“So, word ‘round the shelter’s that you were adopted and then brought back. Didja throw up in the human’s shoe?”
A cackle of laughter came from the cage next to his. He didn’t even bother justifying that with a response.
“Didja eat the garbage instead of the food? Got too used to that stray life, didja?”
He rolled his eyes and stretched his long, lean body.
“Heard your name’s Joey. Imma call you J, can I call you J?”
Joey was the name the shelter decided on. But that wasn’t the name she gave him. “It’s Zing.”
“He speaks! Zing huh? What the fur kinda name is that?”
He shook his head silently. There were the fair shares of annoying animals that came and left these cages, but this cat was really something else. At least it was almost time for breakfast.
Right on cue, one of the shelter humans popped out of the kitchen holding a big bag of kibble. The human started with the babies as always and worked down the cages, cooing and petting. He had to admit, the shelter humans were really nice.
His was one of the last cages, tucked all the way in the back. He knew it was partly because he was one of the oldest cats there, and partly because he sported all black fur and most humans wouldn’t want a black cat anyway.
The shelter human opened his cage and filled his bowl with the little dry pellets. “Morning, Joey. It’s not so bad here, right?” The human scratched him behind his ears, and then shut the doors again. He looked at his bowl filled to the brim, and remembered how it wasn’t long ago when his human mother was feeding him juicy food that smelled like tuna. Looking back on it now, he should’ve eaten more when he had the chance.
He laid his head down and stared at his breakfast. It wasn’t that long ago at all.
The day his human mother adopted him, she didn’t come in looking for him. She came in the shelter looking for a dog. He had heard her talking to the human in charge about how she wasn’t really a cat person. He had scoffed and retorted mentally that he wasn’t really a human-loving cat, so there.
It wasn’t that he hated humans; he was just indifferent. Humans never helped him when he was living on the streets, but they never hurt him either. They just…scurried away, like they wanted to avoid him.
He remembered watching his human mother playing with the dogs. For some reason, she didn’t want to adopt any of them. The human in charge had asked her why she wasn’t a cat person and she had just shrugged. She wasn’t a cat person and she didn’t even know why? He didn’t think it was possible for him to roll his eyes any further back.
Since the first day the shelter humans picked him off the streets, he had a reputation for being mellow, which is why they thought it’d be fine if she pet him. She wasn’t the first human to pet him, so he wasn’t sure why he reacted at all, let alone the way he did.
He nuzzled her hand.
He remembered how happy that made her, and that surprised him. Humans usually weren’t happy when he was near them, let alone touched them. But she was really happy and she kept telling the human in charge how soft his fur was and how much he looked like a little black panther.
She would always call him her little black panther.
He went home that weekend. As soon as he stepped in the house, he knew the other humans there didn’t like him. He was used to that, so he kept out of the way during the day, and explored at night. He didn’t know houses came with so many cool, dark spots.
That first day, his human mother put a bowl of something in front of him. It smelled like tuna, but it didn’t smell like any tuna he had ever eaten before. It smelled way better. He didn’t touch it though. The streets had taught him to be wary of strange things, even if they smelled good.
That first night, he was relaxing under something called the TV table when he saw his human mother put covers and a soft square rock on the floor. It looked like she was making a bed.
“I don’t want you to be alone, Zingy, so I’m going to sleep out here, okay?” She had said.
And she did.
On the second night, he remembered looking at his human mother sleeping on the floor and then at the bowl of unbelievably delicious-smelling tuna. He decided to trust her. He tasted the tuna. Oh, it was good. It was really good. It was so juicy and soft and he could taste something else, a little chicken maybe? But he wasn’t used to eating something like that, so his stomach had gotten a little upset. It was okay, he would take it slow. Just a couple bites.
The third day was the scary day. There was a lot of yelling. It was too loud, and he hid behind some big white chair-looking thing with water in it. That night, his human mother had sat outside waiting for him to come out. He did when he was sure everyone else had gone to sleep. That’s when he saw she was crying. He knew right away something was wrong.
His human mother had spent that whole night talking softly to him. She told him that she named him Zing because she saw a movie before she went to the animal shelter and in the movie, the characters zinged when they fell in love. She told him that he was the best birthday present she could have ever chosen for herself. She told him that he was a handsome little black panther with the most beautiful soft fur. He remembered walking up to her to listen. It was the closest he had ever been to her. She kept talking until she fell asleep.
“What’s wrong, Joey? Not feeling hungry this morning?” The shelter human’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts and he lifted his head to see the human peering worriedly at him through the cage bars. He craned his neck down from the shelf he was stretched out on and ate a couple of the pellets.
As he chewed, he wondered what his human mother was eating. He wished he had a bowl of her tuna.
© Jade M. Wong 2016
Reposted from a couple years ago.
Read about Zing comforting another returned animal, a black Labrador named Shadow, in Shadow.