Life doesn’t always go according to plan. In fact, it’s pretty common to hear people say, “Things happen when you least expect them to!” I have come to believe in this pretty seriously thanks to some life changing moments that happened unexpectedly like meeting my husband, moving to Austin, and the latest example…rescuing a cat from the side of a river.
I have always been a “dog person.” I grew up with dogs, and some of my earliest memories are with my family’s German Shepard, Sasha. We had quite a few dogs over the years and my only experience with cats was my grandmother’s fluffy grey kitty, Tippy Toes, and our family cat, Frankie. Frankie was nice, but he mostly lived outside and then just disappeared one day. Tippy Toes lived to be pretty old, I think around 18 or 19 years. I had a good experience with both cats, but they were never really close pets to me. They were more like the family pet that you interact with occasionally.
My family always seemed to buy dogs and cats from breeders or pet stores because that was all we knew back then. The one family pet that I did get to keep until the end was my soulmate dog, Zoki. He was a Yorkshire Terrier that started as a family pet, and I ended up taking him with me when I moved out for the first time on my own. He was everything to me and I was lucky to have him for 15 wonderful years. Once he started getting older I knew it would be difficult to move on, but I made the decision that losing him would give me the chance to adopt a dog and give an animal in need a loving home. I always thought it would be a dog. Little did I know what fate had in store for me.
It was just over a month after losing Zoki that my husband and I suddenly became “cat people.” Our life was flipped upside down when we had to say goodbye to Zoki, and then we started on the path to rebuilding our new lives just the two of us. As we were getting used to not having a pet around and discovering what our new lives would be like, we came across a sweet cat in need.
It all happened the evening of Sunday February 25, 2018. We went to see the new Black Panther movie at the Violet Crown near our apartment, and then decided to go for a walk after the movie finished. It was a nice enough day in February, so we made our way across Butterfly Bridge in downtown Austin and walked under Cesar Chavez to get to the Hike and Bike Trail by Lady Bird Lake. Just as we came out from under the bridge and started heading toward the trail was when we first saw her.
It was surprising to see such a good-looking and healthy cat that was seemingly a stray. She walked out of the tall grass looking for attention right near a bench that was surrounded by the vegetation on the river’s edge. As soon as we saw her, we knew we had to go sit on the bench and check her out. It was like she saw us coming and immediately started walking toward us, so we stopped to say hi not thinking anything of it at first. Her coat was light grey with some white and orange markings. She had stripes on her legs, big green eyes, and the tip of her left ear was missing. It looked like she had been attacked recently because her ear was still healing.
She came right up to us and immediately let my husband and I pet her while she walked around weaving between our legs acting quite comfortably with us. My first reaction was tears. I immediately welled up and said, “Is this a sign? Are we supposed to help her?” It was hard not to think that we were meant to find her, not only to help her get off the streets, but to help us move forward from grieving and fill the void that we now had in our lives. My husband being the more practical one said, “We will figure it out. Let’s just spend some time with her for now.” I was quick to think that we needed to do something to help her while he was still analyzing the situation and trying to figure out what the best option would be.
After spending some time together and getting her more comfortable with us, we decided that I would stay with her and he would go to the nearest pet store to buy food so that we could at least feed her for the night. By this point, the course of our evening had completely changed. We were now involved with this cat and we knew one thing for sure – we were going to help her someway, somehow. After about ten minutes of waiting with her, he finally came back, but not with any food. The store had just closed for the day, so instead, he found a piece of chicken breast under the bridge and brought it back to give to her. It was kind of gross, but she was thrilled to have it and happily walked away into the grass to eat alone. We decided to leave her so that she could enjoy some food in peace, so we walked home and talked the whole way about what our next move would be.
The sun was setting and our time was running out. We had to make a move before it became too dark to see well at night. On our way back to the apartment, we decided to make a detour and stop by the Royal Blue Grocery to pick up a bag of cat food. When we got home, we grabbed our dog’s travel carrier and headed back to where we had left her hoping she hadn’t disappeared. As we approached the bench and looked around, she was nowhere to be found. I started to worry that she had eaten and taken off back to her hiding place, but as we walked around the trail nearby we decided to turn back and check around once more just in case. As we walked back to the bench where we found her, I spotted her sneaking around a patch of tall grass nearby. She was crouched down and hunting for more food. We called to her and she immediately started walking toward us. I was worried she would get spooked with all of the people, bikes, and dogs off-leash passing by on the trail, but she managed to make her way back over to the bench to sit with us once again.
This was when things got interesting. We thought after spending enough time together and feeding her that it would be easy to lure her into the carrier. Wrong! She may have been friendly, but she was not a fan of being picked up or tricked into the carrier. We needed to figure out how we were going to get her in there before our luck would run out. Our first attempt at luring her into the carrier with food failed pretty quickly. Then we tried to feed and pet her close to the opening of the carrier so that we could scoot her in and close the door, but that didn’t work either. It was now our third and final try. We knew that if it didn’t work this time, we would be out of chances. So, my husband said we had to commit to making it work and getting her in there. We waited for the right moment, and then he quickly pushed her in while tipping the carrier upward which caused her to fall to the back. I shut the door and held it tightly on all sides so that she couldn’t slip out while we zipped it shut. To my surprise, we had done it! Ian ended up with a few serious scratches, but it all worked out in the end and we were now walking home with her.
