The first thing I remember is my mother licking me. I can’t see her, but I know it is her. I can hear voices too. Human voices that, at first, trouble me. But then, my mother somehow reassures me that everything is fine. I listen curiously to what those humans, a whole other species, think and say.
“Emily, we can not keep a whole litter of kittens. There are five kittens from this litter alone! Just think of all the other litters Queen might have with Sebastian.”
I make the decision that my mother is Queen, but who in the world is Sebastian?
“Richard, don’t worry. We are planning on selling the kittens after all.”
I don’t really understand what that means, so I don’t really pay attention to the words being spoken. Instead, I listen to the strange sounds that come out of their mouths. One human has a light, airy voice, and the other has a more gruff, husky voice that reminds me too much of a dog’s bark. This thinking exhausts me, and I curl up beside my mother and siblings. Comfortable, warm, and very sleepy.
Suddenly, I feel a jolt and wake up in the back of a strange, rolling room. I’m still too weak to stand up and open my eyes, so I nuzzle my mother, who licks me until my oldest brother, Prince, diverts her attention away. There is nothing to do in this strange contraption. So I let myself be lulled asleep by the rolling of the strange thing.
“Hey Mittens!” says Chanel, my youngest sister. I can tell it’s her because she is the sister who constantly wants attention. Especially from mother. Also, she clips her words, even at three days old.
“Chanel, I’m sleeping.”
“Mommy told me what this thing is called.” And pausing for dramatic effect, she declares, “It is called a car!”
I am mad that Chanel knows this before I did, but I do not say so. Instead, I fall asleep wondering what a car does, other than scare little kittens.
Three months later
I have grown some lovely, fluffy fur. I can now open my eyes, walk around, and play with my sisters and brothers. The house I live in is a townhouse in South Baltimore. It is a red, brick house with ivy growing up the sides. I’m the cleanest kitty out of my litter, and that makes me very proud. My paws are a proud point of mine, hence my name “Mittens.”
One day, I watched Richard, my human, put up a sign I couldn’t read, but I did see the word “kittens” on the sign. I meowed at my mother and my father, the mysterious Sebastian. They immediately jumped up to the window sill. I could tell it was very hard for my parents to read the sign too, although they didn’t want to admit it.
“It looks like Miss Mittens has got herself a mystery,” purred my mother, nuzzling me. She didn’t seem to worry about it though, so neither did I.
Richard walked back inside, whistling as he walked. I rubbed his leg, expecting an answer. He bent down to scratch my head.
“Ohhhh Mittens, if only you knew.” Then, he went into the kitchen.
If only I knew. What does that mean? I wondered all throughout the day. I knew a lot of things. I considered myself a very educated kitty. I knew not to drink from the toilet and where my food was. I knew how to clean myself and many other important things.
While I was pondering in the kitchen, I heard a knock on the door and a sophisticated voice saying, “I heard that you were selling kittens. I only need one who isn’t a lot of work, likes laps, and doesn’t get fur everywhere.”
Who is this strange person at the door?
“Well, I have an idea of one you would love. Her name is Mittens,” said Richard.
Wait, that’s my name! Are Richard and Emily selling me? Before I could fully wrap my head around this terrible fate, Richard was picking me up and saying goodbye. Then, like I never mattered to him, Richard dumped me into the strange woman’s perfectly manicured hands.
I started to cry, “Mama, Daddy?”
They came running over. But it was too late. The woman was already paying my human. I was leaving everything I had: my bed, my humans, my food, my house, but most importantly, my family. I saw all my siblings pawing at the windows and doors. I thought of Prince, Winny, Bent, and Chanel, and how much I would miss them. They drove me crazy most of the time, but they were my pack. Now who would I play with? I curled up in the back of the woman’s car and waited for the drive to be over.
“Kitty, come out. We’re here,” the woman cooed. I looked around at my new surroundings. There was a pale blue townhouse with white shutters and a small porch. I didn’t notice anything pretty about it, because I had made up my mind to hate the place that was to replace my family and old life.
“Kitty — Mittens — whatever your name is, please get out of the car.” I went under a seat, very frightened. Finally, she sighed and picked me up. “Something tells me you’re going to be more trouble than you’re worth, kitty,” she spat at me.
