Shelter Stories

Absolutely no pets are allowed in our building. Had MishMish still been living when we were ready to move, we would not have moved here. But, now that we have, I’m getting my kitty fix at the Bloomfield Animal Shelter. I’ve been a volunteer for only three weeks, but the strangest thing has happened. When I get especially attracted to a cat, it gets adopted. It’s happened three times! 

I met Aiden the first week—didn’t even get a chance to take his picture. He is a truly sweet and beautiful tabby who loves human attention. But he has FIV— feline immunodeficiency virus. Who knew that cats have a version of that plague too? Unlike humans, he doesn’t have to be given medication to keep him well. The good news is that, kept inside in a one-cat family and fed a good diet, this loving cat has an excellent change of leading a healthy life. Aiden had spent over a year in the shelter and I expected to see much more of him. But when I came on week two, I learned that he had been adopted by a young couple. How wonderful for them all!

Then there was Frances. She’s an older lady who can’t get enough nuzzling but, when offered the chance to play in the room, prefers to remain in her cage. Frances had also spent over a year in the shelter.

And Larry. larryHe was found, abandoned in one carrier with two other cats, that the shelter people named Curly and Mo. I cannot imagine deserting three such lovely friends, nor can I imagine how anyone could stuff three cats into one carrier! I have trouble getting one cat into a carrier. Larry, the orange tabby and Curly, the older, elegant tuxedo were given a large cage to share at the shelter. Mo has her own place; she bullied the others, though by herself, she’s a sweetie. I fell in love with Larry, who loves petting and enjoys play.

To my surprise when I arrived on week three, both Frances and Larry had been adopted. 

Today I spent time with Black Jack—he’s totally black with one tiny white spot between his He is always first to meow when anyone enters the room and can never get enough petting. Rebecca, one of the staff, thinks he a long timer because people are still superstitious about black cats. But now that Black Jack is my latest favorite, I’m wondering if he’ll be adopted within the week.

Kitty Antics

Though I had been relating MishMIsh’s real story here, it’s too upsetting to continue with the details of our loss of that seven pounds of fluff and love. Instead, I’ll focus on her individuality and soon, the personalities of the cats I’ve been getting acquainted with at the animal shelter. 

I bet some people wonder if the real MishMish took all the poses drawn in her book. I recently found a picture of her sitting on the stair post. Okay, she was not wearing glasses, as in the book, but it always astonished me to find her perched there. It has to be an incredible balancing act to jump from the stairs—or floor, I never saw her getting into that position—and land perfectly on the square top of the post.  

So here’s the drawing:                                                 And here’s MishMish.


All was not well

In one way MishMish behaved like a stereotypical cat. She was curious. That’s how she inspired MishMish: Spy Cat. Place a bag or box on the floor or open a cabinet, and she was in it. Leave a closet or the attic door open and you’d best not close it too soon, because before long there’d be a “meow” from within. 

We all admired MishMish for her expertise in yoga. belly-up-mishShe could lie down with her front paws extended to touch the rug to the right above her head. Her belly would be up and her back legs twisted to rest on the floor to her left. Joe took numerous phone pictures of her poses. But we all learned early in her residence that we were forbidden to touch her exposed belly. If we did, we were guaranteed a warning bite. So I suppose, I should not blame myself for discovering the tumor under one of her nipples so late. Her pose was just so cute one day that last winter, that I risked a bite to tickle her belly. And there was the lump. Two and a half centimeters said the vet when she examined her. Cats, too, get breast cancer. The tumor was extensive. The surgeon was certain he had gotten it all, but the lab said Mish’s lymph glands were “dirty” so the prognosis was not good. 

“Chances are the cancer will return in several months to a year,” said the doctor. “And she has a heart murmur too.”

We were crushed and MishMish was miserable. mish-post-op-001She wore a plastic collar to prevent her from licking her stitches. Given her yoga proficiency, she could reach the incision anyway so she graduated to a larger plastic collar and a longer healing period. Mish hung her head and hid under any furniture that the collar permitted her to pass. We tailored her food bowls so she could reach her food.  We all passed an unpleasant five weeks until the collar came off. Then MishMish’s mood improved and she returned to her usual routines. We decided to hope for the best, shower her with love, and make her the happiest possible cat in whatever time she had left to share with us. Her backrubs became longer and I constantly told her how special she was.

