Poupack braced herself against the blowing snow as the made her way towards her apartment building. Her hands and feet had begun to tingle in the biting Nebraska weather. No creature should have been outside in the miserable winter, but shivering next to Poupack’s apartment building was a black cat.
Poupack ran upstairs to her apartment for food. She and her husband didn’t own any cats, which meant they didn’t have any cat food on hand. Poupack settled for a piece of sausage. “The cat ate the sausage very fast,” Poupack said, “and I could hear her saying what sounded like ‘yum, yum, yum’.”
After the hungry cat had gobbled down the sausage, Poupack gestured to the cat to come inside with her. The cat backed away in fear.
For the rest of the evening, Poupack worried about the stray cat. She fell asleep dreaming that she had a black cat of her own.
While attending her university classes the next day, Poupack continued to think of the stray cat. She watched the minutes tick by and could hardly wait to drive home to see if the cat reappeared. To her delight, it did. Poupack wasted no time heading to the store for cat food.
She treated the cat daily to milk and food. Within a few days, the cat braved the threshold of Poupack’s apartment and ventured inside. Poupack had no qualms about spoiling the cat and soon her new companion was returning to her apartment every evening, where she would sleep on blankets surrounded by cat toys. “She became a good friend of mine. She purred in her blanket, and I knew she was happy,” Poupack said.
Three weeks later, on Christmas Day, it seemed as if Poupack and her husband had received a most wonderful and unexpected gift. Poupack detailed the night in a notebook: “The snow made everything white. I was making a potato soup to get warm and singing a Christmas song. That night I waited by the window, and I prepared a gift we had brought for our cat.”
But her new friend didn’t show. Poupack didn’t know what to do. As she tucked herself into bed that night, she felt sad and anxious.
The next day there was still no sign of the black cat. Poupack’s thoughts were a whirl: Did the cat get sick? Did she have food? Did she have a place to stay? “After a few days I had to accept that she was gone,” Poupack said. “Probably she went to another neighborhood.”
But while Poupack might have given up hope, she had not been forgotten by her new friend. After a long day at school, Poupack came home to the sound of a cat’s meow. Poupack shouted with joy, “This is her!” Indeed, it was her new friend. Poupack said, “She came to me, and I took her home, and I named her Shiboo.”
Poupack, her husband, and Shiboo soon became a family. Shiboo never strayed far from her new home, and she’d always come running when called. When inside, she happily received attention, and her purrs could be heard throughout the house.
Their story could have ended here but in March another surprise awaited Poupack and her husband. For several weeks, Shiboo had been eating more than normal, and putting on weight. “I thought maybe she is growing up or maybe she is getting chubbier,” Poupack explained.
In her notebook, Poupack wrote: I was getting ready for spring. The weather was still cold, but the birds were chirping. I fed Shiboo as usual, but she wasn’t very energetic. She laid down and she fell asleep.
In the morning, Poupack woke to hear small mews. “I thought I was dreaming,” a teary-eyed Poupack wrote in her notebook, as she described her discovery that Shiboo was a mother. “The kittens were very small and cute. Two of them were gray, two were black, and one was gray and black. I touched them. They were tiny, and they were drinking their mom’s milk. I put Shiboo and all her babies in a box. I was happy, and I went back to sleep. That night I got a special gift.”
Fast forward to May. Raising five kittens is a lot of work for anyone, let alone for a couple who had little experience with cats. By this point, the kittens were several weeks old. Poupack and her husband contacted The Cat House for help. In her notebook, Poupack wrote: Shiboo’s babies are growing up and ready to be adopted and to have their homes with other families.
On May 6, The Cat House called Andy and me. We’d been eagerly awaiting our first opportunity to foster for The Cat House, and the moment had finally arrived. That Sunday afternoon, we brought Shiboo and her kittens to our home. In my journal, I declared: In one afternoon, our household increased from three cats to nine!
Their first afternoon with us began quietly with Shiboo hiding under the bed, two kittens exploring the room, and three kittens snoozing in their crate. The calm lasted for about five minutes.