After a week in the ill-decorated house, I was bored out of my mind. No one would play with me — well, except when the mistress (meaning the woman who “stole” me from my old, better life) tried to do fashion shows for me. She put on crazy, flashy, sequined outfits and high, high heels, and strutted down the hallway. I always ran away from her.
On my first day, I thought she wanted to play, so I attacked her legs. That didn’t end well. I had the house all to myself because Mistress was gone all day for her “job,” which was really just a shopping spree, then treating herself to bubble tea and ice cold margaritas.
By the end of week one, I decided to run away. I couldn’t stand to live there anymore. Run away from hot pink, pleather couches and tacky pink chandeliers in every room. Run away from the worst life yet. So I did. I thought it would’ve been harder to leave a home and a human, but once I started running, I didn’t even look back.
It was sad how easily I got away. No one really knew I was gone. I wanted to go back to my old house very badly, but I realized that I would be sent away from them again. I wasn’t wanted at home. Of course, my real cat family would love me back. But to the humans, I was just another mouth to feed. It is terrible to not be wanted anywhere. I cried, realizing that now, not only did I not have any family, but I also had no shelter. I slipped into an alley and hid behind a trash can, waiting out the night.
“Hey Stocky, get up!” hissed an unfamiliar voice.
“Ughhh?” I moaned, not really knowing what was going on.
“Did you hear me? I said, get up. This is my territory.”
“Territory? Are you being protective of a trash can?”
“This is mine, anyway.”
“Fine,” I said, not really making an effort to move.
Just then, the cat attacked me. It scratched my ear. I hissed, startled. I was going to get up. There was no need for violence. But in self defense, I pounced on top of it, my claws digging into the cat’s back. The cat shook me off. I fell to the wet, garbage-covered ground.
“Just stay away. I’ll leave you with a warning this time.” And with that, the cat turned away and took its place in the spot I found. I slunked away, looking for something to eat.
I tried to catch birds, but I only succeeded in catching one. It was rather sad to kill another living thing, but I got used to it, because I was starving. Sometimes, the occasional mouse would wander into the alleyway, and I would be on it in a second. It really wasn’t much food to live by though. The water supply was also very low. There was a leaking water hose in the back of a bakery that made big puddles.
After two weeks of this, I was tired, hungry, and thirsty. This little alleyway had become my home, food source, water source, and protection from other cats. While I was thinking about the alley and how I’d gotten here, I smelled something slightly familiar. The smell made me think of the times when Richard came home with a sack of meat. Sometimes he gave the chicken to me and my family for a big, fancy dinner. Remembering this gave me a heavy heart, making me wish I was still there. I was still a curious kitten, so I followed the scent. I followed the scent all the way to a shop, where a man was hanging up meat on strings. Meat! Glorious, fresh, chewy, tender, yummy meat. I moaned at the man wearing a bloody apron. He turned his head to stare at me.
“Hey pretty kitty, you look a little young to be out on your own. Where’s your mama?”
I moaned again and rubbed his leg.
“Awwwww, are you a loner?” he asked, looking like he felt bad for me.
I sat down at his feet and looked up at him expectantly.
He stared right back at me, then he bent down to rub my head. I hadn’t been pet for a little while, so this felt really good. I licked his hand. There was a lot of salty, sweaty goodness on it because it was April, which is when humans’ hands are very moist.
“I like you, cat,” the man declared. “Wait here,” he told me.
I waited patiently and started looking around the shop. It was covered in meat and iceboxes. There were dirty aprons hanging in a corner. What was this wonderful place called? Just then, the meat man came back with a whole plate of meat.
“Here, kitty. I thought you’d be hungry,” he said, setting the plate down by my paws.
I ate all of the food up. It was delicious. Memories of holidays and “family dinners” came flooding back. It was the best food I’d had in weeks.
“Awwww, you must’ve been hungry,” the meat man said with so much affection in his voice. I went to the man again and rubbed up against him to say thank you.
The next day, I went back to the meat man’s shop. He smiled when he saw me.
“Hello, good to see you again, kitty.”
I meowed at him.
“Hungry?” he asked.
Yet again, I stared up at him expectantly. This made him laugh for some reason. I didn’t find a poor kitten starving funny. But hey, if this man was giving me food, I had nothing against him. Also, his intentions were always kind. After giving me a pat on the head, he strolled into his storeroom to find me something to eat and drink. When he came back, I was practically drooling — that is, if cats could drool. The smell was so tempting, so taunting, I ran at the meat man.
