Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Story of Fergus

Driving back from the rescue shelter last November 4th, I knew I was in trouble. In the back seat, in the cat carrier was a multi ounce bundle of fuzzy brown fur with enormous eyes staring at us and it was love at first sight. I'd been chosen.

I'd been despondent after the sudden death of my long time companion, the handsome and rascally Finnegan. Four months had gone by with a lot of distracting travel but winter was coming and where we live winters are serious business. After the election things looked even more gloomy and O announced It Was Time To Get Another Cat. Our senior, Brendan, was going to get a surprise.

I'd called the shelter to be sure they had kittens. And did they have any black and white male kittens? I'd had three and loved them all. I knew once I got to the shelter I wouldn't leave without a kitten and I was hoping for a perfect match. Yes, they had some in that model. So we packed the carrier and went.

The shelter had been completely rebuilt since Finnegan and his brother Brendan had come home with us 15 years ago. No longer shabby and sad, it was bright and cozy with plenty of light and warmth. I walked right up to the kitten cage feeling a little guilty passing by the older cats. Someday I would adopt older cats the way my mother does but for now, I needed the joy a kitten brings.

There were at least a dozen small kittens tumbling around in the kitten group. The assistant opened the door and they all ran out (the corridor could be blocked off for that purpose). Kitten energy exploded around us. They ran up and down the corridors, tails up, peeping with excitement.

But one made a beeline for my lap and looked at me and purred. Then he ran off to see what the others were seeing, then ran back, climbed up again, looked at me and peeped. I picked him up and he purred. We laughed. The kitten ran off again and I called him. He ran back. It was a done deal.

That night he slept on my neck and he developed an Upper Respiratory Infection. I lay awake all night listening to his tortured breathing and we made his first trip to the vet the next day. The vet said leaving the shelter is very traumatic for a kitten. They are going from a place they know, often with companions, to a strange new home and in Fergus's situation, to an angry older cat who would not play Mommy. Fergus recovered from the cold but I could not put him down or he would peep with distress. I didn't want him to be scared in his new home so I carried him everywhere with me for the first week or left him in a little basket with O where Fergus would feel safe and secure.

By the second week we had a tiny tiger on our hands.

He could bound up the stairs to the second floor and he was learning to climb the tree I had installed. He was pestering Brendan with demands to play or be attacked. I would play with him for hours and it wasn't enough. And he charmed everyone, one night providing the sole entertainment for a dinner party of ten adults. My mother in law said I looked ten years younger. Fergus peeped at my father in law to pick him up and slept in my mother in law's pocket. He wrapped everyone about that perfect little white paw effortlessly.

We learned he had been found along the side of a road in Maine when he was maybe four weeks old and brought to the shelter. I think it's possible he is part Siamese. He has the thin build and possibly the personality of a Siamese and he has the softest fur I have ever felt on a cat. He chirps, chortles, meows and purrs, but mostly when he's happy with you he breathes heavy, a funny sound like pushing air through your teeth. When I call him he comes running full speed and I love the way four white feet look flying through the air.

Last night I lay down in bed and moments after I felt Fergus hop up and snuggle up behind my knees. And I thought how, In this difficult business of life, the love of cat is such a sweet consolation. I had spent the day working on my computer projects and house cleaning. Fergus had had a busy day patrolling his territory, chasing moles in the garden, running in and out the cat door, napping in the drawer with Silas and keeping an eye on me.

We purred a little and drifted off to sleep together.

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