If you had asked me whether I was a dog or a cat person up until I was 20 years old, I would have said I was a dog person. Don’t get me wrong, I had never disliked cats! Boxers, chihuahuas, German shepherds, French bulldogs, mutts and more – they were what I had grown up with, so it was just the natural answer for me.
When I moved away for college, one of the hardest adjustments was getting used to not having any dogs around. There was no one to excitedly greet me when I came home, or side-eye me hoping I’d drop something when I ate dinner. As a birthday gift to myself when I turned 20, I decided to go to the animal shelter and finally adopt a pet of my own to keep me company. I don’t know why, but I immediately went to the section where the cats were kept. I was open to a cat, sure, but knew I would likely be going home with a dog.
Seeing as this post is about International Rescue Cat Day, I’m sure you can guess what ended up happening.
One of the first cats I saw was a handsome tuxedo who started rubbing against the glass when I walked by, hoping for attention. His name tag read “Gilligan.” After circling the room and looking at all the cats, I couldn’t get Gilligan out of my mind, so I asked one of the shelter workers if I could meet him. They put us in a small introduction area, and I could see how curious, friendly, and sweet he was. He’d wander around the room poking at every little thing, then, he’d take a break to come sit on my lap and purr like an engine. After about 10 minutes, I knew he was the one.
The first few weeks with Gilligan were…interesting. He was just as curious at home as he was in the shelter and spent the first few days exploring and trying to get into everything he could. I found out he was infuriatingly clever and could open every drawer and cabinet in the apartment (even pull-out drawers with no handle!). Hiding food and treats where he couldn’t find them became a game, and I was usually the loser. He’d knock items off of my dresser and shelves to wake me up in the mornings, and at night, he’d zoom around the apartment. I thought I would lose my mind trying to understand his body language and behaviors – he was just so much different than the dogs I was used to!
For every negative, though, there were positives. I now had a constant cuddle buddy, and his loud engine-like purring became a comforting white noise. What I once thought were erratic and weird behaviors became expected and comedic, and I grew more organized from learning to work around his curiosity and cleverness. Gill became my shadow. He would follow me from room to room to make sure he wasn’t missing out on anything, and was also a certified bug hunter that would rid the apartment of any insects that were unfortunate enough to find their way in. I was able to relax more, and some of my favorite times of day were when we would watch birds from the window together. Most importantly, my stress levels and mental health improved greatly just from having him around.
There was a learning curve, but adopting Gilligan was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. Every year on his adoption day, Gill gets treats and a new toy to celebrate him coming into my life and showing me that I am, in fact, a cat person.
On March 2, International Rescue Cat Day will be celebrated for the fifth time since it was first observed in 2019. The ASPCA estimates that about 6.3 million animals enter shelters in the United States every year, and of those, approximately 3.2 million are cats. (aspca.org/helping-people-pets/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics)
International Rescue Cat Day is meant not only to celebrate rescue cats, but to raise awareness for cat adoption. There are many reasons to adopt cats from animal shelters versus going to pet stores or breeders. Shelter cats are often less costly, their personalities are better known since they interact with shelter workers and volunteers daily, and most shelters give their animals any vaccinations, treatments, and operations they need before sending them home for adoption. Plus, adopting cats from shelters helps to mitigate overcrowding and, in some cases, can save their lives.
There are many wonderful cats like Gilligan out there that are in need of homes and assistance, so consider celebrating International Rescue Cat Day this year by volunteering at your local animal shelter, donating to cat rescue groups like Denver’s Dumb Friends League and Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue, or (my favorite option) adopting a cat of your own!