On a warm July evening almost 11 years ago, I had just left a cheap steak joint in Birmingham after a meal. I was about to get into my car when I heard a small sound. I was in a hurry, so I almost didn’t check it out. Eleven years later, I’m glad I did.
The sound I’d heard was a very small and very weak “meow.” There was a scared and hungry kitten underneath the car parked next to me. I got down on the ground to look. Very tentatively, two scared and hesitant eyes looked back at me from just around the edge of a tire. There was no way the kitten behind those terrified eyes was going to intentionally let me get anywhere close to her.
It took a few minutes of trial and error before I even got a look at the body of this filthy kitten. I could tell she had oil or grease on her face, but I judged her body — in the semi-darkness — to be gray and black. She wouldn’t let me get anywhere near her.
As I kept trying to coax her out, the people who owned the car came out of the restaurant to leave. Although they were mildly interested that there was a kitten under their car, all they wanted to do was leave. As they got into the car, the kitten scrambled up into the engine compartment, but I couldn’t tell where. I pointed down under the car, trying to get the attention of the man to, who was driving. He briefly looked at me and then looked away, as though he decided it was easier if he just didn’t notice.
As he started to move the car, the kitten came darting out, so I knew she was safe, even if I wasn’t sure where she ran. The other people drove off and I was left alone in a dark parking lot.
At that point, the smart thing probably would have been to move on. I’d tried to get to the kitten, but she obviously wasn’t going to let me. And now I didn’t even know where she was. I was torn. But then I heard her tiny “meow” once again.
It turned out that she had run under another car not far away from me. She knew I was still there — and she was watching me with wary eyes as she barely peeked out from underneath her new hiding place.
Since I’d just left a restaurant, I decided that food scraps might be my best chance to catch her. Even if I couldn’t catch her, I could at least give her a bit of food. So I went back inside the restaurant and found the woman who had been my server earlier. She was kind enough to let me take some meat scraps from a table that hadn’t yet been cleaned. I headed back outside with my bait.
With the first few bites, I just let the kitten eat. It was clear that she was very hungry, because it seemed more accurate to say that she inhaled the food than chewed it. As she ate the bites, she kept her eyes on me at first, but as I gave her more, she started to let her guard down. It was then that I was able to grab her by the scruff of her greasy and dirty body.
After I got her into the car, I let her loose to hide, because I didn’t have a pet carrier with me. She was strangely quiet and still on the way to my house. She willingly allowed me to pick her up to ride in my arms into the house. Other than trips to the vet, she’s never left since.
The upper picture on the right is from that first night, but that picture is from after she was cleaned up. It didn’t occur to me to take any pictures until after I had bathed her twice and she had eaten as much as she could stand. It took days to get everything off, but that dirty little kitten quickly adjusted to a life in a house with plenty of other cats and dogs. She’s turned out to be one of the most affectionate cats I’ve been around. Now that Henry is gone, she’s the biggest lap time cat I have.
The lower picture of the two smaller ones (above on the right) is from about six weeks ago, the day tornadoes hit parts of Alabama. It’s the best comparison I could find to the way she was sitting in the earlier shot.
The name wasn’t that difficult in her case. Since the kitten was so far away from any residential areas when I found her, I decided she must be an explorer kitty of some sort who had wandered away in search of something new, so I named her for aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. My only rule for her is that if she ever flies, she can’t fly over the Pacific Ocean.