Salem, the first cat of our marriage.

We have a new kitty. We’ve named him Malcolm.

I attribute a lot of my “back to the land” ways to my father. He loved to cook and garden and had a deep curiosity about how things worked and a willingness to experiment. But my love of cats? That I definitely get from my Mother. She was a cat lover, and taught me to be, early on. We almost always had a cat growing up, despite seven moves before I was 12.

My husband and I have now owned 8 cats in the last 13 years, not counting the kittens we found good homes for after adopting not one but two female cats who turned out to be pregnant. Salem, a big black beauty, was our first. We adopted him from the humane society in Parker Arizona shortly after we got married. Salem had climbed into someone’s RV in California, and accidentally ended up in Arizona before being discovered. 

Salem was a little older than most of the kittens at the pound, and had been given the run of the office by the time we arrived. I sat down on their ratty old couch, and he climbed into my lap and put both paws on my chest as if to say, “what took you so long”? No matter where we moved, he always understood that we were his home.

After 12 years and a short unexpected illness, we had to have Salem euthanized last fall. We were pretty heartbroken, despite having two other cats. He had become the patriarch of our cat family. So when I saw an adult male black cat looking for a home in the FreeCycle listing for our area, I thought about it for a minute, but then let it go. Then the same post appeared a week later.

Meet Malcolm. The white on his back are knots in his hair. They are gone now.

Evidently two people had said they would come and get him, and then had not shown up. The foster family’s father was very allergic to cats so they could not keep him. His original family had abandoned him when they moved out of their house in the middle of the night. He was “very sweet” according to the post. I caved. We would take him.

So last Saturday, we went to pick up “Pepper”, as the kids in the family had taken to calling him. Because the family was going to be off at a soccer game, a neighbor would keep an eye on Pepper until we arrived. Sometimes it takes a village to save a cat! The foster family had just gotten home when we arrived, and amid tears of goodbye from the kids, Pepper came with us.

This cat had been exposed to a handful of strangers in the last few weeks, and yet he purred when I picked him up. Most cats yowel when in a car, at least for the first part of the trip. Pepper, now renamed Malcolm (no particular reason, it just seemed to fit him) curled up in my lap and purred most of the hour drive home, occasionally looking up at me with his big green eyes as if to say”what took you so long”.

Meeting the new kid. Butters on the left, Baxter on the right.

It is my habit, with a new cat, to keep them inside for a few days before letting them out, but Malcolm clearly had been an indoor/outdoor cat. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, so when we got home, I just opened the car door and let him out. He leisurely explored the yard, returning to me for pets every few minutes. He eventually rolled over onto his back in the grass and made biscuits in the air with his paws, as if to say “Really? I really get to be HERE?”

Meeting our other two cats went pretty well. Baxter and Butters had lived with Salem, so they were used to the idea of having another cat around. There was a bit of hissing, but everyone has come to a place of tolerance, and I found both Malcolm and Butters on the same bed the other morning, so they have clearly worked out the boundaries. The dogs? Not a problem. Malcolm never even raised a hair. Just sniffed at them like, “Oh yeah, dogs. Nothing new here”.

Dogs? Whatever.

So, in less than a week, Malcolm has become part of the family. The first night, he slept on the bed between Michael and I, and when we woke up, Michael said, “hey look, Malcolm in the middle”. (A TV show reference for you non-TV watchers out there). I have to wonder about his original family. At first, I was simply angry that anyone could abandon this animal, who was so clearly filled with love. How can people not understand that domestic animals hold us in a position of great trust, and just how egregious a crime it is to break that trust? Almost nothing makes me madder than when people are cruel to animals.

But then I realized that whoever owned Malcolm before us clearly loved this cat. He doesn’t just trust me, he trusts everyone. I’ve never seen a cat purr so easily. He doesn’t mind being held. He let the toddlers in his foster family pet his belly. Someone loved this cat and had never given him reason to not trust people. And no doubt that person misses this cat. Which makes me wonder just what could befall a family that was so tragic that they would flee in the middle of the night, leaving their beloved cat behind. I wish that I could tell them that he has found a good home, and that he is much loved.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2010, where Baxter sits in my lap purring as I type, making sure to get his dose of love for the day, since now he has to share my lap with not one but two other cats.