An article recently reminded me of something I already suspected: there are no stray dogs anymore here in the Netherlands.
For my husband and me, coming from NYC, the lack of Dutch stray animals perplexed us. We had moved from a Manhattan studio apartment where we stuffed ourselves, our bed, a desk, and two large foster cats + all their equipment into a tiny space and happily called it home. When we moved to The Netherlands and proclaimed that we were finally ready to take on our very own perma-cat (permanent instead of foster), we were confused when the shelter told us our one-bedroom apartment with a courtyard was too small for adoption. We are the ideal cat parents. We are the messiahs of the pet world. My husband once offered to foster a cat with explosive diarrhea. (Another story for another day!) We raised five kittens in our bathroom by hand. (That’s not true; their cat mom raised them, but we were there!) Why was our cat adoption paperwork rejected? Weren’t we the ideal candidates?
Not in the Netherlands. The cats here require a certain amount of square meters. A mansion, if you will. And we didn’t make the cut.
We would not be deterred, however. We went to our local animal shelter anyway, and the woman told us that perhaps there was one cat she’d consider we take. The cat was my namesake, after all: Tori (spelled wrong, according to me), and she was “getting used to people”.
For all intents and purposes, coming from a lover of felines, Tori was feral. When we went to visit her, she was perched on top of a cupboard hissing at everyone down below. The shelter owner said that after months in that one room, she was getting a little better at people petting her with a long stick. She only tried to maul the stick for a little while before allowing it to touch her momentarily.
We told the woman we didn’t think this was a match.
For weeks after, we scoured different shelter websites as hopeful cat parents, looking for our new love. During kitten season, we went to a shelter a couple hours away, only to realize we had missed the rush and all the cats were gone. The line out the door had started before the building opened, and the cats had all been accounted for quickly thereafter.
It wasn’t until months later that we finally got an opening, a competitive edge in this cut-throat cat adoption game: a code red storm was passing through. When others stayed inside to shelter from the fallen trees and horizontal wind, we biked our way through hurricane conditions to the final shelters on our list.
It was there, drenched wet and exhausted, that we first met the kitty who would later become our first and then favorite feline friend: a one-eyed ginger cat named Piet Piraat (Pirate Pete).
It was love at first sight, despite him being less able to see. And the start of a romance for Part Two.