When Yanyan Zhou told me she wanted to get a cat, I was skeptical. As a previous cat owner, I know cats can be hard work, often in unexpected, sometimes annoying and frequently destructive ways. (I lost countless vases, pots and picture frames due to frisky cats.) But Yanyan was determined; she wanted a forever friend.
“I moved to a new apartment and I was lonely. I needed something to talk to,” Yanyan explained about her desire to get a pet.
Yanyan didn’t have any previous experience with her own cats and was unsure if, as an intentional student, she would be allowed to adopt a pet. She had heard stories of international students in other states being denied the opportunity to adopt. Yanyan asked me to join her for a trip to PetSmart, where she could check out some of the featured cats from the shelter and gather all the supplies she would need.
As soon as we got to PetSmart, Yanyan saw a big, orange, Garfield-looking kitten/cat and knew she found her something to talk to, her new best friend. As the handler pulled mini-Garfield out of his cage, we realized how much bigger he actually was once he wasn’t napping in a corner. His credentials said he was three months old, but it was clear this orange tabby was either a GIANT kitten or at least six months old.
Either way, Yanyan was in love. Reluctantly she put her almost-kitten/cat back in his cage so she could fill out the paperwork and get all the supplies she would need to make room for her new love.
In the past, Yanyan has owned only had a rabbit and a few chipmunks for pets.
“I had chipmunks but they really weren’t good pets. They have to be in the cage or they destroy your house,” Yanyan said. She didn’t really know what things she would need to make her studio cat-friendly. Luckily, there was a very nice and VERY patient employee who went around the store with Yanyan explaining the benefits of wet versus dry food, clay versus organic litter.
To be honest, going over the details of pet ownership was a little too much for me. I ducked out partially out of boredom but also because there was this little grey kitten for adoption who kept giving me the “take me home” look.
When I came back half an hour later, Yanyan was almost done buying all the supplies and finishing up the paperwork. She was at the register with her yet-to-be-named giant kitten, who was shockingly not in a cage. Yanyan was holding him as she attempted to fill out paperwork.
As she handed the cat to me in order to pay, I knew disaster was about to strike. This is PetSmart! Land of excitable dogs! And here I was holding a giant kitten who spent his life so far in the safety of a cage. Of course, 30 seconds into holding the orange fluff, a big dog came through the doors, freaking out baby Garfield and sending him climbing up my shoulder and onto my back as he attempted to put distance between himself and the dog. Unbeknownst to me, the collar for big-little kitty was a break-away collar that had been attached incorrectly to the leash so that as soon as the cat bolted, the collar broke away and skinny Garfield dashed under the shelves in the store.
I was exasperated and bleeding, Yanyan was on the floor attempting to soothe her new friend out from under the store shelf, and the PetSmart employees looked like they just really wanted it to be closing time. Eventually, the team got the cat back into Yanyan’s arms and then promptly into a cage; a new condition I demanded if the cat was going to be traveling in my car. There was no way was I having an excitable kitten roaming the backseat of my geo prism.
As we loaded all the litter, food and toys into the car, I asked Yanyan what she was going to name her new little orange cat. “It has to be a food name,” Yanyan explained, since her previous rabbit and chipmunks had been named Marshmallow and Bacon 1 and 2.
Naming an orange cat Orange was too generic and obvious. Carrot sounded too feminine to Yanyan. Pumpkin she decided. Pumpkins were orange and big and obviously awesome. Newly-named Pumpkin meowed from the back at this decision; I’m going to infer in agreement and not because he was terrified of the moving car.
Although it’s only been a few weeks, Pumpkin is settling in nicely with Yanyan.
“He is just so adorable; a really sweet kid,” Yanyan gushed to me. “He only has two modes: Sleeping and crazily jumping here to there.”
He also is a big cuddler, always wanting Yanyan’s attention. She says that Pumpkin can tell when she is not actually doing work on the computer, when she is just playing games, because Pumpkin will come over and want to play, occasionally barricading the computer keyboard with his body.
Even though adjusting to Pumpkin’s time schedule has been a bit challenging for Yanyan, she says he is worth it. Pumpkin is home forever.