The Story of Paws
By Temma O’Connor
Temma O’Connor is a young writer living in California, near San Francisco. She recently got a new cat names “Paws,” and instead of writing a “Cats vs. Dogs” essay exactly, Temma is writing a whole fictional story about Paws! We will print it in excerpts as she writes on “Our Place to Paws.”
Chapter 1: Prologue
I had never wanted anything more than what I already had. Owners, food, treats, love. Everything was going so well, and I was happy. But that’s it. Was. Things just had to go wrong. Everything was stripped from me. Everything.
I was woken up one morning by a shaft of light coming from outside. I got up, stretched, and went over to my food bowl. After I had licked the remains of the chunky soup out of my bowl, I went upstairs to see what my owners were up to.
I am a kitten named Paws. For some reason, all humans seem to like kittens better than full-grown cats. When I was still very young, still drinking from my mother, I was told tales that the humans leave you to fend for yourself when you are full-grown. Of course, my mother assured me none of that was true.
My owners were still sleeping. I jumped on the bed to wait for them to wake up, but I actually woke them up in the process of jumping on the bed. John, the father of the family, turned over and petted me. “Hi, Paws,” he mumbled. “What? Paws?” Susan, the mother of the family, asked. “Ya, he’s right here,” John answered, although Susan’s asked her question to no one in particular.
My bell jingled as I hopped over to her. She petted me. The kids must have heard my bell because just then, Sophie and Nathan came bounding upstairs. Sophie was 6 years old. She was energetic and active. She always loved to play with me. And I loved to play with her. Nathan, on the other hand, was kind of dull, not as energetic as Sophie. He did play with me, but not as much as she did.
“Look at little Paws!” Sophie exclaimed as she entered the room. Nathan just walked in. I purred at Sophie’s enthusiasm to see me. She petted me quick, and then went to go get my toy.
“Mom,” Sophie called, “Where’s Paws’ toy?”
“I think it’s over there,” Susan called back, pointing to a shelf. Sophie went over to examine the mahogany dresser. She finally found my toy and began to play with me.
I was always hypnotized when anyone played with me. My toys were simple, nothing fancy -- just a string on a handle, a fuzzy thing that squeaks when you push on it, a fake mouse, and a small bug-toy.
The string landed in front of my face. I couldn’t help myself. I pounced. Sophie tried to pull it back, but I was holding on tight. I was firmly biting on the string. Finally, she gave a hard tug and the string was pulled from my iron teeth. I heard a squeak behind me and forgot about the string. I turned around to see Nathan holding my green, fuzzy, squeaky toy. He pushed on it again and a long, sad squeak came out. It was as if it were pleading not to be pounced on. I pounced anyway. The toy was knocked out of Nathan’s hand. I let out a purr of satisfaction.
We played for a while longer, and then I finally settled down. I jumped back on the bed. The petting began. I just sat there, purring. I had a great life.
At about lunchtime, Susan and I went downstairs. She filled my food bowl and let me be. I ate the food happily. Then, a thought struck me. What would it be like to be a stray cat, living alone? As I wondered this, I lingered around the screen door. I wondered what it was like. Maybe I could sneak out, see what it is like, and then come back before I was missed. I thought about it for a moment. No. I decided. I would probably get lost anyway.
I went over to my bed, which was on the platform on top of my scratching post. I jumped up and took a quick nap. I dreamed about being a stray cat, living on my own, dealing with problems on my own. There was another cat there, too. He was like the opposite of me. His black fur was unlike my creamy pelt. We were together, so maybe I wouldn’t live alone or deal with problems on my own.
When I woke up, I had made my mind up. I was going to see what it was like to be a stray cat. Maybe I would meet someone on my way, like the dark-furred cat in my dream. I would go out just for a little while, and then come back. I would keep the house in sight always in case I lost my way. But how would I get out?
Just then, I heard Nathan come down the stairs. He was wearing his shoes. I was pretty sure I knew what he was doing -- taking out the trash. That was perfect. He usually left the door open and I was too much of a coward to explore outside any other time.
Nathan walked straight over to the garbage can. He lifted the garbage bag out and tied it at the top. Then he opened the sliding glass door, not bothering to close it. As soon as he was out of sight, I ran outside as fast as I could.
Free! I thought. For now. I came to the fence. Darn it. I was so close. Then I remembered how it opened so easily if you just pushed it. I pushed the steel fence open with my nose. It was so cold. I went on anyway. It opened as easily as I could catch my string toy when Nathan was tired.
Yes! I thought. I made it.
