Animal Umbrella Messenger Summer 1999

                                                                                                                                        By Teresa Hill

Looking at the black-and-white cat stretched out languidly in my husband's arms, I couldn't believe he was the same cat we nicknamed the "stealth cat" because when we first took him home he was always hiding.

I volunteer at Animal Umbrella one night a week to socialize the feral cats. Basically, we play with the cats in the shelter, pet them, and teach them that humans can be their friends. I don't know who looks forward to these nights more, the volunteers or the cats themselves as they gather excitedly when we arrive. 

One cat in particular - really  - captured my heart. He had been one of a litter of kittens living outdoors in Cambridge until Animal Umbrella rescued them from the cold and dangers of outdoor life. 

When I decided to adopt Jazz, I was so happy for him that he was going to have a home. The day I took him home, it was a struggle to get the obviously frightened  and panicked cat into a pet carrier. I spoke to him gently and reassured him he would one day be happy about this change in his life, as he sat in the carrier in the back seat wondering what was happening to him.

He spent most of this first week with us hiding under a desk in a room we'd closed off for him. Giving him time to adjust, we put a soft blanket under the desk so he'd be more comfortable.

He seemed so afraid and confused that I felt almost guilty for taking him our of the world he was used to and plunging him into a scary new life. I knew it would take time before he realized how safe and loved he was.

My husband and I would go into the room those first days and sit on the couch having conversations to get him used to our voices, presence, and laughter. When he'd venture out from under the safety of the desk, curious but cautious, we'd stay where we were and extend a hand to him, allowing him to come to us. When he did, we'd pet him and talk to him and he'd purr louder then any cat I've ever had.

Eventually, Jazz grew bolder and wanted to explore the rest of the house and meet our other cats. Wide-eyed, he ventured out and approached everything with and endearingly gawky, almost adolescent, awkwardness.

Now he's used to his home and is very sociable and playful . . . and happy.

I know now, as Jazz lies curled up, sleeping and warm, in my lap that he can look back on the day I adopted him as one of the luckiest days of his life. And being save by Animal Umbrella as the very luckiest!