“Please, I haven’t had good water for days, and that meat smells so marvelous,” I begged. But of course in my wild plea, I forgot a key detail. Cats and humans can’t communicate. It’s just how it is. Although it drives us cats crazy.
“Here you go, kitty,” he said. “You know, I got to say that in all my years working as a butcher, I’ve never met such a nice cat.”
I felt proud that I was an exception to the nasty cat stereotype. I was also very happy to know what he was really called, a butcher. Then, I licked his hand to show my thanks and went away to my makeshift home.
I went to the butcher’s store everyday, so much that he just left out a plate of meat and a water bowl just for me! If the butcher didn’t have anything to do, he would watch me eat and talk, but most days he was busy. I loved that the butcher really cared about me as a cat and my needs. But one day, something happened to our relationship.
“Herald, we need to talk,” said the butcher’s wife.
“Yes?” asked the butcher.
“Our son Lewie called. We need to move out to California for a while to help him out.”
“To the other side of the country?” he asked.
“Of course. This is our son we’re talking about.”
“I haven’t heard from him for some time now. I wonder what the matter is.”
“Well then, let’s settle the matter with packing your bags and finding a house in San Diego.”
I walked up to the butcher and rubbed his legs over and over again.
“Oh kitty, someone will need to take care of you!” cried the butcher “But I know the perfect person. She’s a foster cat person, and she should be able to stop by and feed you.” With that, he went to his work room and made a call. I left the store feeling crushed. The butcher, my favorite thing about street life, left. With no warning at all. I was in the same situation that I was always in. I got too attached to someone, and then he left.
The next day, I went to the butcher’s shop to say goodbye. He was closing up the shop, but he snagged some chicken from his storeroom for me. I gobbled it up straight from his hand. He smiled a sad smile and said the last words he would ever say to me.
“Oh kitty, I’ll miss you a whole lot. You are so kind that you deserve anything good that goes your way. Remember that Erin is super nice. She’s the nice lady who is the foster cat person. You’ll be just fine.” I licked him. “Goodbye little kitten.”
I wished he wouldn’t go, but that’s the kind of cat I was. I just got attached and couldn’t let go. I turned my head towards home, not really knowing if I would go back to the butcher’s shop tomorrow to meet Erin.
That night, I wandered the city. Baltimore scared people at night, but I was never frightened of a dark night. It gave me time to think about my life and the new events happening in it. I made my decision to meet this Erin.
Who knows? I thought. She might be my second butcher. I’m also a very forgiving kitty. So I’ll go. I know it’s not Erin’s fault that the butcher left. It’s Lewie’s fault.
So the next day, I tentatively walked to the closed butcher shop. There was a young woman with short, brown hair, and a rather plain outfit standing outside. When she saw me, she looked surprised.
“Herald was right! You do come at exactly noon,” she said, as though a cat with a schedule was strange.
I went up to her and started looking for the meat by rubbing each hand, to see if there was something in it. She seemed to know my exact motive for rubbing her hands, because the woman who I assumed was Erin said, “Ooh you’re very smart, but the food’s here,” while pointing at the closed door. There was a cat water bowl and a cat food bowl right in front of it. I raced over and nibbled on the food. It was real cat food specifically made for cats, by humans. It was dry and made me thirsty, but it was good, like fries-for-humans-good. Soon, all the food was gone, and I did the same thank you that I used to do for the butcher. Then, I left to continue my day as a Baltimore street cat.
I decided to come back everyday. Erin seemed nice, like she really understood the whole cat species. Also, that food was really good. I went day after day after day. It was just like having the butcher here, minus the fresh meat.
I noticed that Erin started getting hesitant about letting me go off everyday after I ate my food. I could hardly wonder why though. I could take care of myself. It’s what all cats are made to do.
Erin got so hesitant that while I was eating, she told me, “Cat we got to stop playing these games. I feed you, you leave, and so on. I don’t think that you were born a street cat, and if you take so kindly to good food like this, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind a good roof over your head.”
