Elizabeth Ford is a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom/wife from Atlanta, Georgia. A person who enjoys learning new things, she keeps herself busy by reading, making crafts, and taking lots of pictures of her domestic short-haired cats: Hazel, Friedrich, and Gretl. Elizabeth speaks with Waldo’s Friends and shares how her family welcomed these three black cats into their home.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): Do you remember your first pet adoption experience?
Elizabeth Ford (EF): Our first cat adoption was more of an acquiring, I suppose. His name was Scotty and he was a sweet tabby cat. In June 2015, my friend found him in her backyard, and he was so sweet and friendly. She asked around but no one was missing their cat, so she decided to keep him. Her cat didn’t like him at all, so she asked on Facebook if anyone would like him. I convinced my husband that we needed a cat and we ended up bringing him home. Sadly, he didn’t live very long. Only about six months or so before he died, but we enjoyed every minute with him.
WF: How did you come to adopt Hazel, Friedrich, and Gretl?
EF: It all started with a patch of sunlight in my living room that appeared in the fall. I had thought for years how nice it would be to have a cat sleeping in that sun patch. Scotty did just that when we brought him home, but after he died, we decided we never wanted to be without a cat.
A few weeks after Scott’s passing (and a few days before Christmas at that!), I woke up to find my husband placing a small, stinky, purring kitten on my chest. He and the kids were leaving for a week and thought I shouldn’t be alone, so he rescued her and surprised me with her. She was set to be euthanized and was actually a day or so past the date they had set, but my husband inquired about her and found that she was still alive and available.
After about a year with Hazel, we decided she needed a friend. My husband didn’t really want another cat, but thought if it were a grey or Russian Blue cat maybe we could adopt another. I decided to go to our local PetSmart on cat adoption Sunday and see what I could find. I didn’t see any grey cats, but I was looking at a little black kitten and the lady asked if I wanted to hold him. I said yes, and when she handed him to me, he purred and snuggled his head into my chest. I was smitten but didn’t think I should be impulsive and bring the kitten home without discussing it with my husband, so I got his name, picture, and information and left without him.
I told my husband about him and he loved the idea of a snuggly kitten (Hazel only snuggled with me at this point). I decided that if it was meant to be, he would be there the following week. We went back, and he was there! I look over to show my husband, and I found him holding a different black kitten. He brought her over to me and said, “Can we get this one?” She was gorgeous and super soft.
They said she was set to be euthanized, but I already had my heart set on adopting the male kitten and the price of adopting two was more than we could afford. The smart adoption lady saw our dilemma and said they could reduce the price. Basically, they ended up giving us one of them, and since black cats are so hard to adopt out here in Georgia (silly superstitious people), they were happy to adopt out two black cats. That’s how we walked in to get a friend for Hazel and ended up with two: Friedrich and Gretl.
WF: Were there any challenges that came with adopting these cats?
EF: I guess the only problem we had was Hazel adjusting to two little ones. It wasn’t bad though and was to be expected. Friedrich and Gretl were not from the same litter. Friedrich was in a foster home, and Gretl stayed at the shelter. However, they bonded right away.
The first few hours home, Hazel chased them and hissed a lot, so I decided to keep them separated from her. I wanted to introduce them slowly by cracking the bedroom door open and letting them sniff each other, then switching rooms so Hazel could stay in the room they had spent a few days in, and they could explore the rest of the house without being hissed and chased.
After a week of that, I put up a big flattened cardboard box (about four feet high) as a room barrier, so they could hear and smell each other without the door in the way. Well, Gretl was having none of that and decided to jump up on top of the box (quite impressive for someone so tiny!), balanced on the thin edge for a few seconds, and jumped on the other side where she proceeded to arch her little back up and hiss at poor Hazel. I broke out some catnip to chill everyone out and played with them all. They seemed to get along with Hazel fine after that.
WF: What makes your rescue cats unique? We saw some posts featuring Gretel’s shocked face and it’s hilarious.
