Fantastic Frankie’s New Home, New Food

After unexpectedly losing both our wonderful boys, Wilson and Sidney-Beans, in a short time frame between late August and mid-October 2023, I gave away nearly all of my cat supplies. I had this notion that the smartest move was to feel out what possibilities might open up without the responsibility and inevitable heartache that comes with cat stewardship. The deep sorrow from losing Wilson and Sidney felt fresh and raw. Something I never wanted to volunteer for again.

Weeks of melancholy crawled by, but something began to shift. My writer-poet friend Gary, a longstanding animal lover, wrote: 

“The special hole left in the heart where love so pure was given and received awaits its next opportunity to swell and no one knows how long it waits — it’s not preordained— suddenly love must fill it again.”

I sensed that not only did I miss Wilson and Sid’s presence, and fiercely, but there was an undeniable cat-shaped gap in my heart. I missed my boys so much. I knew nothing and no one could ever fill that sacred place they occupied. But that wasn’t the whole picture.

The absence of the Presence of Cat was a curious experience. I didn’t mind not having litter boxes to clean. I didn’t mind not having to fret about finding a great in-house petsitter if we were to go away. It felt pretty good to not feel a tug of guilt if I was out of the house for a spell. 

Those seeming positives weren’t free though. They came at a cost. No furry heartbeat in the house.

In a moment of weakness, or maybe a moment where a stubborn heart asserted its wishes, I opened up PetFinder. I scrolled to maybe see, for situational awareness purposes, you know, who was out there.

Window shop.

I went through page after page of gorgeous, deserving cats needing forever homes, but no one leaped off the screen at me. There was a little relief at that, along with a little let down. Then I saw an entry for “Bob – Perfect Cat.”

What I’ve pieced together from available information from Laurel Cats, a rescue organization in Maryland, is that Bob Perfect Cat was a three to four-year-old-ish fellow found this past spring outside of someone’s residence in search of shelter from a storm. My heart needed some shelter of its own from the sorrow storm, so we had one thing in common.

Luckily for “Bob,” Laurel Cats came, literally, to his rescue. Thanks to their compassionate intervention, he was neutered, FeLV/FIV tested, vaccinated, flea treated, dewormed, and microchipped. He went to one foster home, then another. The PetFinder narrative described him as friendly, talkative, playful, and eager for affection. It also said Bob Perfect Cat needed to be an only cat and not live with kids. 

A dashing tuxedo fellow, he looks part panda, part raccoon, part heifer. His eyes are a dreamy gold-green citrine.

I closed my laptop. “No. Give this more time, maybe at least a year. Remember your pledge, miss smartypants, to not give in and see what might unfold without a cat.” Then the dueling narrative. “What harm could come from at least contacting the rescue organization to find out if he’s still needing a home? Maybe learn a little more about him?”

The rescue coordinator and his foster mom were so obliging and kind. I had a call with the woman fostering Bob Perfect Cat, who  was giving him food, shelter, and love. She was patient answering my long list of questions about him. Talking to her made me feel better about humanity. She had taken in this fellow because her heart is big. She described him as an absolutely fantastic cat and we texted on and off. I knew I wanted to meet him.

I filled out the adoption application but included a caveat that if I passed the screening, I wasn’t sure I was ready to commit. Still, I began taking mental inventory of what I’d need to resupply in this house. You know, on the chance I’d need stuff.

His foster mom understood that I was on the fence but said, “Just in case, you know, when you come, maybe bring your cat carrier. No pressure.”

Welcome to the Party, Frank

You know the next part. I brought him home on 12 November, renamed him Frank, and watched, gobsmacked, as he settled almost immediately with preternatural confidence and ease. Once he demonstrated model citizenship on the litter box front, full house privileges came next and this handsome tuxedo boy began to explore his new forever home.

His wonderful foster mom’s description of this fellow was spot on. He’s a fantastic cat. He’s extroverted, playful, polite (so far, he only scratches the scratching posts, just for starters), and confident. I’m pretty sure he understands English.

He passed his physical yesterday with flying colors, with the caveat that Frankie needs to shed two or three pounds. Before coming here, he’d had continuous access to dry food, although his foster mom said he liked canned food too. He weighed in at 16 pounds, 5 ounces on my scale. His healthiest weight is probably closer to the 13 to 14-pound range.

I was steeling myself for a potential prolonged transition period with a kibble junkie. Many cats who have been eating a steady diet of carbohydrate-heavy dry food put on weight easily. The flavor enhancers that dry food manufacturers add — so obligate carnivores will accept meat-flavored cereal as food — creates cats addicted to those strong flavors.

In that situation, it’s all about patience and determination. And bribery. Encouraging a cat to accept food with a different texture and less exciting initial flavor means hanging in there. The transition process can take weeks or many months, and makes a request of us to employ all the bribery, trickery, and manipulation tools we can think of. If a cat will eat any wet/canned food, that’s a great start.

Dr. Lisa Pierson’s tips on transitioning is the most comprehensive set of suggestions out there on exactly that, by the way.

The obligate carnivore deities shone bright upon Frankie and me, however. 

I lucked out, big time. For his first day in his new forever home I sprinkled some pulverized kibble on my homemade food. Frankie ate it without a fuss. On day two, I decided to push my luck and serve the homemade food without any bribe treats on top. That accommodating fellow chowed down with gusto!

We’re on our fourth day living together and he’s 100 percent transitioned to his new diet. I ask you: Who’s a good boy?

I am especially relieved that there is moisture in his food now. Keeping a cat’s plumbing good and flushed is one of the most important things we can do to safeguard their urinary tract health, just for starters. A water-depleted diet is unhealthy for a cat on many fronts. And the positive downstream impacts on health for a cat eating a wet, species-appropriate diet are incalculable.

Now that this dashing dude has made it so easy on me, I’m confident that with reasonable portion control plus regular exercise he will safely shed those excess pounds. I’ll be tracking his weight about every two weeks to ensure that’s all progressing in the right direction. 

I am grateful Frankie is on the scene.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on loss and how it is we manage to love again after it feels like our heart has been shredded by a cheese grater.

I used to imagine our hearts as fixed, boundaried entities that were either whole or fractured. When loss crashes down and we’re suffocated by grief, we presume that’s all there is to the heart now. The entirety of the heart is fractured and filled with sorrow.

But maybe the heart is more like a big old winding river. Dynamic, always moving, always shape-shifting within the human ecosystem of emotion and random circumstance. Grief churns the water and it self-corrects to accommodate the new landscape, forging new tributaries. Maybe there’s a new pathway to an entirely fresh dimension of love.

My deepest thanks go to sensational team at Laurel Cats, for rescuing Bob Perfect Cat, tending to his most basic and vital medical needs, finding him shelter from the storm in a loving foster home.  This community based, all volunteer non-profit organization works hard at humanely reducing the number of free-roaming “community” cats in their hometown. Without them, I’d never have Frankie.

Welcome home, big fellow. This feels like the beginning of a resplendent friendship.

Tuxedo cat held by woman
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