That sounded amazing, like something you could only get in a young kitten’s fantasy. I then remembered, that life was once my own with yummy food and a roof over my head, but best of all, a family which I couldn’t ever get now. I turned to leave, depressed by this new thought, when Erin picked me up and put me in her car. The car was blue like the mistress’s car. I started to feel sick.
I will not puke in Erin’s car. I like Erin, I thought, trying really hard, knowing that a car was a point of pride for humans. Still, it was rather frightening to be dumped into a car knowing that your life could change dramatically.
When Erin got in, she was wiping dirt from her hands. “Whoo cat, you are filthy.” It was true. I hadn’t really paid attention to it, but I was disgusting. And on that happy note, I decided to take a nap.
When I woke up, Erin had me in her arms and was carrying me into her house, which smelled a lot like cats?! And a dog?! I thought I was going to get attention just for me, not other cats. But from the smell, it seemed like there were ten other cats and one dog. How would I get any attention at all? I was not excited about living anymore. I tried to squirm out of Erin’s hands, but she held tight.
“Kitty, I’m going to call you Tippy, and I’m going to put you in your litter box and show you where your food is.” She did just this. I was surprised by how small her house was. After all, she did have eleven cats now. Erin was rambling on about taking me to the vet. “And of course, I’ll need to get you spayed, and you’ll need to get shots.” I sighed and jumped from her arms. This was going to be hard.
I was in the car to go to the vet. It was terrifying. I was going into surgery so that I couldn’t have kittens. There wouldn’t be any mini-me’s running around ever. I’ll never be proud of my accomplishments as a mother like my mother was, even if she didn’t get to enjoy us for that long. Erin told me that it was for the non-existent kitten’s own good so that people wouldn’t have to sell them.
Like people sold me, I thought. I actually didn’t want kittens, especially my own, to have the same terrible fate that I had. So I’m not to worry.
When we got there, I saw a vet. She gave me a shot after asking Erin some long and boring questions about insurance. I felt calm all of a sudden and sleepy, like I was a newborn kitten again. I couldn’t really remember anything else after that. It was all fuzzy. But when I woke up later, I was in a crate like a cat carrier. It was strange and terrifying. Being a cat, I like to have control of my own body and where I go. I had a weird sensation I couldn’t feel my stomach. It was terrible. I wanted to remember what had happened. I fell asleep again and the next thing I knew, I was on a table with vets all around me, and there was Erin.
“She seems fine, yes. Tippy has been taking this very well,” said one vet.
“Oh good, I hate it when cats take this poorly. It makes me feel bad,” said Erin, looking relieved.
“We studied her all night long. She hasn’t gotten infected, so I think you can take her home.” Was I really there for a night? It seemed like much shorter.
“Alright there, anything special I should know about her? Because you did a full check up, right?”
“Yes, we have her papers right here. Also, we can implant her chip too.”
“Let’s do that in a couple weeks.”
This statement was agreed by all, and before I knew what was happening, I was being shoved into a carrier and walked out of the vet’s office.
“Tippy, it’s almost over,” said Erin while driving.
For the weeks to come, I saw more of Light Street Animal Hospital then I ever thought I would. I was just carted off to that place. The vets knew me by sight, inside and out. But it was finally over.
I spent the days afterwards exploring Erin’s house for the first time. Oh, and having Erin film me in tunnels and walking around. I had been there for three weeks now. But I had been recovering from the treachery that was the vets. (Which meant lying in my own cat bed that Erin got for me and trying to sleep.) There were cat toys everywhere: mice, string, fake trees, scratching posts, and cat playgrounds. It was great.
The problem was other cats. I really didn’t realize how antisocial I’d become in my time on the streets. There were some kittens who were too playful, and others who were too lazy. It was really hard trying to find the perfect cat so after a while I gave up.
Surprisingly, I got along with the dog. He was a pit bull named Buzzer. I had long, meaningful talks with Buzzer. We’d talk about everything from the cats, to Erin and what life was like for Buzzer when there weren’t that many cats. We saw humans come in talk to Erin and look at cats. Soon we watched Wishlet, Embers, and Trouble all leave. With happy humans.
One day, I heard Erin talking to someone on the phone.
“Awwww, you saw the video. She is such a sweet cat. Yes, her name is Tippy, and she is two years in human years. Tippy loves humans, and she seems to get along with my dog too. I think you’ll really like her. She’s spayed, and has all of her shots. I don’t think that I should ask you to come over to my house merely because Tippy isn’t a big fan of other cats, and she is in her best light with people. Are you free Saturday at noon? Yes? Great! See you then.”
I stared at Erin and then at Buzzer and then back at Erin.
“Ummm Buzzer, what just happened?” I asked nervously.
“It means that you’re being adopted,” said Buzzer sadly.
“But what does that mean?”
“It means that a nice family wants to have you live with them instead of here.”
“But I wanted to stay forever with you and Erin,” I said. I didn’t want to leave another great home. Whenever I had to leave a home, something bad happened. I felt nauseous. It is the one of the worst feelings to know that you have to leave your home.
“If Erin said yes to them, it means she thinks that you and the family would live well together.”
“Oh,” I said, upset.
The next day was Friday. Friday meant my last day at Erin’s house. I walked around the entire house, saying goodbye to everything.
“Goodbye, Princess, the kitten. You were playful,” I said, trying to think of something good about Princess.
“Goodbye, Tippy, who I never really knew,” said Princess, grumpy because I woke her up from a nap. I didn’t feel bad though.
I said goodbye to the cat playground, the tunnel, and the mice, but the saddest object that I had to say goodbye to was my bed that Erin had specially gotten for me. I wondered who would get the bed when I left.
The hardest goodbye of all was Buzzer, who had been so nice and wise to me. He was the closest thing to a friend that I had here at Erin’s cat house.
“Goodbye, Buzzer,” I said miserably.
“Goodbye, Tippy,” said Buzzer, equally as miserably.
“Thank you for being so nice and interesting.”
“Thank you for being the only cat who would listen to me.”
Then I went over to my bed for one last sleep in that brown little bed.
“Come on, Tippy. Time to go into your carrier. It’s time to go,” said Erin. I didn’t want to go. I loved it here. Well, I sort of loved it here. I just didn’t want to move to another home again. But I did want Erin’s last couple memories of me to be good ones. So I went into the carrier, no problems for Erin.
In the car, I thought about the blue house and the blue car that I was in. I thought about my family and how I would never see them again. Then, I thought about the new family that I would be living with. I was getting very anxious. When I get anxious, I get sick.
I won’t puke, I won’t puke. Too late.
The retching started. Then, I puked all over myself. It was utterly embarrassing and disgusting.
“Oh, Tippy, it’s okay. Let’s pull over, and I’ll clean you off.”
I wanted tell her how sorry I was, but kissing or nuzzling her right now would have been utterly disgusting. She got a towel from her trunk and cleaned me off.
“Alright, Tippy. We’re back on the road and going to the Wisers,” said Erin, getting back into the driver’s seat and starting the car back up again.
So that’s what my new humans are called, the Wisers.
An hour later, we left the highway and went on to a back road that led to a small neighborhood. Then, we pulled up to a house with green shutters and a big porch. The house was mainly white, and I was intrigued by the size, since most of the houses in Baltimore are townhouses and apartments. I could hear excitement inside the house.
“They’re here, they’re here!” shouted a young female voice from inside.
“Ready, Tippy?” asked Erin, as if I could answer her in human. Erin picked up my carrier and started walking to the porch. When we got there, Erin rang the doorbell, and the sound was not too welcoming for cats. Immediately, the door was opened by a young, blonde haired girl, who looked nine.
“Hello, come on in,” she said, bursting with excitement. Erin smiled and entered the house, which was as big on the inside as it was on the outside. The second the door was closed, Erin let me out of the carrier. I raced out and hid. It was scary being around new people in a new house. Erin sat down in a chair across from a big, brown couch. She started saying all the information about me that everyone in the room already knew. I hid behind a printer and watched the little girl and her father talk to Erin. The father looked equally as friendly. He had a big lap, meaning there was somewhere I could sit if I was very scared at this new place.
Before I knew it, Erin was done talking and was waiting for me to come out and meet the two humans. I eventually crawled out slowly and hopped onto the male’s lap. He looked very surprised, but happy.
“I think that Tippy has decided to stay,” said Erin. She seemed proud that I had found a family.
“I’ve always wanted a cat like this,’’ cried the blonde girl, happily.
This is how I got my family that I’ve lived with for years. There’s also a mom and another little girl. They think I’m part of the family, and that’s all I could ever ask for.