Carmen, Colony Cats, and How I Became a Cat Mom

Sitting here with my laptop and my cat curled up next to me, I figured now would be a good time to write about when I adopted my furbaby.

Columbus has a plethora of absolutely wonderful animal shelters, full of staff and volunteers who can’t wait to help you find your perfect match. I’m going to be writing specifically today about Colony Cats & Dogs, which is where I adopted Carmen, but be sure to scroll down to the end of this post to see a list of some of the other Columbus shelters where pets are awaiting their forever homes.

In December 2015, I was living alone in an apartment fairly far away from downtown. I had graduated from Ohio State at the end of 2014, and although I had a great set of friends, many of them were still in school, which made schedules difficult to coordinate. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty isolated and lonely. Having had several pets when I was younger, I was fully aware of the benefits of having an animal in the house. I wanted that companionship I’d had growing up, so I started looking into the process of adopting a pet.

I love cats and dogs equally, but due to my living situation, work hours and budget, I knew that a cat would be the most responsible option at that point in my life. I shared my plans to adopt a cat with my parents, and was thoughtfully given a carrier and some toys for Christmas. As soon as I got back to Columbus after the holiday, I decided I’d start looking.

On January 5, 2016, I visited the Colony Cats & Dogs adoption center in Dublin (on Festival Ln.), hoping I might find a friend there, but not too worried about the outcome. After all, there are plenty of shelters in Columbus that I could go to if I didn’t click with any of the cats on the first try.

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Photo by Jason Reusch

One of the first things that struck me about Colony Cats is that their adoption center is a no-cage shelter. All of the cats are free to roam around wherever they’d like. There are plenty of nooks and crannies for the shy cats to tuck themselves away, and lots of furniture and ledges for the more social felines to perch themselves on. For someone like me, a cat lover, this place is heaven. An enormous amount of cats, freely roaming around, and you can pet them all? Yes please!

A friendly volunteer introduced herself and asked what brought me in, so I told her I was looking to adopt. I had several criteria for my ideal cat: young adult, female, preferably short-haired, and either previously declawed or relaxed enough to allow me to put SoftPawsΒ on. I was NOT going to declaw a cat, but I’m also not wealthy enough to replace all of my furniture if I ended up with a rogue scratcher. After double-checking to make sure that I wasn’t planning to declaw a cat (click hereΒ to learn more about why you shouldn’t declaw and what some alternative options are), the volunteer led me to a few cats that matched my description.

I must say, the volunteers at Colony Cats know their residents very well! The volunteer was able to describe each one’s personality, how they came to the shelter, and tell me about any special needs or considerations each cat came with. The cats that met all of my criteria were sweet, but none quite felt like they wereΒ mine.

After a while, the volunteer politely excused herself to help some other potential adopters, and I began to wander around the shelter on my own. I met some very friendly, happy cats, but again, none that really felt like the right fit. I spent nearly two hours walking through the adoption center, stopping to meet every cat that didn’t immediately shun me (I didn’t take offense, you know how cats are). The volunteers continued to check in on me to see if I had any questions, which was very much appreciated.

After feeling like I had exhausted my options, I took one last walk around the adoption center. On my way back, I noticed a door by the desk/office area that I hadn’t seen before. I peeked in through a window and noticed several cats in the tiny room behind the door. I asked the volunteer at the desk if there was any particular reason that the cats in that room were separated from the rest, and she explained to me that the room I’d found was called the “Zen Room,” and they rotated all of the cats in and out of that room every now and then to give them a break from the crowded main area. After confirming that I was allowed to go in, I opened the door, and immediately locked eyes with a little fluffball cuddled in a bed.

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The aforementioned fluffball blinked slowly at me, stretched, and gave a very content meow. The second I sat down, she hopped out of her bed and trotted over to plop herself in my lap. I fell in love.

She wasn’t quite what I thought I’d been looking for; she was a young adult female, but she had long, fluffy hair and a sharp set of claws. I realized while she was kneading her little white paws into my lap that I didn’t really care what my criteria was; this cat had just picked me and I was powerless.

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The volunteer who had first helped me came into the room to find me holding a purring, cuddly kitty. She smiled. “I see you’ve met Hazel.”

Hazel, as she was named at the shelter, was apparently an “owner surrender,” although I came to find out later through the power of social media that she had been found wandering around a neighborhood. A good samaritan had taken care of her for a few days before bringing her to Colony Cats. She had obviously belonged to someone before that, though, because she was already incredibly well socialized and very friendly with people. To this day, she’s one of the friendliest cats I’ve ever met. My heart breaks thinking about her being left by someone she trusted, but I’m also so grateful to Colony Cats for giving her a safe, comfortable shelter until I got to her.

It was obvious that “Hazel” and I had bonded, so the volunteer grabbed an application for me. Colony Cats does a great job of making sure their cats are going to good homes. They ask thorough questions to make sure you’ll be a responsible, caring pet owner. After filling out the application, the volunteer told me that I should hear back within a day or two. The hardest part of the whole adoption process was leaving my new buddy at the shelter!

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I’ll be back, I promise!

The next day, I got a call that my application had been processed and Hazel could come home with me. I still had some supplies to get before I was ready to welcome my new family member, so I asked if I could come back the next day after work to pick her up. They were very accommodating, and I spent that evening picking up all the things I needed to make my new friend feel at home.

After work on January 7, I went back to Colony Cats. Hazel started purring right when she saw me, which was BEYOND heart-melting. The shelter volunteers gave me a blanket that I could take home with her so that she would have a familiar smell in her new environment, which I thought was so kind. They congratulated both of us, and we headed home. In the car, I kindly told Hazel that I didn’t think her name was quite fitting, and as an Ohio State alum and fan, I would be calling her Carmen instead. She seemed fine with this, considering that the first thing she did when we got home was climb on my lap and fall asleep.

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Actual photo, taken less than an hour after bringing Carmen home.

Carmen was a little sick at first; she had contracted Feline Herpes Virus (FHV), an extremely common illness for shelter cats. In cats, the herpes virus presents as a respiratory illness, so poor Carmen was a sneezy, snotty, goopy mess for the first week or so. The vet assured me that it would clear up on its own, and sure enough, with a little L-Lysine and a lot of love, she was soon feeling much better.

It’s been about two and a half years since I brought Carmen home from Colony Cats, and she is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She’s an excellent companion and a source of so much laughter and joy for me. I’m so thankful she picked me.

I had a fantastic pet adoption experience with Colony Cats & Dogs. If you’re looking to adopt a pet, I recommend giving them a call or a visit. Their dogs are all in foster homes, but they can set up meetings for you. The cat adoption center might just be the place where you meet your new furry family member!

Of course, Colony Cats & Dogs isn’t the only shelter in Columbus. Here is a short list of some of the other shelters in the Columbus area:

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