EF: Ha! Gretl IS hilarious. I know she can’t actually make faces, but I swear, sometimes she rolls her eyes at me! She tricked us into adopting her by being so cuddly at the adoption event. In reality, she doesn’t like to be picked up or touched very much. She will jump away from us like a grasshopper if we reach for her with two hands. But my daughter refuses to leave her alone “because she’s so soft” and snuggles her whenever she gets the chance. Gretl is getting used to my daughter, but still only wants me to touch her on her terms.
Hazel would play fetch as a kitten. I discovered this a few days after she was adopted. She brought me a mouse toy on the couch where I was sitting, and for some reason, I threw it off. She ran to it and brought it back to me. I thought it must be a fluke, but when I threw it again, she went after it and brought it back. She still brings me a mouse toy every night, but more often than not, just looks at me with annoyance if I dare throw it. Friedrich would play fetch when he was younger, but not as much as Hazel did.
WF: To the clueless cat admirer, your three cats look so alike. How can you tell which cat is which?
EF: I actually get asked this question quite a lot, pretty much every time I post a picture of the three of them together. I usually keep it short on Instagram, but I’m happy to share more details with you.
Hazel is thin with tall legs, and her walk is very fluid and graceful. She has soft fur with a couple of white hairs beginning to show and her eyes are yellowish green. She rarely meows, but when she does, it is more of a demand. “Maaah! Put me down, hurry up and feed me!” She can usually be found doing a sort of partial loaf on any and everything. She has a very sweet disposition and loves to cuddle on my left shoulder.
Friedrich is our big boy. Not as big as a lot of cats I know, but definitely bigger than the girls. He has a sort of scruffiness to his fur, almost like a slight wave to it, and his skin is strangely loose like he is wearing the fur of someone else. His happy little tail is always straight up in the air, but if it’s not, all you have to do is talk and it sticks up like a flagpole. His eyes are droopy, heavy lidded, and are yellowish green like Hazel’s. He makes a thump thump thump when he runs and his chunky belly sways back and forth. His meow is pretty obnoxious to me, but my daughter finds it adorable. He is very talkative and always wants to be fed or drink from the sink. He is also very sweet and will come running to my daughter’s lap when she pats it and tells him to come snuggle.
Gretl is our pretty kitty. Her fur is dense, dark black, and sleek like velvet. She reminds me of a seal. She has big, round golden yellow eyes and has long, tickly whiskers. On the rare occasion I pick her up, she is much heavier than she looks and has a sort of compact body with a long tail. She is very fastidious and will even give Friedrich a cleaning if he asks for one. She’s tried once or twice to clean Hazel, but that didn’t end well. She can be sweet, but definitely doesn’t like to be picked up and held. She has snuggled with me a couple of times, but I keep still and never touch her so she will stay longer. It is rare though and I feel honored whenever she bestows that privilege to me. She is a really good jumper, so I have several pictures of her peering down on us from up high. Gretl’s meow is high pitched, drawn out, and just adorable.
I’ll admit, I sometimes get them confused at a distance or if they are curled up with their heads hidden, but not that often.
WF: How did you come up with their beautiful names?
EF: I just love hearing pets named with interesting people names instead of the typical names like Midnight or Smoky. I think it’s hilarious when you meet a cat named Winston, for instance, so I decided to give mine old-fashioned or unique human names.
Once, I met a friend’s niece who had a baby named Hazel. I thought it was such a neat, vintage-sounding name, and if I were to have another child, I would have named her Hazel. However, I knew I was not going to have any more children and so I thought I’d name my cat after her. It fits her well.
For Friedrich, my husband wanted a cat named Fred (he had a childhood cat with the same name), but I had a deceased uncle named Fred so it seemed wrong to name my cat as such. We compromised and decided on Friedrich after Friedrich von Trapp from The Sound of Music, a favorite movie of mine.
Gretl is also named after a von Trapp child. Now that she is older and her personality is more apparent, I probably should have named her Baroness Schraeder!
WF: What’s it like having three indoor cats in a household with teens and birds?