I was so happy as we walked back to our place with her safely in tow. She was not meowing or scratching to get out. She laid down in the carrier and didn’t seem to be upset anymore once the capturing part was over. It was a huge relief that it had actually worked to get her in the carrier safely, and now that we had her reality was setting in that we needed to figure out our next move. It just so happened that we were going out of town for five days the coming week, and now we had this kitty in our care with no clue about how things would play out. We had three days to come up with a solution. Would we find a rescue to take her? Would she go to the animal shelter? Could we board her at a vet? Could she stay with us until we returned to figure things out more thoroughly? It was all up in the air for the time being, but my heart was leaning toward one of the options pretty quickly.
My husband cleaned his wounds, and we decided to find a nearby emergency vet to see if they could do a check-up and connect us with a local rescue. I honestly thought this kind of thing was not uncommon and that we would easily find help. We quickly discovered that was not the case. No one would take her in because the missing part of her ear was actually because she had recently gone through a TNR program (Trap, Neuter, Release). It turned out that she had recently been trapped and taken to a vet where she received medical care, was spayed, and then released once she was healthy enough to go back to where she had been found. After having no luck with the emergency vet, we decided she would stay with us for the night until we could come up with a plan. The whole time we were driving around, stopping the car, taking the carrier in and out, she never made a sound. We picked up some essentials at the grocery store and headed home for the night.
Once we settled in and set up her litter box in the laundry room, my husband opened the carrier and we left her alone to see what she would do. All of sudden, we heard a loud noise as she darted out and made her way behind the washer and dryer. She found herself in a tight, uncomfortable spot, but it was a hiding spot nonetheless. We tried getting her out and blocking the opening so that she couldn’t get stuck there again, but none of our efforts worked. We decided it was best to leave her alone, and after a short while she came running out from the laundry room and sprinted across the living room toward the windows of our balcony. She laid down in a hard to reach spot next to my beach cruiser by the window and just meowed for a while. We left her alone once again and went to bed. By this point, it was pretty late, but she was just getting started for the night. She wandered around meowing, and it really seemed like she was looking for a way to get back outside. I started to feel kind of bad and wondered if we were taking her away from her home, but I knew it was just her flight response because of being in an unfamiliar place. After a few hours and an adventure on the kitchen counter, she finally found her way back behind the washer/dryer where she slept for the night.
The next day, I spent most of my time helping her get used to her new surroundings. I started researching local cat rescues and reaching out to people on email and Instagram hoping someone would get back to me. I made an appointment with a vet to see if she was chipped and to ask about boarding her while we were out of town. After seeing how much effort it was taking to get her comfortable and how important it was not to mess things up, we decided last minute that it was too soon to put her back in the carrier for a vet visit. She continued making progress over the next couple of days – she learned to use her litter box, she was eating well, drinking water, and she even jumped on the bed. I was starting to feel like she would be okay to leave for a few days if we had someone to come and check on her, so I found a pet sitter on Rover who seemed like the perfect match. This person had just lost her cat and was very open to helping us out with our situation. We had her come over the night before we were supposed to leave so that she could meet Nakia and go over the plan for taking care of her. Everything with the meet and greet went better than expected, so I felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief that the kitty would be okay while we were gone.
Each day of our trip, our sitter Danielle would send me text messages and videos of her visit to see Nakia. She always came out of hiding and was eating and enjoying Danielle’s company. All good news! She seemed to be adjusting pretty well so far. After five days away, we came home from our trip around midnight and I was anxious to see how she would react to us being home again. She found a nice place to sleep on our dining chairs and jumped down to greet us as we walked in the door, meowing and wanting to be pet. She is such a vocal little kitty and LOVES to let you know what’s on her mind. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night because she was all about spending time together and getting attention. Every day from that point on, she’s made incredible progress and has come out of shell more than either of us expected. One night, my husband told me to look up the African Wild Cat to see what it looks like because he thought that Nakia looked very similar. After researching some pictures, I was shocked to see how much they do look alike. That’s when we decided to give her the nickname – Nakia, the African Wild Cat. She is wild by nature, independent, sweet, affectionate, athletic, and an expert hunter at heart.
I wasn’t sure what would happen when decided to take her in. Would she be better off with a rescue? Did she have a family? Should we try to give her to our Rover sitter who had just lost her cat? Are we even cat people? All of these questions kept running through my head, even though deep down I knew I wanted to keep her. In hindsight, I guess I wasn’t mentally ready to move on from our dog, Zoki, yet. Adding a new pet to the family was supposed to be far in the future. I’m talking at least a year, so that we would really be “ready” again. But, as fate would have it, Nakia made the decision for us and chose to make us her forever home. And I’m so glad she did.
More kitty pics…because she’s just too cute ❤