Many of you know Harvey and Harlequinn, my two cats, but I have so much more.
Welcome to the Leaf & Paw Zoo Afterschool Special. Since writing my About Me I’ve adopted a few more animals who have joined the family. Let’s start go back to 2011 and start from there.
This chubby little black cat came to my parent’s house near Halloween in 2011, screaming and scratching at their front door. Obviously abandoned and lost, she stared at them through the window for a few hours, meowing at an unbearable pitch. After taking her back to my apartment she immediately passed out on the couch. She vowed never to go back outside again. We looked down at this little void and decided to keep her. We however had no idea she was loaded with fleas until days later. Bathing an adult cat is something I never want to do again but she eventually recovered and adjusted to her new family perfectly. Harlequinn did give us both a fright after eating a certain plant and is actually my inspiration for this blog. Like most cats, Harlequinn likes eating stringy plants and palm trees, meowing loudly at 4am, my husband better than me for some reason, and catnip. Harlequinn has been by our side through three moves, 12 years of marriage and countless animal additions to our home. She’s the best.
Harvey was adopted in 2013 at the SPCA. Named “Cuddles” at the shelter, she was recommended by staff since I wanted a companion for Harlequinn. This little skunk fell into my lap and purred like a small motor and I knew she needed to come home with me. Harvey might have the most raccoon tendencies ever. She has dug out and eaten many bones of a rotisserie chicken out the the garbage, carried an open bag of flour all through the house, and will demolish a whole loaf of bread if left on the counter. In cuter news, she loves when I pick up my camera and is more accommodating than Harlequinn, which is why she appears in more photos. Almost always, Harvey enjoys her picture taken, anything filled with catnip, hugging/terrorizing her sister, intense kneading sessions, and turkey. Harvey has become “my cat” over the years and I literally don’t know what I will do without her. Someone work on making her immortal please and thank you.
Meet The Three Pigs.
In early 2020, pre-pandemic, I was looking on Craigslist for a hedgehog after my late Simon passed away in 2019. I came across a new listing that read, no joke, “guinea pigs free need gone asap”. I’m not sure what came over me, and there wasn’t even a picture, but I immediately replied that I was interested and could pick them up today. We arranged to meet and I was met by a man who got out of his car, handed them to me, said “here, thanks” and left so fast I was in disbelief. Looking at the dilapidated hamster-size cage in my hand, all three pigs shared one house and had no hay. I also had no idea how old they were. Instagram helped me name them Bert (the little black one), Ernie (the large brown one), and Bernie (the little white one). I hadn’t had guinea pigs since I was a kid so it was a learning curve in the beginning. My God, do I love them. Their cage got upgraded the next day with new houses and enjoy fresh veggies and pets every day. They all have their own personalities and honestly make me smile everyday. Ernie passed away in 2022 from cancer, but Bert and Bernie are best friends. Bert loves to sit on my shoulder like a parrot and Bernie prefers to sit on my lap with all feet in like a small bread loaf.
Fast forward to March 2021, and my local SPCA (I just joined the board then) had a cruelty case where a neglected baby guinea pig was discovered. Most likely abused and housed incorrectly, the SPCA didn’t have space for a little pig and asked if I could foster. I, of course, said yes. That little pig was Charlie and what was supposed to be a two week foster became much longer. I picked her up from the shelter and she was TINY, shaking and incredibly nervous. She must have been a few months old at most. Once home I wrapped her in a blanket burrito and I swear she let out a huge sigh and fell asleep, making tiny chirps. After a few days she started to trust me and started doing happy zoomies around her cage with joy when she was delivered lettuce. I don’t know if I imprinted on her, but I became her person and she would just melt in my arms. Naturally, I grew attached, and officially adopted her a couple weeks later. She has one weird quirk that I will never understand, she loves me so much but will nip, like a tiny bite, if she doesn’t see my hand right away before I pet her. I’m assuming it’s some trauma from the abuse in her old home but she’s never been able to shake it. She also will lick my entire arm if I let her. Charlie is 100% my little shadow and is now a bit bigger but just as mushy and ridiculous.
At this point you’re probably like Anastasia, you should probably stop here. Sure, that’s what I planned. However, in September 2022, I went on Facebook. I don’t go on Facebook much, mind you, but I like to check the groups I’m a member of who foster animals in dire situations. I saw a post from a woman who had an elderly guinea pig, age six, she was looking to rehome. It would basically be hospice care since pigs tend to live six years on average. The pig had lost her cagemate, was living alone and her family didn’t have time for her, hence the rehome. I wanted nothing than to offer this little lady a quiet home to live out her days. A few weeks later I was delivered a small, long-haired mop that was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. I welcomed “Eloise” (it was that or Ruth) and she is the most adorable snuggle bug ever. It’s been a year already and, aside from a possibly cancerous lump under her arm, she is doing great. She didn’t not join cages with Charlie but instead became friends with….
