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Happy Tail: Professor

People often say cats have nine lives. But when it comes to felines and figures, the number two — representing second chances — might be vastly more significant. Take Professor, for example.

In autumn 2019, the lovely tuxedo girl was born on the mean streets, as part of an unmanaged colony living outside a Chinese restaurant in Scarborough. Though Professor’s mama and littermates were handily captured by an ACR trapper, the little black-and-white kitten proved more elusive.

It took another month before she was finally snagged, meaning Professor spent weeks alone outside without her family, fending for herself and even surviving a snowstorm. By the time Professor landed with foster Stephanie in late 2019, she was… er… spicy.

“She was all airplane ears ready for takeoff,” Stephanie laughs. “We put her in the bathroom where she hid behind the toilet. Once my roommate Joyce and I integrated her into the main apartment, she would hang out, but you couldn’t touch her. She’d swat you. We were pretty Swiss-cheesy for a couple of months.”

Professor looking wise
Professor standing up like a lemur

And yet today, Stephanie — highly experienced with some eight years fostering 20-odd cats behind her — describes Professor as “my biggest success story, in terms of how far she came from beginning to end. There were times I thought she was un-adoptable. But I learned through her there’s no such thing.”

Gradually, the fabulously named Professor blossomed, motivated especially by a fish-shaped wand toy that she would pick up and deliver to Stephanie and Joyce each night, her signal for playtime. “Joyce would play with her on the bed so Professor could do crazy Ninja jumps. That was her favourite thing in the world, and the fact that she was asking us to play with her was a huge turning point.”

A year or so after her arrival in foster, adoption beckoned. Enter Brian. Though he had been contemplating cat adoption since his last cat died in 2005, time somehow slipped away. Once again, numbers played a significant role in Professor’s success story. “I’m 66 and I thought ‘I better get a cat sooner than later since they can live 20 years.’” Brian didn’t want a kitten (“too energetic”) or a senior (“I wanted to have the cat for a number of years”) so Professor, then shy of age two, was just right.

Professor quickly adapted to her new environment, even sitting in Brian’s lap, much to Stephanie’s astonishment and delight. But, says Brian, “I gave her space when she needed it and after a while, she became comfortable with me.

“She hid for the first four days but eventually came around. She sat beside me when I was watching the news at night, and then her tail or her leg would be over top of my leg. She eventually moved into my lap. I’m a very quiet person, so maybe that helped.”

Today, it’s clear that Professor won the street cat jackpot. “She is very energetic and loves her play,” Brian says. “She is very affectionate in her own way. She’s around my legs, so close that it’s hard for me to walk sometimes. She purrs a lot, and she chats when she plays. She’s a real cutie, and very sweet.”

Professor’s smooth transition reinforces Stephanie’s firm belief that fostering to adoption is a win-win for both cat and carer. “Even though it’s hard to part with them, seeing cats go to their forever homes means I can take somebody else in. Fostering feels like the best way to maximize my impact.”

-Kim Hughes

Professor stares intently from his cat tree