EF: Three cats in a household with teens and birds is not as bad as you’d think. Everyone gets along really well. The teens have never given me any grief and they love the cats as much as I do. The cats get along with the birds, but once in a while, we’d hear a commotion and find Gretl or Hazel hanging from the side of the cage. Not to worry though because their cage is very secure and sturdy. Of the three, I’d say the birds are the most obnoxious, but only because they are very loud and seemingly never stop squawking. They are silly and fun to watch, and I can’t blame the cats for wanting to get a closer look.
WF: Any funny stories you can share about your three cats?
EF: I feel like I spend half the day trying to figure out what Gretl wants from me. She starts meowing at me as soon as she hears me open my bedroom door. Do you want a splash of cream? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? What more can I do for you, your majesty? When I make dinner, she is always there in case I have a bit of meat for her. Which, of course, I give her because she is so STINKIN’ adorable with those big eyes and little squeaky meow.
Starting around 4 pm, they all gather around me wherever I am. The closer it gets to dinnertime, the closer they get to me or stare as hard as they can at me until I acknowledge them. Hazel will sometimes become extra sweet and purr and rub on me, while Gretl will walk up to me, give me one rub on the ankle, and walk away to stare. If that doesn’t work, she tries again, maybe rubbing me twice then stares me down with all her might. When I finally get up to feed them it’s always fun to see the parade of kitties behind me.
I used to feed them raw food but had to stop when it became too much work and overwhelming to prepare raw food for three cats. I stopped about two years ago, but whenever I put on gloves or cut something on the cutting board, Gretl runs to me and meows, begging for food. She remembers that sound from when I cut up their chicken. I have to show her when it isn’t meat so she will leave me alone. Hazel also remembers that time. Whenever I opened the silverware drawer to get a spoon out to dish up their food, she used to stretch up and try to knock it out of my hand. I don’t know why she decided she should, but she still occasionally does that. Such a nut.
Friedrich can’t be bothered with much exertion. If something is happening in the kitchen and he wants to know what’s going on but just got up from a nap, he will plop onto his side and just stare me down. His stare is very intense and almost intimidating, but I know he’s just a big teddy bear.
WF: What are the things the three cats enjoy doing with you and with each other?
EF: They like playing with a laser pointer! All they have to do is hear me touch it and they come running. Friedrich, especially, loves the laser pointer.
The girls seem to like to torment poor Friedrich. I know they are just playing, but I don’t think that he enjoys it as much as they do. They will chase him around the house and because he is slower than they are, they practically run on top of him. Hazel will try to bite his ankles to make him run faster. It is funny for us, but I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate it.
They like to bird-watch too! I have a bird feeder on a tree in front of the house and they seem to be entertained by it. The side porch has a hummingbird feeder and a small fountain. Little chickadees like to bathe in the fountain and sometimes peck at their reflection, and lizards seem to visit as well. There is a reflective coating on those French doors so the birds and such can’t see the cats, but they can see the birds. They seem to really enjoy that. Gretl will sometimes jump to try and catch them, and that is quite entertaining for us.
WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for owners taking in multiple cats for the first time?
EF: Do some research first. Perhaps even foster some cats first to see how you would like having multiples in your house. The internet is full of great advice from vets and experts. I loved watching the show My Cat From Hell, so before adopting our cats, I had a lot of knowledge of how to treat cats stored up in my mind and was able to put them to use.
If you are bringing them into a home with another cat, give them time to get used to each other by separating them for a week or two and gradually introducing them through a crack in the door or a tall doggie/baby gate. Let them switch spaces so they can get used to each other’s smells, and when the time comes to integrate them, it will be less stressful on everyone.
WF: How has your life changed after adopting your cats? And why would you personally encourage people to adopt animals?
EF: I was never an animal person. I didn’t dislike them; I just couldn’t be bothered. I never understood why someone would cry over a pet that had died… until ours did. I understand now how they can become a beloved part of your family and how much joy they bring.
There are so many animals out there in need of a loving home. You may just find one that rescues you as well.
Follow Hazel, Friedrich, and Gretl’s adventures on Instagram.
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