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The Cat Lady And The Child....a BEAUTIFUL story

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hope you all enjoy this.

This story is not only for "cat-lovers." It's the story of how one
person can make a difference, no matter how small the deed. I hope it
inspires you to do something -- anything -- to help better the world for
both humans & non-humans.


The block I grew up on in New York consisted of several houses, a small
animal shelter, a colony of stray and feral cats, and an official "cat
lady." Looking back, I realize my fate was sealed.

I was 9-years old when I first noticed the cat lady. Every evening, she
would push a creaky, old wagon filled with cans of cat food, a jug of
water, and paper plates. One by one, cats would appear and begin to
follow her. Faces slowly forming behind glowing eyes, they'd crawl out
from under cars and sneak through backyards, following the wagon and its

At the end of the block, in front of the small animal shelter, the
parade of cats led by the cat lady would come to a stop. Peering from my
stoop, I watched as each cat was presented with a plate of food.
Patiently, the cat lady would wait as the cats licked their plates

When they were finished, she would pick up the plates, pour the jug of
water over the street to wash away food remnants, and disappear around
the corner with her old, creaky wagon. On cue, the cats would disappear
too. My friends thought the cat lady was weird; I wanted to meet her.

One evening, I tried to join the parade, but I was quickly ordered to go
away. Stubbornly, I tried again and again, but the response was always
the same.

A few days later, I had an idea. I took a few cans of my cat's food and
went outside to wait. That evening, I not only followed the cat lady,
but I offered her the cans of food. She smiled. I was finally allowed to
join her and the cats as they marched down the block.

For several weeks, I assisted with the evening ritual. I'd help scoop
cat food into plates and clean up when the cats finished eating. The cat
lady and I never really spoke; she would grunt orders at me and I'd
obediently follow.

My mother was very happy to see me keeping out of trouble; armed with a
few cans of cat food, she'd eagerly scoot me out the door after dinner
to wait for the cat lady. Times were different then, and a child could
sit on her front stoop without fear of danger. I thought the world was
safe and perfect.

Eventually, the cat lady and I graduated from grunts and nods to
complete sentences. She explained that all the cats were "fixed" and
that they each had a name and history. After a while, I no longer viewed
them as just a group of cats. They were individual, wonderful creatures
who I looked forward to seeing.

My family and friends endured my endless cat stories. My allowance money
went toward cat food instead of records or new earrings. While the kids
were sitting on their porches listening to music, I was picking up paper
plates on the corner.
My friends thought I was crazy; I didn't care.

I began asking the cat lady questions about the shelter that stood on
the corner. I thought the shelter was similar to an orphanage for
children and homeless animals would live there until a family adopted
them. I found out I was wrong.
The cat lady told me that animals who were not adopted from the shelter
were killed.

I ran home and explained to my mother that all the animals in the
shelter would be killed and we had to immediately adopt them. To my
surprise, she replied, "No."

The cats and dogs I grew up with were loved and pampered. They had their
own Christmas stockings and slept on my bed. To think there were similar
creatures killed right down the block because no one wanted them was too
much for me to bear.

I was angry with the cat lady for telling me animals were killed. I was
angry at the shelter for killing animals. I was angry with my mother for
not adopting them all. And I was angry with my friends for not
understanding why I was angry. My perfect world had been shattered. It
wasn't all happy endings and I wanted no part of it.

I began to spend all of my spare time hidden in my room. I'd peek out
the window when I heard the creaky, old wagon pass by, but I never

After about two weeks of hiding, the cat lady knocked on my front door.
I heard my mother explain that she didn't know what happened, but she
thought I was upset because she wouldn't adopt all the animals from the

The cat lady asked to speak with me, and I reluctantly walked down the
hallway toward her.

What she said to me at that moment molded me into the person I have
become. She told me that while it was sad all animals did not have a
happy ending, hiding in my house wouldn't help. And then she placed her
hand on my shoulder and said, "You are special because you care. You
can't give up."

I stepped out of my house and joined the parade of cats, never to falter
Together, the cat lady and I nursed orphaned babies, trapped cats who
needed to be "fixed," and tended to the sick. We relished our success
stories and mourned those we lost.

Several years later, I moved away from New York. The night before I
left, the cat lady hugged me good-bye and told me again, "Don't give
up." And I haven't.

I continue to feed, spay/neuter and adopt feral and stray cats. I
sponsor shelter animals. I'm vegan. When I'm tired and my heart breaks
because of the atrocities inflicted upon animals, I remember the cat
lady's words.

When I feel as if my small contribution can't possibly make a
difference, I remember the face of each cat I met on that New York
street so long ago; their tails held high in the air as they proudly
marched to the end of the block.

For those cats, and for myself, one person made all the difference in
the world. The small contribution of an ordinary woman with long,
tangled hair and a creaky, old wagon still reverberates within me after

I visited my childhood neighborhood recently; the shelter is now a
supermarket and the creaky, old wagon is a thing of the past. But the
lessons I learned on that block have stayed with me -- lessons of
compassion, acceptance, solidarity, and perseverance. And when the
neighbor hood children call me "cat lady," I can't help but smile.
post #2 of 6
What a great story! Thanks for sharing!!!
post #3 of 6
I knew that was going to be one of those teary stories....and I read it anyway. And I got all teary. What a great story.
post #4 of 6
Did you write that? It is beautiful and quite moving. Thank you for sharing. This story is one I needed to read especially right now.
post #5 of 6
good story
post #6 of 6
that is so touching.....
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