Thursday, June 7, 2012

A story about an abandoned cat named Charlie

by Christine Michaels

This is a story about a cat named Charlie that was dumped in the neighborhood (please know this is illegal and hidden cameras are now installed). But this posting is just the beginning and will warm the cockles of your heart.

When taking care of outdoor community cats, new cats appear. Where do they come from? Some newcomers are from the area and dead end at our community which stops at the river (I've never seen a cat cross the bridge) while others are sadly dumped. Sometimes the cats move on, some persevere perhaps due to hunger, and withstand cat fights from the territorial Riverfront cats and linger for food and eventually a safe resting place.

 Last November, while feeding the Riverfront cats, the outdoor security guard mentioned he saw a new cat. "Oh no," I thought. It's been awhile since we've encountered new cats. Was he or she passing by or was this cat dumped here? We learned the answer to that question later. More importantly, was it spayed/neutered?

When I spotted the new kitty, I gingerly placed a bowl of moist canned food along with a bowl of room temperature cat milk (my secret weapon to earn a cat's trust).  It worked! Soon enough he jumped on the ledge at station 3 (we have 4 stations) that I could identify hanging testicles--yup he's a boy! And unneutered.  In the meantime, from his round child-like inquisitive face, we anointed him the name Charlie Brown. But we call him Charlie for short.

After a few more feedings at station 3 Charlie ran up to me uninhibited to pet him! That feeling of earning the trust of a once-scared animal  is so profound. It's a combination of joy and falling in love. I couldn't stop smiling and talking and...dare I admit it?  Baby talk!  He was a new bundle of joy ready to accept me as his caretaker. Now this happened in January of this year.

Charlie was a lovebug with all the volunteers. He absolutely loved to be petted. It was a merry-go-round of rubbing against my legs while I scratched his head and down his back and he circled around me to repeat the process. Clearly he was around people before and was most likely someone's pet. How can people be so cruel? Did they know dumping a pet or stray animal is illegal in most states? Yes even for ferals and strays.  New surroundings are terrifying for a cat that they instinctively run away in search of "home" and encounter dangers and injuries.  Thankfully Charlie stayed in the area.

Then around March we finally had him neutered. Since he wasn't feral it was easy to scoop him up and place him in a pet carrier. But my heart and mind weighed heavily about releasing him back outside. Would he adapt to the indoors? Not all affectionate outdoor cats do. Finding him a home would also take incredible investment of time. I prayed for guidance and a miracle.

Charlie stepping out of his carrier for first time
after getting neutered. (March 2012)
Nina was our newest cat-feeding volunteer and absolutely loved cats. But her husband Felipe made it very clear they were not ready for the responsibility of a pet. He's absolutely right. Pets need regular care, and attention to exercise and social development and well being, even cats. Nina and Felipe were college sweethearts and a newlywed couple. I admired their maturity and levelheadedness for their age. They also enjoyed traveling on weekends especially since Felipe worked for an airline.  I asked Nina if she would be interested in fostering Charlie until I found him a home. After discussing the matter with Felipe, they agreed. Whew! Then the sweet turned to sour.  Nina and Felipe were moving. Not just anywhere but out of the country in less than two months. No time to stress out.

Automatically, I shifted into high gear with the goal to find him a permanent home before they moved. I asked Nina to take photos of Charlie in a home environment. Finding homes for adult cats is extremely difficult. Photos and a well-written story are critical. But Charlie had two advantages. For an adult cat he was small. At least he was a year old (I noticed cats still grow and peak at two years of age).  Secondly he had the cutest, shortest ears  that moved like insect antennas. At first Facebook cat owners commented that he might be a British curl. But turns out he had an ear infection that his ears never fully developed.  It simply added to his charm.

Charlie's "antenna ears"

Just as I sat down at my desk with the determined task to draft Charlie's compelling story to place ads in Craiglist and Facebook, I checked emails and there it was. A miracle.  Nina had shared that she and Felipe fell madly inlove with Charlie and wanted to keep him. After coming out of his shy shell, in two days he was nestled in between them on the sofa. Charlie loves cozy beds and to cuddle and belly rubs.

Nina asked if I found him a home. (Oh gosh no). They wanted to keep him and start making plans to transport him abroad. While Nina is from France and Felipe from Colombia, I assumed they were moving to South America or Europe. Wrong! The family of three were not just moving out of the country but about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime--they were moving to Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates! Oh my Bast!!! (goddess of ancient Egypt--she was a black cat the people worshipped). Felipe is a financial analyst and was recruited to work for their airline. Oh to be that age and move easily and explore the world.

Nina leans over to kiss Charlie.
He loves to cuddle on sofa next to his
mommy for belly rubs and nose kisses.
 Mixed emotions --joy and sadness--overcame me. Then a flood of questions: will he have to fly cargo? That's dangerous for pets for such a long journey. Is there a quarantine period? What is life like for pet owners in UAE? Is there an epidemic of homeless pets there too? And the cost to transport? Money didn't matter. To Nina and Felipe, Charlie wasn't just a pet, he was their baby. "You do whatever you have to ensure their well being," shares Nina. If only I could replay this scene to people dropping off their pets at the high kill animal shelter.  This was a miracle. Even Felipe said "The person who dumped him missed out on something very special." To hear Felipe talk to Charlie in baby talk my with diminutive "ito" suffixes for every other word, my heart did back flips.

Charlie's story is one to revel in for these victories are minimal compared to the hardships and let downs of the rescue world. Charlie is the luckiest cat in the world to be adopted by Nina and Felipe. They are truly a family. 

We have learned so much about transporting pets to the Middle East and future postings will chronicle Charlie's journey from the travel preparations, to the flight, his arrival and future home.  Are you ready for a magic carpet ride? Leave a comment below!

Click here for Part Two.


  1. It is incredible this story from rags to riches, He is an amazing "cat/ baby" I love him too.


  2. Welcome Victoria to our blog! You are one very lucky grand- pet -mother! But Charlie is even luckier to be so loved by all the relatives and family members of Nina and Felipe. He won the lottery!

  3. What a wonderful story Christine!! It is always nice to share something positive, as often the task of helping find homes for cats who have been dumped on the streets seems so overwhelming. I am so happy for Charlie and may his journey with Nina and Felipe be filled with many, many belly rubs!!!