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Column: Finding a furry friend

‘I’ve loved her from the day I met her, all those years ago when she first climbed onto my shoulders.’

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Column: Finding a furry friend

"A barely-audible squeak of a ‘meow’ came out of the feline as I sat on the grass next to it, instantly falling in love."

Photo by Valerie Benzinger

"A barely-audible squeak of a ‘meow’ came out of the feline as I sat on the grass next to it, instantly falling in love."

Photo by Valerie Benzinger

Photo by Valerie Benzinger

"A barely-audible squeak of a ‘meow’ came out of the feline as I sat on the grass next to it, instantly falling in love."

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Raising animals has always been a part of my life. I grew up with what my family and I called a ‘zoo.’ With three cats, a dog, two guinea pigs and a rabbit along with my two sisters and my parents, our house was overflowing and chaotic in the early years of my childhood.

Over time, the bustling business of my home faded into near silence as my sisters left for college and the older pets passed away. By the time I was 13, all that was left of the original chaos were my parents, my dog, my rabbit and myself. The house felt empty and cold without the rustling and scurrying of my former pets; I was lonely without the chaos I had become so accustomed to.

This unbearable silence lasted until December of 2015. While walking home from school one day, I saw a little tabby cat sitting in my front yard, skinny as a rail and freezing from the frigid temperatures. The empathy inside of me took over, causing me to approach the cat. A barely-audible squeak of a ‘meow’ came out of the feline as I sat on the grass next to it, instantly falling in love. As I reached my hand out to pet the cat, she immediately climbed into my lap and onto my shoulders as if she already knew me, purring loudly and rubbing against my head and neck. My heart warmed up and I knew I had to keep her.

Before I could take her inside, I had to convince my parents to let me keep her. I left my new friend in my front yard to wait while I got my parents’ permission. I brought my parents outside to meet the cat, hoping they would fall in love the same way I did, but it didn’t quite go that way. They insisted we didn’t have room in the house for a cat and that there were too many unknowns that come with adopting a pet off the street, including her age and potential diseases she could be carrying. I brought a bowl of water out for my furry friend and proceeded to do all but beg on my knees to my parents, hoping they would give in and let me keep the cat.

My parents finally caved in, and I got to take my new pet into the house. I named her Ryder; the name fit perfectly because she would climb onto my shoulders and sit on them like a parrot while I walked around the house.



A week later, my sisters were in town for Christmas and volunteered to take Ryder to the vet for vaccinations. When my sisters and I arrived at the vet, we received shocking news – Ryder was pregnant. The three of us were in shock as the vet pulled up an ultrasound of my cat’s stomach with four tiny kitten faces showing. We instantly knew we had to tell our parents in a fun way. My sister drove us to
CVS, printed out a photo of the ultrasound and wrote the words ‘It’s a kitten!!’ on the bottom of the picture.

When we told my parents, they were surprised. They hung the picture up on the refrigerator, celebrating the new family members-to-be. Everyone was excited and preparing for the new arrivals; my sisters even bought a cat bed as a Christmas present for Ryder.

In preparation for the birth, we started feeding Ryder food that was highly nutritional so her kittens would be healthy. My family and I knew that because she was living on the streets when she became pregnant, there were potential risks of disease and malnourishment. We turned a blind eye to the possible negative effects this could have and focused on the future.



When the kittens came along, complete chaos ensued. On the day of the kittens’ birth, I woke up at 5 in the morning and walked downstairs, only to find Ryder laying in a cardboard box filled with blankets.

She wasn’t moving.

There was only one kitten in sight, struggling to crawl around the box. I immediately asked my parents what happened to the other kittens and the devastating news was shared.

All of the kittens except for one had been stillborn due to Ryder’s malnourishment during the beginning of her pregnancy. The one kitten that survived birth was sick and wouldn’t survive for long because he refused to eat.

I felt my heart shatter. I couldn’t understand the sadness that washed over me; how had I become so attached to kittens I hadn’t even met?

I sat with Ryder and cried while petting her, trying my best to comfort her. She reciprocated my affection; as soon as I started to pet her, she sat up and rubbed against me. I felt the warm love for her wash over me, replacing the grief.



Ryder has been there for me through everything: breakups, stressful homework assignments, boredom and birthdays. She’s never failed to comfort me or show her support through unconditional love. We’ve been through the past three years together, experiencing each of the ups and downs alongside each other.

It sounds lame, but my cat is the most reliable friend I’ve ever had. I’ve loved her from the day I met her, all those years ago when she first climbed onto my shoulders. She will continue to stay by my side for the rest of high school, guiding me through the hectic last two years of my childhood. Although I can’t keep Ryder forever or bring her to college with me, I’ll cherish the time I have left with her and will never forget the amazing memories we have shared.

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