Perhaps I should have known something was up when the person who was fostering Elliott insisted that she would deliver him to us in spite of our plans to pick him up. She also discouraged my naming him Zack. She assured me that he knew his name as Elliott. I had thought that Zack and Zoe would be so cute, but I didn’t want to confuse him, so I agreed that he would stay Elliott. As it turned out I don’t think he knew his name for about a year after he came to live with us.
When he was delivered our friends, Mike and Debbie were visiting. I thought the least upsetting for Elliott would be to turn him out of the carrier and into a room where he could be alone without us humans around, so we put him in an upstairs room with food and water and closed the door. In about an hour I checked on him to find that he had chewed or clawed a large piece of trim from the door frame in an attempt to get out. This was just the beginning.
When Zoe spotted this stranger in our midst she retreated to the top of our spare refrigerator in the basement. She practically lived in that private loft for the next couple of years. When she did venture down to eat or use the litter box Elliott wasn’t mean to her, but he stalked her. He followed her closely as she scratched and hissed at him. At times she made horrible screaming sounds and at others, she cursed in a low guttural growl. He was just a guy confused by his lack of popularity with this feline housemate. But, Elliott was a lover! He jumped into our laps, he cuddled, he purred. In spite of his concern for Zoe, my husband, Raymond, bonded quickly with Elliott.
Within a few days, we took Elliott to the Shelbyville Road Veterinary Clinic to become an established patient where our pets had been cared for about ten years . Unfortunately, the examination revealed that Elliott had a heart murmur. During a later ultrasound, we learned that he had two septal defects, a.k.a. holes in his heart. We were devastated, not knowing what that meant for his long-term survival. The doctors would monitor his condition and advised us to keep him from becoming overweight.
The Humane Society did the right thing and offered to take Elliott back but it was too late. We loved this cat in spite of all the trouble he brought with him. We were hooked on Elliott. Even Zoe was becoming a little more tolerant even though reclusive. A few years later when we moved to a condo she lost her basement sanctuary and has never been as happy. In fact, she has had a couple of stress-related illness, but she is resilient. She has managed to tolerate this big clumsy roommate for ten years now.
And, that presents another challenge. Zoe is thin. Elliott is not. Leaving food out all the time is necessary for her, but detrimental to his need to be on a limited calorie diet. So, we continued our dysfunctional ways, loving both cats and trying to provide equal attention and devotion.
If I have one, I suppose it is that pets are a big responsibility. They require our time and a fair amount of work. They also deserve humans who are knowledgeable about their needs and compatibilities. It is not enough that we care and that we want to rescue at-risk animals. We need to be well informed of their needs. We owe them the same love and devotion they give to us.
We have done our best to care for both of these cats, but if I am honest I know that Zoe was much happier as an only cat. We didn’t know that at the time we adopted Elliott, so we’ve tried to be responsible to both of them. Now as I care for them alone, I do my best to give them what they need.
The Best Part
We have adapted to the changes in life, a cat added, a smaller home, the loss of a caregiver and we’re still a family. Zoe still curses. Elliott still stalks. But, we have love.
The cats do yoga with me most mornings. Elliott sleeps with me at night. We have neighbors and relatives who care for them if I need to be away for a few days. I would not take anything for my two cats regardless of the work and expense. They have made my life happier and I trust that is mutual.
Part 2 of 4
Theme photo in title by Kate Puckett Elliott