The Routine

MishMish quickly established a regular routine. Except when addressing Peter or Joe, she was incredibly polite. She sat by her bowl at mealtimes and waited quietly until someone fed her. And she made it her business to know who came into the house. Whenever the door opened, no matter where MishMish had been napping, she came to investigate and greet the arrival. Her legs were so short that she hopped, rabbit-like down the stairs. We enjoyed the sound of her making her way down—plumpa loopa, plumpa loopa.  At bedtime, she came looking for me and my husband. She would get our attention, then stare into my eyes. It was easy to read her mind: “It’s time for bed, Mommy. Come on!” Once my husband and I were both in bed, MishMish jumped up and nestled into a place by our feet. 

Whenever I came home MishMish performed our private ritual. She looked at me, tilted her head in a “follow me” signal, then led me to the dining room where she stretched out on the rug—legs extended as far forward and back as possible. It was my job to give her a five minute back rub. If I was rushed and didn’t follow her, or cut our time short, she complained with a curt mew. That didn’t happen often. After all, this was our time together.



It’s Advent again. Time to Celebrate the Season

The Real MishMish-the story continues

cosmic-mishDuring MishMish’ trip to the vet for spaying and shots we found out the reason for what my daughter called “nasty fur” – worms. Once de-wormed, MishMish’s fur became lush and reminded me of apricot swirl ice cream. Even my daughter had to admit that she was attractive.

But now MishMish’s friendliness was in question. Recovering from her operation, she chose to hide under the basement couch. When she did emerge, and encountered our tuxedo cat, Peter, she bristled and hissed so, that he retreated to the bedrooms, whimpering and quaking in fear. Obviously Peter had no clue that he was three times her size. The two cats made peace—actually, merely a truce—only after we kept them in separate parts of the house for three weeks. My prayers to Saint Francis probably helped too. 

Since my son, Joe, was Peter’s main man, MishMish never warmed up to him. They developed a stand-off relationship much like that of Peter and MishMish. 

Joe would enter a room and say, “Mish!”

Mish would answer with an angry, “Meh!”

Joe would repeat and so would MishMish until one of them grew tired of the game.

MishMish & Friends

The story of the real MishMish is very like my children’s book. MishMish was real .The little girl who believes the cat to be a spy could be my daughter , but she was already an adult when MishMish came to live with us. And our tuxedo cat, Peter, didn’t make it to the book, but he was very much part of her story.

It happened like this.

One warm July day in 2003 while digging gladiola bulbs into the earth, I heard a nearby meow. Not the high-pitched, impatient meow of our oversized tuxedo cat. This was a deeper me-ow, confident of attention. I looked up and into olive-green eyes within an orange and cream tiger face.  Her nose was much shorter than our cat, Peter’s, and pink tipped. 

“Meow,” she declared again, and emerged from day lilies matching her color.  She was tiny and emaciated. Though her stripped tail was thick and fluffy, the fur on her body was limp and unattractive. She looked at me expectantly.

“Wait here, MishMish,” I said, calling her the name everyone in my husband’s country, Egypt, used for an apricot-colored cat. “I’ll get you something to eat.”

But she didn’t wait. She followed me to the back door and repeated her appeal, “Me-ow!”

I brought out bowls of dry cat food and water and placed them down where she patiently waited.  She te quickly and looked up for more. 

“You’re starving, aren’t you? Where did you come from?” I asked as I added food to her bowl.


MishMish at table – Always polite

MishMish didn’t answer. Just ate and returned to the far end of the garden. 

Next morning she was waiting at the back door. Of course, I gave her more food. 

“That cat’s ugly,” said my daughter. “Her face is flat; and look at that nasty fur.”

“I think she’s beautiful,” I said. “And she’s very friendly and patient.”

We brought MishMish to Paws, certain someone was missing her. But she had stolen my heart. After three weeks I called Paws, found out she was still there, and paid to have her join our family. 

The story continues: