This post is my entry in the BlogPaws Blog Carnival Contest sponsored by BISSELL Homecare, Inc.
When I was a child, my family always had cats. These were the kind of cats I now try to help: un-sterilized, sickly, producing litter after litter of kittens. I cannot remember ever taking one of those cats to the vet for routine care. They passed in and out of our house, getting hit on the road, dying of horrible diseases, skinny, and covered in fleas.
That does not mean that I didn’t love them. I did. I was only a little kid and these were my best friends. I told them my secrets and held their warm, furry faces against me when I was scared or couldn’t sleep. I sobbed when their tiny bodies gave out and we buried them along the fencerow.
After the cat we had while I was in Junior High school disappeared, my family remained animal free until my sister adopted a cat. She and I were both adults by that time and many years had passed since our last feline experience.
Because I had become an “Auntie” to a black kitten named Butler, I soon succumbed to my childhood devotion to cats and decided to personally re-enter the world of purrs and whiskers by adopting a kitten myself in 2001.
I am embarrassed to say that I had never had a cat neutered until I was an adult and brought my cat, Oswald, home from our local humane society. Oswald came to me as many of the cats in my past had: un-neutered and teeming with fleas and parasites. But I vowed that this kitten would not be like my childhood pets and off he went to the vet.
I loved Oswald for all the reasons people adore their companion fuzzballs. I never knew how happy a cat could make someone until this sweet, buff boy came into my life. Oswald slept beside me at night, never leaving my side if I was sick or had a migraine. He greeted me when I came home, helping to ease the stresses of the day. He made me laugh and cheered me up when I was down.
He did cute things that expressed his unique personality like climbing in my suitcase when I was going on trips to make sure my clothes were covered in his hair even if he wasn’t around to do it himself. He then gave me the cold shoulder for the first hour when I returned home from those cat-less trips, quickly forgiving me by jumping in my lap for a rubdown.
Oswald loved me unconditionally (well, as long as I kept the food and treats coming).
But Oswald also did more than the normal animal endearments. He opened my eyes to other cats in need, cats like himself, who had no one except me to help them.
With Oswald’s entrance in my life, I suddenly began to notice the stealthy, hungry cats on our rural road and the second litter of kittens (what happened to the first litter?) that our neighbor’s outside cat was trying to feed, even though she was so small and malnourished she hardly looked larger than a kitten herself.
I began to read up on the best ways to help stray and feral cats. I educated myself on trap-neuter-return (TNR) and I bought my first humane trap.
Like Oswald, I thought, these cats deserved the best lives they could possibly have–maybe not as inside house cats, but certainly fixed and healthy and no longer starving. Who was going to help? Who had helped Oswald? Looking around, I found only our local county shelters working for the cats in our small village.
Because Oswald had come from the Union County Humane Society in Marysville, I began to make regular donations to them as a way to honor this special friend of mine. I progressed from donations to volunteering and then serving on their Board.
Our county humane societies did not have TNR programs in place, however, and I had become very passionate about helping feral cats. So, for a while, I went it alone.
I began by fixing the feral cats along my road, quickly progressing to helping cats at the low income apartments in town, and then realizing that I needed to join forces with others with my same ambitions.
In 2005, I volunteered with a group called CATco (Cat Assistance Team of Central Ohio) and through a PetSmart Charities grant we were able to spay and neuter over 100 cats in a local trailer park. The founder of CATco encouraged me to create a group that would focus upon the cats in Plain City.
In 2006, my sister and I started Black and Orange Cat Foundation (B and O) in honor of the black cat, Butler, and the orange cat, Oswald, who changed our lives. Our mission (and passion) is to spay and neuter stray and feral cats and educate the public about the importance of creating a safe, humane world for felines without much hope.
B and O would not exist without Butler and Oswald.
To say that adopting Oswald brought me happiness is an understatement. This gentle boy not only made my life joyous, he also showed me my purpose and passion in life. Today, the people Black and Orange helps are just like what I used to be. The cats are just like my childhood cats with one exception–they now have someone who not only loves them, but makes their lives better.
In the ten years Oswald has been in my life, I have changed completely from the person I once was. I am proof that educating someone can have an impact on the welfare of all animals. I am proof that one wonderful cat can influence their human to help thousands of other cats. I am also proof that the happiness created by adopting a homeless cat can be spread throughout a community and eventually change the world.
Thank you, Oswald.