevator butt” salute.
The volunteer looked surprised. “He has never had that reaction with anyone else during these adoption days. He usually just cowers in his crate.”
“I’m sure you say that to all the prospective parents.”
She smiled, “I’m serious. He’s never reacted like this to anyone else.” She glanced at the other volunteer. “We believe the cats choose their parents.”
“I agree with you about that, but I’ve already been chosen twice. I’m not currently on the market,” I replied while still petting Keebler’s arched back.
Oregano chimed in, “He is an orange tabby. You’ve always wanted an orange tabby.” He wasn’t helping the situation.
“Really?!” said the volunteer sensing that she had two suckers on the hook.
“Today is Mother’s Day. He needs a mom.” She was really working this sales pitch.
“Wow! What do you do when you aren’t volunteering with the rescue group, sell used cars?” I asked.
She laughed, “No. I’ve made it my mission to find him a home. He’s been at the shelter for 8 months. Because he isn’t outgoing, he gets overlooked. He needs just the right home with patient parents who will give him time to come out of his shell. You two sound like you’d be the perfect family for him.”
“He’s cute, but we already have two cats. We don’t want to upset them by bringing in another cat,” I said, shutting the door to Keebler’s crate. “I have a rule that the cats shouldn’t outnumber the humans in a home. If they had thumbs and our credit cards, they’d stage a coup and lock us out of the house.”
Oregano had started petting Keebler through the crate. I saw the look on his face. The volunteer saw the look on his face. Then he spoke, “There’s really no reason why we couldn’t have three though. We have enough room. We helped Linus come out of his shell. We know what to do for Keebler.”
I glanced to my right, I think I saw the volunteer jumping up and down, but maybe that was my imagination.
I glared at Oregano. “Just because we helped Linus, doesn’t mean the same things will work for Keebler. We are not cat whisperers. We can talk about this while we get the dry food you forgot about yesterday.”
We thanked the volunteer, said goodbye to Keebler and walked away.
“We could totally do this,” said Oregano trying to convince me.
“No we can’t!” I said emphatically.“I’ve never had three cats. I don’t even know what the dynamic would be like. Who knows if they’ll even all get along? It’s always risky introducing a new cat,”
My resolve was weakening. I could feel logic, common sense and reasoning evaporate. Why did I stop and pet him? I know the rules. I looked at Oregano, “Let me text my friends who have three cats and see what they say about the logistics and dynamics when they brought their third cat home.”
My friends replied quickly. After reading their responses, I realized these were the wrong people to ask for guidance. When I looked up from my phone, Oregano was gone. I found him in the next aisle looking at litter boxes.
“What are you doing? We already have two perfectly good litter boxes.” I asked.
“We do, but we’re going to have three cats. We’ll need one more while Keebler gets adjusted to his new home,” he said sheepishly.
I stared at him in disbelief.
“What advice did your friends have?” he asked.
“They were not the least bit helpful. They wanted me to text them a picture and asked when they could come over to meet him,” I replied.
That did it. Oregano picked up the new litter box and started walking back to Keebler’s cage. “We haven’t made a decision yet. Where are you going?” I called after him.
“Yes, we have,” he responded over his shoulder as he kept walking. “I’ve wanted a third cat for years, but you’ve always said no. This is the first time you are even considering it, so I’m jumping on this opportunity before you change your mind.”
When we reached Keebler’s cage the volunteer we had spoken to earlier was jumping up and down and clapping. “I was really hoping you’d come back,” she practically squealed.
“We’re seriously thinking about it. Can I pet him again?” I asked.
She opened his crate and once again Keebler let me pet him and arched his back. I glanced across the top of the crate and saw the look on Oregano’s face.
“OK.” I conceded quietly. “It looks like he’s adopting us.”
At this point, both volunteers were ecstatic. They scurried around gathering applications, medical records and other papers. I sat down to fill out the application fully expecting that they would need to contact our vet and references. I was asking what day during the week we’d be able to come back and pick him up. The volunteers stopped moving around and looked at me. “You can take him home with you today,” they practically said in unison.
“Today?! We don’t have a carrier with us and he’s too big to fit in my purse. We can’t take him home today! We need to prepare the room for him.” I was starting to panic. I am not an impulsive shopper and definitely not when it comes to something that is a 15 year commitment.
“You don’t take credit cards. I don’t think we have enough cash for the adoption fee.” I was grabbing at straws.
Oregano stood there amused by my panicking as he reached into his pocket. “Actually, I happen to have enough cash with me, so that’s not an issue,” he said gleefully.
Holy crap! Were we really going to leave this pet store with a new family member? How did this happen? My heart was racing and I felt like I was going to throw up.
“You can borrow the carrier we brought him in today. Just bring it back to us. We’re here every weekend,” offered the volunteer.
“Oh, I see how you people operate,” I said. “Next week I bring back the empty carrier, fall in love with another furry orphan and wind up with a fourth cat. It’s a vicious circle.”
Oregano and the volunteers were laughing at me. “If you’re that worried about your newly developed lack of self-control, I’ll bring the carrier back next weekend without you.”
I pulled him aside, “Are we really doing this? We’re going home with a new cat?! Don’t you think we need to go home and beat this idea to death, overanalyze it for a few months, you know, like we usually do?”
“Yes. We’re really doing this.” He kissed my cheek and walked off to pay for the cat food and the new litter box.
When he returned we posed for a commemorative photo for the rescue group’s website then walked out to the car carrying Keebler in his borrowed traveling crate. On the drive home I glanced in the mirror and saw him curled up looking terrified. I’m pretty sure I looked terrified, too.
Linus immediately recognized a fellow fraidy cat and welcomed his new, nervous brother.
A few days later, we took Keebler to the vet for a wellness exam. When our vet walked into the exam room and saw a cat that looked nothing like our other cats, she laughed, “What did you do?”
“Well, we went into the pet store to buy cat food and came home with a cat,” I explained.
She smiled, “That happens a lot more than you’d think.”
I looked over at Oregano and said, “Just to be on the safe side, we’d better order our cat food online from now on.”
Keebler seems happy and relaxed in his new home.