Then chaos! One kitten struggled to climb into a litter box. Another kitten crawled onto a scratching ramp. Two kittens romped on blankets. The first kitten finally succeeded in using the litter box, which meant that all the other kittens suddenly had to use the bathroom too. The kittens’ exuberantly flung cat litter everywhere. Soon one kitten was poking at Andy’s camera while another kitten was trying to haul himself onto our guest room’s bed by clawing his way up the comforter. Eventually, the kittens grew hungry and tired. Peace reigned again while they ate and slept.
In the month that followed, our days continued to be filled with a mix of calm and chaos. Shiboo warmed up to us and occasionally came out from under the bed to seek attention. The kittens clambered over us begging for food, playtime, and love. Andy and I soaked up every experience with them, feeling that we too had been a special gift in having the opportunity to foster Shiboo and her kittens.
At Poupack’s request, The Cat House had put us in touch with each other. Although Poupack and her husband were headed out-of-state to visit relatives, Poupack offered to answer any questions we might have and expressed the hope that we’d stay in touch. The same day that we brought Shiboo and the kittens home, I emailed Poupack a quick update and several photos. Every few days after that we exchanged emails. I asked what foods and toys the kittens liked best. I also shared lots of stories about them as they settled into our home and their personalities began to emerge.
On May 20, Poupack emailed to let us know that she and her husband were back in Lincoln and to ask if they could visit. They dropped by late that afternoon, bringing a thank you gift of chocolates. As soon as they saw the kittens, Poupack exclaimed, “Oh, they’ve grown!” Shiboo was hiding under the bed, but came out for food, and there was an instant connection. Poupack chattered at her, and later Poupack’s husband sat next to Shiboo and brushed her. While the kittens amused themselves with a turbo track toy, we made plans for future visits. Every few days for the next two weeks, Poupack and her husband came to see Shiboo and the kittens.
On June 1, Andy and I took countless photos and cried when we delivered Shiboo and the kittens to The Cat House. The heartache of letting them go was eased somewhat due to Poupack and her husband deciding to adopt Shiboo. Poupack’s dream of owning a black cat came true after all.
After briefly mourning her separation from her babies, Shiboo settled back into a comfortable indoor life. She ate well, slept well, and resumed the playfulness that she had lost during her pregnancy. In her fall, Poupack told me she had become used to talking with Shiboo at the end of a stressful day and giving her hugs. She also shared that Shiboo loves the puzzle toy we gave her.
Despite knowing that Shiboo had found her forever home, we missed our fosters. At the end of our June vacation, we eagerly visited Shiboo’s kittens at The Cat House. These kittens had spent a month with us, and had become part of our hearts. Seeing them again brought tears to our eyes.
Over the next few weeks, we continued to visit the kittens and rejoiced each time their numbers decreased. Katie and Chloe were the first to be adopted, then Stan, and finally Leo and Georgie were adopted as a bonded pair.
Katie’s adopter shared that, “Katie (now Finley) is doing great. She loves to snuggle and follows us from room to room. She has come to an understanding with our two dogs. They’re not exactly friends but they can sleep at separate ends of the couch together. She LOVES to play with little toy mice and will do that for hours. She has even learned not to bat them under the range or refrigerator. We absolutely love her.”
Stan’s adopter shared that, “Stan is doing well. He is the best! He bonded quickly with our ‘middle’ child cat. She’s two years old. They snuggle and play all the time. He loves to sleep with us & always falls asleep on our chests, purring very loudly. We love him dearly!”
Poupack could have ignored the hungry and shivering black cat next to her apartment building. Instead she offered her food, shelter, friendship, a name–and, finally, a home. When Poupack and her husband needed help with their unexpected cat family, we stepped in to foster Shiboo and her kittens through The Cat House. For a month, we gave of our home and our love. When the kittens were ready to be adopted, The Cat House took them into their building where they cared for them while they were visited by prospective adopters. And then as the summer wore on, each of the kittens were adopted by loving owners. So many people came together to find homes for this family of strays. My husband and I are proud to have played a part.