Red moved in with me and Ant at the end of July 2017. From day 1, he was both courageous and easy going. He came to us with marble blue eyes contrasting with his fluffy black fur. He was so tiny that we suspected he was just slightly too young to be taken away from his mama. He’d only just switched from formula to solid food the day before coming to live with us. He didn’t meow once that first night, and the spent the entire next day with me on the couch, on my chest, securing a permanent place in my heart. We instantly became his surrogate parents, and the three of us formed a solid pride.
At the end of October, we agreed to go on an unexpected family vacation. I agreed specifically to make the trip half way across the world to the small south American country of Uruguay for my grandparents. We’d never been to their home country together, and we would likely never get an opportunity to go again. My grandmother’s Alzheimers was progressing steadily, and I longed to see Uruguay with her, before it was too late. I wanted to hear my grandfather’s tales from the past in their original setting. Unfortunately this trip meant splitting up the pride for 10 days.
I arranged for Red to stay at my best friends Chloe and Amy’s house for the duration of our vacation. I was positive he would be well taken care of, and in good company with their two cats, Pablo and Paris. But that didn’t stop it from hurting. The weeks leading up to the trip, I dreaded leaving him behind. I worried his poor young soul would experience betrayal for the first time. That he would think we didn’t want him anymore. That we didn’t love him. That he wasn’t part of our pride.
The night we left Red at Chloe’s was tough. The evening before we were set to depart, we drove the hour north to their house, and he didn’t complain about the car ride once. He quickly made himself at home at Chloe’s playing with Paris, zipping up and down the stairs. And then we left without him. It was easier than I expected. Red didn’t even seem to notice, or care that we were leaving. But we noticed. Our apartment felt unjustly empty that night. All sorts of things were placed upon the coffee table, with no tiny paws to knock them off. Dinner was eaten, free of beady eyes begging for a bite. The next morning, nobody was waiting for us to wake up. The pride was broken.
Throughout our trip, Chloe kept us updated with daily photos of Red. Red hiding behind the couch with timid eyes. Red lounging on the cat tower with Pablo and Paris. Red being scooped up and held by Chloe herself. My heart hurt. A whole new wave of worries flooded over me that week. Maybe Red was having such a great time at Chloe’s, he ultimately wouldn’t want to come home with us. After all, Chloe had a whole house complete with stairs and other cats. In our tiny apartment, Red spent most of his days alone. Maybe after his taste of the good life, he wouldn’t be interested in returning to our simple pride at all.
As soon as we stepped foot back on Canadian soil, we drove an hour out of our way to pick up Red. We were absolutely exhausted, after spending 25 hours in transit, flying through a crazy storm, but we needed to get our baby back before we could even think about returning home. We weren’t spending another dreadful night without him. It was time to reunite the pride.
When we arrived at Chloe’s door, my fears vanished. Immediately upon hearing our voices in the entrance Red bounced down the stairs to greet us. He was pleased, with not an ounce of resentment in him. When we sat in the living room to discuss our trip and Chloe and Amy’s engagement, Red sat confidently between Ant and I on the couch. When we tapped on Red’s crate on the stairs and told him it was time to come home, he eagerly slipped inside. The pride was back together again.
The next weekend, Chloe and Amy invited the three of us back to their house. A little while after we arrived, we realized we’d forgotten souvenirs we’d brought inside the car. As Ant put on his coat to go fetch them, he realized the car keys were in my coat. As I walked to meet Ant and get him the keys, I noticed Red watching us intensely from the top of the stairs. The second we were both near the front door, Red bolted down at lightening speed and flew into his open crate. I instantly knew what he was thinking. He was worried we were going to leave him here again! That’s when I realized all of my worries had been unfounded. Red loved us as much as we loved him.
“I treated him like gold!” Chloe protested, after observing Red, still securely in his crate, hoping to be taken back to our apartment. She had.
It didn’t matter though, the three of us are a pride.