Updated: Feb 24
My First Love
When I was three years old my aunt’s cat had a litter of kittens. My parents decided to adopt one of the babies, and we named her Cindy.
As is true with most children, I was fascinated by her! This tiny kitten, and her ‘pouncy frouncy fun fun fun fun fun’ personality was an absolute delight. She evoked giggles galore from that little girl, and I am forever grateful for that joy that my parents adopting her provided.
As we both grew, she became more of an elegant, statuesque presence in the home. She would greet me at the door with little “brrrr-ow”s and wait for me to sit so she could perch on my thighs. She was there beside me through it all.
Through tantrums and slammed doors. Through angsty teenage outbursts and young, broken-hearted tears. She was my best friend; my everything.
And from what I knew of love from three to nineteen years old, she was all of it. Comfort, cuddles, and laugh-until-you-cry moments -- this was a pure, good first love.
So, needless to say, I was bonded to this little cat in a way that I had not ever bonded with another animal before. When she passed away I was devastated; so much so that I refused to bring another animal into my home for three years. But at some point in my twenties, I realized that I was emotionally healed enough to allow space in my heart for another fuzzy love.
Adoption & Volunteering
And from there, I adopted Shadow. And then Izzy. And then Scarlett.
My house was full of little balls of personality, and I realized that I could do so much more for the animals than I was at the time.
So I found a local animal shelter and began training to volunteer in their neonatal kitten nursery. There I learned how to care for one of the most vulnerable communities of animals; to bottle feed them, to assess their health status, and to heal them to the point of adoption-age.
After a point, I wanted to do more; not only was I overwhelmed by the masses of kittens and the rush of having to get through all of their feedings/cleanings/checkups at the shelter itself, I realized that I was not built for that kind of “speed/get it done” animal advocacy; I was more attuned to slow, bonded care.
So I decided to open my home to foster kittens.
I cared for four litters of kittens over my time fostering, each for between six to eight weeks until they were healthy and old enough for a safe adoption.
I fell head over heels in love with each of these kittens every time, assuring everyone around me that “these kittens were the most special kittens I have ever fostered”. Releasing them to their forever homes was always a hard day, drenched with tears (both happy and sad). But at the end of it all, it was simple evidence of one thing: I was bonded to animals.
As a part of my ongoing foster training, I took the liberty of watching The Kitten Lady’s array of training videos (you know The Kitten Lady, Hannah Shaw, and her non-profit The Orphan Kitten Club, right?). One of the videos that I came across was a speech from an in-person event called, “For the Love of Orphans”.
I had no idea then that this video would completely change the trajectory of my life, and totally overhaul my definition of “love”.
For the Love of Orphans
Badger the day-old kitten was nearly frozen when he was found, alone and without a mother or siblings. He was rescued and helped to thrive through a number of physical and metal ailments by Hannah. The community rallied around this little pear-shaped kitten, cheering him on and donating to his care.
All the while, Hannah’s friend, Caitlyn, received very little help, and a lot of community confusion (and even anger) when she rescued Chester.
See, Chester is not a kitten. He is actually not even considered an animal at all, but a commodity; a product that is to be sold, slaughtered, and used for his body. He is a baby cow. And Caitlyn’s sanctuary, Rancho Relaxo, is a farm animal sanctuary dedicated specifically to animals rescued from the industry.
As I saw this comparison --the two adorable baby animals with the same coloring wearing little hats, playing with their friends, with not even a thought of how different they were from each other-- and something clicked inside me.
I suddenly couldn’t see a difference in them. And I realized that the kittens I had been devoting my life to rescuing and rehabilitating were exactly the same, in all the ways that matter, as the animals on my plate.
Accepting accountability for what I had been knowingly contributing to was the hardest pill that I have ever had to swallow. It was painful to acknowledge not only that these atrocities were being committed, but that I was paying for them with my money by purchasing the end products.
It hurt deeply. And I still hold on to some of that guilt, even though I try my best to balance it with animal activism. Even now, as I write this, I am wiping a tear from my cheek as I still feel the pain of knowing how much suffering I contributed to. But I have accepted that, and I have forgiven myself.
So coming to the realization of every animal being equal in all of the ways that truly matter… well, that was just one part of the eye-opening experience. I also had to reconcile that the world had been lying to me, and that I had been all too willing to accept that lie without questioning it. I really did believe that California cows were happy cows. Because, like everyone, I wanted to believe it all! I wanted to be able to continue eating my steaks and tuna casseroles (my favorite dinners prior to becoming vegan). I didn’t want to know.
But once I knew -- once I really knew-- there was nothing I could do.
There was no possibility of closing that curtain over my eyes again. It was over --my diet, my idea of healthy food, my conception of love, my definition of rescue-- everything changed.
I started making changes right then. I had no idea about nutrition, or how healthy being a vegan would be, but I knew I had to do it. It took 3 weeks to transition to fully vegan meals, and that is when I finally came clean to the people around me.
Since then, I have become a dedicated animal advocate. My life has flourished in so many ways. Most of my family has since adopted a plant-based diet with me, I have found a wonderful vegan partner to share my life with, and have cultivated a beautiful group of friends who introduced me to animal activism.
It has been three years since then. Three years since ym life completely flipped upside down (or really, I should say, "it flipped right-side up").
And to think… I owe it all to kittens.
Author Bio: Hi, my name is Mallory. I have been an animal advocate for my whole life, but really went deep to work toward protecting ALL animals back in 2018. I have six furbabies; 4 cats and 2 doggos. My cats, Shadow, Izzy, and Scarlett recently merged homes and hearts with my partner in crime and his dogs, Cachito and Pixie, and his cat, Monty. I have been a web content writer since 2008 and am so thrilled to finally be merging my passions; writing and animals. You can find me on Instagram at @malloryfortheanimals or at my website www.crispcreativecontent.com