Living in Sydney, Australia, Jenna Mercer is a 31-year-old lawyer who is also a cat mom to Jasper, a super shy former street cat. In this delightful interview with Waldo’s Friends, Jenna opens up about the first cat that adopted her and Jasper’s foster fail story.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): Hi Jenna! Tell us about the first pet you ever had.
Jenna Mercer (JM): Jasper is my second cat, but he was my first adoption. My first cat was named Gumnut who adopted me. She was my neighbour’s cat, but wandered over to my home shortly after they bought the house down the road. Gumnut was just a kitten and I was four years old, stuck at home with the chicken pox. She came inside with me after I was playing in the yard and got into bed with me. My mum found her and this caused us to introduce ourselves to the new neighbours. Gumnut ended up moving into our house. This was the start of a lifelong friendship with our neighbours and 18 years of friendship between Gumnut and I.
WF: Before Jasper, did you have any experience with pet rescue? How did this affect your decision to adopt him?
JM: I didn’t have any pet rescue experience, but I have been a supporter of animal rescue my whole life. I am a big lover of animals and my fiancé often plans our holidays around animals. Once, he even arranged for us to spend a day in a cat village in Taiwan where they care for lots of strays.
WF: How did you come to adopt Jasper?
JM: I signed up as a foster carer with CATS, a small rescue organisation in my area. At the time, a rescuer named Emmeline had gone out trying to rescue a kitten. However, the trap caught both the kitten and Jasper, who was about nine months old back then. She shared on the Facebook foster page that she needed someone to foster Jasper. I didn’t have any experience with kittens and was looking for a slightly older cat, so offered to foster Jasper.
She dropped him off a week later after his vet checks. Jasper was so scared that he wouldn’t move in his carrier at all. She moved a large crate into my apartment (which we called the kitty hotel) and put him inside covered with a big sheet so he would feel safe. For two days, he wouldn’t eat or drink much and had his tail tightly against his side. He didn’t make a sound except for the occasional hiss, which was also quite timid. The rescuer gave my partner (who is not a cat person and grew up with Labs) one great piece of advice: don’t show any fear.
After that, we talked to him a lot and told him not to be afraid. He eventually started eating and drinking his milk. A few days later, he let me pat him. After about 10 days, he let me pick him up and he sat on my lap for over an hour. We gradually introduced him to the house, leaving the door of the crate open. He would come out, but then he would go straight back in! Eventually, we put him in the bathroom overnight and took the crate away. He cried in the bathroom, so after about the third night, we put him in our bed. He stayed there all night, and has been sleeping on the bed with us ever since.
Jasper took a while to adjust to being in a house and off the street. We just showed him kindness and patience, and he eventually came out of his shell. He never bit or scratched. He was just so scared so we gave him lots of space and made sure he had hidey holes. After four months of fostering Jasper, we decided to adopt him. He still spends a lot of time under the bed where he feels safe, but he has grown into a playful, loving cat who will jump up on me and curl up at my feet.
WF: What makes Jasper unique?
JM: Jasper’s best trick is knowing when it is bedtime. I don’t even have an opportunity to fully pull up the covers, and he’ll be on the bed ready to snuggle. He sleeps the whole night through and stays very still, snuggled into my feet purring like a motorboat.
Jasper has an unusual obsession with pig toys. We got him a few toys to play with, but he didn’t like them much until we got him a pink pig teaser toy. It is attached to an elastic string which I pull along the floor. He pounces on it and will chase it for as long as I have the energy. Then, I won a plush pig ball toy at a CATS fundraiser, which became his favourite. He even went through a phase of carrying it around in his mouth and bringing it to bed!
WF: What are the things Jasper enjoys doing with you?
JM: Jasper is still getting used to people, so he mostly enjoys sitting with me on the couch. He now rubs up against my legs at dinnertime. Recently, we also got him a cat explorer bag. He has ventured out a couple of times for short walks around the neighbourhood in the safety of his backpack.
WF: What’s the best pet parenting tip you can give for first-time cat owners?
JM: First, get to know your cat’s personality. Once you know what motivates him, you can understand what makes him happy or anxious, and you can respond accordingly. With a little time and care, you’ll eventually have a little lovebug.
WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a rescue animal?
JM: You may think you are just providing food and shelter, but you are providing a new chance at life and an opportunity for the animal to feel love.
WF: How has your life changed after adopting a cat?
JM: Having a cat makes your life infinitely better. I now have many more reasons to laugh and smile each day. Even my partner who is a dog person has fallen in love with Jasper!
Follow the adventures of Jenna and Jasper on Instagram.
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