I walked outside the house, a little nervous. Out to the driveway I went, then to the sidewalk. I remembered my promise to myself. I would stay so I could see the house at all times. I did this but, when I was about halfway down the street, a small van parked right next to me. I thought the person inside was just going to visit one of the houses nearby. I was wrong.
A man in a blue jump suit with a net in his hand came toward me. Before I knew what was happening, the net was over my head and I was caught. The man opened up the back of his van and shoved me in. I felt the metal under my feet, and then everything went black.
I opened my eyes and everything was dark. I was confused for a second, then remembered what happened when I snuck out of my house. But, where was I?
I got up and stretched my front paws forward. They hit something hard. To investigate, I walked forward. Too far. My nose hit something cold and hard. It was in a kind if web form. I skitted back at the sudden coldness. But my hind paws hit the same cold, hard stuff.
My eyes finally adjusted to the light. All around me was a dull silver webbing. I suddenly realized where I was. I was in a cage! I noticed that there were other cages, all lined up, stacked on top of each other. I looked out of my cage, down the long rows of cages. Somewhere in the darkness, I heard a dog bark.
Suddenly, a light was turned on and I was blinded for a moment. My eyes adjusted and I could see everything. There were many other cats (and dogs) in cages. There were so many cages, so many animals. A human walked in and another after him. They held bags in their hands, big bags filled with….food! Hunger suddenly stabbed at my stomach. The humans opened the cages, one by one, filling the food bowls.
Eventually, one made his way down to my cage. He opened my cage door gruffly and took out my food bowl. Then he quickly filled it, closed my cage door, and moved on. I looked down at my food. It smelled bad, like the stuff my owners used to give me, until they found out I hated it.
I lapped up some pellets and slowly began to chew. The food tasted even worse than it smelled, worse than I remembered. Reluctantly, I swallowed, telling myself that it was food and I was hungry. I ate more and drank some water. I laid down and began to think.
The humans were done, so they turned off the light and went out the door. Darkness engulfed me as I thought. What will I do? How will I get back to my guardians?
My thoughts were interrupted by the voice of another cat. “Hey, you.” I stiffened. Was he talking to me? “Yeah, you. With the cream fur.” I turned toward where the voice was coming from and saw a male cat with a black pelt. I felt a strong sense of déjà vu. I noticed he was very thin. I could see all of his ribs.
“Hey, I’m talking to you.” He said. “W-what?” I stuttered, coming back to reality from my thoughts. "I said I’m talking to you.” He repeated.
“Oh. What?” I asked.
“You gonna finish that food?” I looked at him again. His fur was dull due to lack of food and very messy, like he never washed it.
“Here.” I said, pushing the bowl of pellets under a hole in the silver webbing of the cage. His face lit up with joy. “Thanks.” he said before quickly eating what was left of the pellets.
“How can you eat that stuff?” I asked in wonder.
“You get used to it.” He answered. “So, what’s you name?” he asked.
“Paws, what’s yours?” My name had been given to me because of my extra toes. My owners liked them.
“My name is Midnight.” Midnight declared.
“Well, its nice to meet you, Midnight,” I said.
“You too,” He half muttered.
I took a moment to look around. I noticed on the other side of me was a gray-furred girl cat. She looked pretty old. I looked ahead. About two yards away was another cage stacked on about six others. It was level to mine, so now I had an idea of how high up I was. The cat there was a male. I guessed he was new here just like I was, because his pelt was glossy with heath. I could smell the fear scent coming from him.
Below me was another girl cat. She was a tortoiseshell and looked fairly new here. I guessed she had been here longer than me, though.
I turned at the sound of Midnight’s voice. “Yes?” I answered.
“Why are you in here?” He questioned.
“Well, I was just walking outside in my front yard when this van parked right in front of me. A man walked out and snatched me.” I told him about my decision to leave the comfort of my house for a while just to see the outside world. To my surprise, he seemed very interested and asked many questions. He told me about his life, too. He described how when his mother had him and the rest of his litter, his owners did not want them. He said they dumped them on the street. I remembered the tales of how humans leave you to fend for yourself when you are full grown. But he was only a kitten. Probably a few months older than me.
We talked and talked until I grew so tired I struggled to stay awake. I opened my mouth and let out a huge yawn. “We should probably get to sleep now.” Midnight suggested.
“Yeah, I’m pretty tired."
I yawned again. I curled up in a sleeping position. Before I fell asleep I asked Midnight, “So, are we friends?” “Yeah.” He said. “Friends.”
I smiled. It was good to know that in this awful place, I had made at least one friend in the first day.
“Night,” he said.
“Night,” I repeated. Then darkness engulfed me and I was asleep.