At this point the pigs were just finding me. That same week my friend Brett, who is a fantastic artist, texted me a Craigslist ad similar to my three pigs. Instead, these pigs were mixed sexes and all used for a poorly constructed breeding business – eight in a cage of a much too small size. He saw the ad a bit too late and only a few were left including one large gray one who was “unpettable.” I agreed to take the skittish one, hoping I could help her anxiety. The next day I picked up what I looked like a squirrel. This chubby, gray, nameless pig stared at me terrified, cornered in her box, stressed out. She wasn’t the healthiest, and had some ringworm and a slight respiratory infection, mostly likely from her living conditions. After a one-month quarantine, “Agnes” joined Eloise and they have been best friends ever since. Agnes’ demeanor had completely changed after a month and then even more once she was with Eloise. She is my calmest pig and also the loudest pig – wheeks reign supreme when it’s veggie time. I also thought she may have been pregnant when I got her because of her size, but she’s just fat.
For those who have been following me for a while, you may know me as the hedgehog lady. Henrietta, my dearest love, and Simon, my little man, had both passed away and I wasn’t actively looking for a hedgehog. Again, it must have been something in air in October of 2022, because I found myself once again on Craigslist looking for C&C cages and I saw a listing. Someone bought a hedgehog and didn’t have time for her, never named her, and wanted to get some money back and sell her. Now, I always adopt and most of the time I get animals free, but I agreed to pay $100 for this hedgehog who had no photo. The seller was worried about weirdos buying her but didn’t want to give her away for less than $250. I mentioned I had experience with hedgehogs and we agreed on $100. That evening I picked up a nameless (why don’t people name their pets) hedgehog in a box with pencil holes in it. I knew her name had to be Penelope, I mean look at her, and she greeted me with sniffs and licks. Penelope is an odd little creature. Henrietta and Simon were very social but Penelope fully lives rent-free in my home. She is very cute yes, but isn’t super into being held or pet. Her preference is to greet me at a distance but thanks me for her breakfast and dinner every day. Like all hedgehogs, she’s hilarious when she does anything, but I’ve never had an animal not be attached to me and I’m ok with it. She is safe and seems happy and content even though she’s never told me.
Meet Helvetica “Krusty” the Kitten.
Let me preface by saying, no, I didn’t want another cat. I had been kitten fostering pretty much nonstop since the start of 2023 and was successful in not keeping any of them. I’m very proud of myself. After my last foster left I went to the shelter to look at some kittens who just came in. I walk in the door and hear a single black kitten screaming at the top of her lungs in one of the quarantine cages. Not like “mow” but like MEEYOWWA over and over again. Firmly I said, “wow she’s loud I can’t deal with that right now, I need a quiet cat after the last litter.” Apparently she was found a few days prior, alone, in a park. I couldn’t stop thinking about her when I got home and was wondering why she was so upset. Yes, you guessed it, the next day I came home with a tiny, screaming fluffball.
This kitten was a bit of a mess. A double eye infection, upper respiratory infection, flea dirt, she had it all. For over a month I nursed her back to health and we named her “Krusty,” because she was gross. After about a month I noticed my husband coming in to see her more. Now, let me say that my animal zoo, with the exception of Harvey and Harlequinn, are my zoo. He isn’t as into small animals and when I was fostering kittens he loved to come see them but it wasn’t as often as he was visiting Krusty. I fully blame him for what came next.
Several months went by, she was ready to get adopted and we had the talk. My husband definitely had a love for this loud, insanely energetic, weird kitten while I was prepared to send her off to a new adopter. We adopted Krusty officially on my husband’s birthday in September. And now we have a third cat. Krusty has no sense of personal space, a poor sense of balance and still is the loudest cat I’ve ever met. She loves my husband’s beard for reasons we’ll never know and loves water more than any cat should. Harvey and Harlequinn, both being elderly at this point, aren’t super into this addition but they definitely find her entertaining. Welcome, Krusty.
Henrietta, Simon, and Bob
I mention Henrietta (photo 1), who I adopted in 2015 from a Craigslist ad and Simon, who was a Facebook adoption, in 2016. Henrietta was my first “small pet” as an adult and my best friend. She came down with cancer in 2017, eventually passing away and you can read her story on this post. Simon (photo 2), who was adopted at three years old, which is elderly for a hedgehog, lived a long happy life until 2019. I also adopted a Beta fish in 2019 (photo 3), named Bob from Marketing, who introduced me to the world of fish-keeping. Bob was a lovely officemate until he passed away in 2021.
How Many More?
Hopefully no more additions for a while. I will say that a bunny is probably next, a friend of mine has two rabbits and I just love them. Maybe an iguana? I’m not a reptile person but feel like I could be when I grow up.
Also, I know I’m just a “plant blog” but I really do love animals more than plants, and writing everyone’s origin stories out really reminded me. There’s just something about adopting an unwanted animal that brings such joy. Fostering is something I started this year and I will never look back – it’s not only rewarding but I love meeting new fluffs. If you’re unable to have a “zoo” but want to house an animal for a short time, fostering is an amazing option. I wrote this post on how you can help animals from home during quarantine, but it still stands strong.
I never thought I would end up being the guinea pig lady or taking in so many animals but it is a joy. Thanks to everyone for reading and learning about this zoo. Everyone says hi, and Penelope thanks you from a distance.