I’m cold. I’m hungry. All of us are. My mom has been gone a long time. I don’t think she’s coming back. My four siblings and I huddle together to face the long night in hope that the morning will be better.

These cats are not alone. They are just a few of those in need in Calgary. The city picked up 1167 cats between January and August this year, nearly twice as many as last year. Of that “only 34 per cent of [cats] were reunited with their owners,” according to a 2018 City of Calgary report.

Additionally, a 2017 report by the Humane Society says 18 per cent of cats found by shelters and the city were euthanized in 2016. While this number has gone down it continues to be a problem.

This morning I wake up to the sound of people talking outside a house near me. My siblings and I live outside in a rural area. The house is within sight and the property owner has noticed the five of us living in their large yard. After a while, I notice that they start walking towards me. I’m not sure what to think.

The people take us into their car. It’s warm in here. They have blankets, too, and we all burrow inside. With a lurch, we start moving. I’m only four weeks old and can’t take care of my siblings. I hope it’s nice where they’re taking us.

July 31, 2018: Sharkbait arrives at the MEOW Foundation

We stop at this big building. I see other cats here. What kind of place is this?

Sharkbait looking Sharkbait was rescued by the MEOW Foundation in a rural area at around four weeks old, along with his four siblings. Photo by Hailey Payne.

Sharkbait and his siblings were rescued by the MEOW Foundation, who has seen an increase in the number of cats coming into the shelter, having 945 already come through this year.

“We’ve brought in about one hundred more [cats] to date in 2018 than we did in 2017,” says Debbie Nelson, the director of operations at the MEOW Foundation.

We’re taken inside, given medical checkups and baths. It feels so good to be clean. Next, we all get spayed or neutered… let’s not go into detail, enough said.

We don’t get to explore the building. The next day we are taken to a foster house. My foster family starts calling me “Sharkbait.” I like it. My siblings get names, too. There’s CatCha Villian, Squid Vicious, Scarla Main and Monster Maggie.

I like it here. It’s warm. We have plenty of food. The people who live here like to play with us, a lot.

Late September: Sharkbait greets visitors

Sometimes people visit us here. Only one has given me any attention. He introduces himself as Daniel Arndt. I liked him.
Sharkbait on carpetArndt was interested in adopting a cat and followed a few Calgary Instagram pages, one of which was how he first discovered Sharkbait. Photo by Hailey Payne.
Arndt fell in love with Sharkbait but as a wildlife biologist Arndt goes out into the field and an upcoming field research prevented immediate adoption.

“I got in touch with the MEOW Foundation and asked them, ‘Hey, so my work is going to be crazy until October 25th, I am in love with this guy. What do we do?’,” says Arndt.

The MEOW Foundation has a policy that they only hold cats for seven days — not long enough for Arndt’s work schedule to settle down, which would be almost a month later.

As the days go by, every one of my siblings are adopted. I wait. And wait.

I hear that I am being moved again. It’s a bit different, I’m warned. But I’m sure I’ll love it.

The MEOW Foundation works to group eight to 12 cats together in the red adoption room. The cats are then sent to the Regal Cat Café, who is partnered with them.

Because Sharkbait is at a foster home and is already used to people visiting him, he goes straight to the cafe so that it is a less-stressful transition.

October 16: Sharkbait: it’s time for coffee

Today’s the day — the day my foster family said I would go to a new home.

It’s time. I get all ready and we arrive at this smaller building. The sides of the building are attached to those beside it. This is new. I haven’t seen a building like this before.
Outside sign of Cat CafeCustomers all wash their hands before entering the ‘kitty kingdom’ at the Regal Cat Cafe to ensure a clean environment.  Photo by Hailey Payne.
Inside, we are greeted with a ton of toys. I immediately go to the tunnel. I run through it at top speed. That was fun. Look at this, a ball!

This place is great with its toys and its climbing structures. One of the walls is entirely glass. Through it, I see tables where people sit and order drinks.

Right when Sharkbait transitioned to the cafe Arndt called the MEOW Foundation one more time. He was leaving that day to go on another field research trip, but would be back in ten days and still loved Sharkbait.

Since Sharkabit was moved to the cafe he was guaranteed to be there for two weeks. This worked out perfectly for Arndt, and the screening and adoption process was able to be completed for that time frame.

This was great timing for Arndt as Sharkbait gathered a lot of attention at the cafe.

“My understanding from one of the girls at the cat cafe was that like the first day he was on the floor. Just the fact that he was so energetic and so curious and so social he had three people ask right away if they could adopt him,” Arndt says.

After some adjustment time, people start coming into the room. This is great. I have tons of play time. I attack the balls. I catch the feathers.

The people come in waves, only staying a few minutes before they leave and new people come in. This is ok. I like meeting new people.

That’s when I see him. The same guy that visited me at my foster home walks into the room. Right away, I go up to him. We start playing and I can tell he feels a connection too.

We stay together the whole time and reluctantly part when the worker says its time. I knew this wasn’t one-sided.

October 29: Sharkbait gets adopted

Today I go home with Daniel. My two-week stay at this place has been fun. I’m excited to finally get to see where I’ll live. He picks me up and we are off. Immediately I want to explore every inch of the house.

It’s been a while now. I’ve found all the best places. The cat bed by the front window is one of my favorite places. I can watch the birds there.

When the breeze comes through the window I soak it up. Life here has been good to me. I’ve developed a bond with Daniel. I like spending time with him.
Sharkbait heldDaniel Arndt and Sharkbait have developed a strong bond and can always be found near each other around their home. Photo by Hailey Payne.
“[Sharkbait] doesn’t go much farther than like five feet from me, unless he is going to eat or use the washroom and that’s about it,” says Arndt.

This bond can easily be recognized by those around them as well.

“I am very sure the two are a ‘purrfect’ match and can be best of pals for years to come,” says Tia Wieler, the owner of Regal Cat Café.

The Regal Cat Café has helped to increase awareness for the MEOW Foundation, who through the café can help more stray cats in need.

Their adoption rates have also increased, with the Regal Cat Café helping over 300 cats find loving homes.

“Maybe these people wouldn’t have found a cat otherwise, like many people come [to the café] and they’re like, ‘I didn’t know I was in the market to adopt until I met this fluffy little guy and I couldn’t resist’,” Wieler says.

Sharkbait is one of the many cats who has found a family through the partnership between the MEOW Foundation and the Regal Cat Cafe. Despite these efforts, there are still cats like Sharkbait waiting for warm hands to bring them out of the cold night.

Editor: Shaunda Lamont | slamont@cjournal.ca

Editors note: Audio component added to this story on December 6, 2018. 

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