Like an air-born tsunami, the wind ploughed waves of rain over the island of Hong Kong. Tim and Nanci Willard braced their skeletal umbrellas against the wet ferocity of the typhoon as they ran from their car to the entrance of their apartment building. Through the crashing volume of the storm, Nanci heard a high note, the barely distinguishable sound of a kitten. Then she spotted the shivering handful of white and orange lodged in an opening in the masonry. Without thinking, she scooped it up, her umbrella turning inside out just before entering the foyer.
This is how Miss Kitty came into their lives.
Unfortunately, it only took a few days for the Willards to discover that Nanci had a terrible allergy to cats. After much consideration, Miss Kitty was sent to live with Tim’s mother in California, where she resided in comfort for three years until Tim’s mother passed away.
Perhaps it was the Chinese proverb that states: “when you save a life, you are responsible for that life” that inspired the Willards, because they have certainly taken that responsibility seriously. Unable to find Miss Kitty another suitable home, the Willards decided to spend $5,000 to ‘retire’ her with the Bluebell Foundation, where she would live out her days in ideal surroundings that cater specifically to the needs of cats. They still visit her several times a year, lavishing her with treats and attention, but they know that by choosing a reputable cat retirement facility, Miss Kitty is well cared for.
Last night, icy roads forced me to contemplate the consequences of my own mortality. My husband and I slid, just a few feet in his four wheel drive, but it was enough. I never worry as much when Aaron and I are apart, but if we died together, we would leave behind quit a menagerie. Aaron’s step-mother loves my children, and as their guardian, we are confident that she would look after their best interests. I’ve appointed my mother to be the guardian of the animals. She won’t want to take any of them, I’m sure. But each dog and each cat comes with a $10,000 trust for their care. Friends and family will be invited to adopt the animal of their choosing (though my dearest wish would be for the children and animals to stay together as a unit.) For any cat that can’t be placed with our loved ones, they will go to the Bluebell Foundation.
Why such morbid contemplations? Because from the minute you have children, the magazines and people around you insist that you plan. But we rarely do this with our pets.
I visited two cat retirement homes in California. The Bluebell Foundation and The National Cat Protection Society. The Bluebell Foundation is strictly a not-for-profit cat retirement facility. A mere $5,000 donation secures your kitty for a lifetime of tranquil retirement, top of the line cat food and all medical care. NatCat offers the same service in addition to their cat rescue work. Both are clean and peaceful, but the Bluebell Foundation is the place that I would love to retire. Close to Laguna Beach, the valley funnels fresh ocean breezes through the Bluebell grounds, the trees whisper while their leaves dance cool shade across the lawn, while the enclosed patios soak up sunshine for the solar worshipping cats.
There are two cat houses; the lower house has some private living quarters for cats with special needs who don’t mix well with the general population. But their living quarters are generous and each has its own private enclosed patio. The rest of the population enjoys a communal patio, myriad cat trees and shelving to climb, 24 hour cat videos featuring birds, mice and fish, as well as volunteers and paid staff that keep the place immaculate (every piece of fabric in the place is washed every day.) And give the kitties lots of love and affection.
A visit to the ‘Upper House’ is almost comical. When I entered the main living room a motley assortment of geriatric cats gathered to greet me. Some were missing a limb or an eye, most were creaky with arthritis, all were retired housecats, dearly loved by their deceased owners and used to heaping doses of love and affection. With great effort and aplomb, they wobbled their way onto the couch were I happily doled out caresses and praise. Other than their occasional vocalizations, the place was quiet and serene, cats slumbering on window seats, exploring the water features on the patio. Like a luxurious monastery, all the residents seemed dedicated to meditation and the contemplation of divinity. As is suitable for the final stages of life.
I could have rested there for an eternity and been happy. If it ever comes to that, I hope my own kitties will feel the same way. Though I certainly intend to out-live all of them and watch my children grow into old age, as well.
Preview of Coming Attractions
Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.