Twenty-six-year-old graphic designer, pole dancer, and aerialist Mikey Labrador is the proud mama of four puspins [short for pusang Pinoy or Philippine native cat] who came into her family’s life unexpectedly. Since adopting the strays four years ago, Beans, Lima, Coffee, and Jelly have given Mikey so many reasons to smile and be thankful.
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Waldo’s Friends (WF): Tell us about the first pet you adopted.
Mikey Labrador (ML): Beans is the first pet we adopted. She came to live with us in 2015, so we’ve had her for four years now. It started one day when my sister was walking home, and this thin, white cat started following her. The cat slept in our garage and kind of became a permanent fixture. We weren’t planning on adopting her then. We just considered her to be a really friendly stray that visited our house often.
Things changed when Beans eventually got pregnant and gave birth to four beautiful kittens in our garage. My sister and I just knew we had to adopt them all. We argued back and forth with our parents about adopting the family of cats, and eventually, they caved in. We let mama Beans and her kittens, Coffee, Lima, and Jelly into our home, and they’ve been living with us as one big cat family ever since.
WF: Did you have previous experience with animals before taking in Beans and her kittens? How did this affect your decision to adopt them?
ML: Beans is the very first pet I ever adopted, but I grew up with relatives and friends who owned rescue pets, specifically dogs and cats. Growing up, I always wanted a pet because I could see how much love and companionship they offered, but I was also really intimidated by the thought of all the responsibilities it would entail.
My parents were also very disagreeable whenever the discussion of adopting a pet came around, and they would kill the conversation pretty quickly. It took several weeks to ease them into the idea of owning cats, and we had multiple discussions dedicated to ironing out the details—who handles the food, the vet, the litter, what rooms they’re allowed to be in, and where to put the feeding area. And even though my sister and I distributed the responsibilities between the two of us, it still took our parents months to adjust to a life with pets. They kind of just tolerated the cats at first. They wouldn’t even pet them. But now they spoil the cats with treats, greet them when they get home from work, let them into their room, and pet them constantly. They’ve definitely had a change of heart. They care for the cats as much as any fur parent would, and I’m really proud of them for that.
ML: Beans has a very unusual color. My mom always teases her and says she looks “dirty.” Her fur is a mix of off-white and muddy greys, but with no real discernible spots or patterns. It’s almost exotic-looking. She’s also very chirpy. She trills and chirps at me whenever I let her into my room. It’s cute and kind of comforting. Aside from her love of napping on office chairs, she’s especially attached to my closet. Sometimes, we panic and think she’s gone missing; most of the time, she’s just asleep in my underwear drawer.
Coffee is a scaredy-cat. If a door just barely squeaks open, he immediately freezes, crouches down, and looks in the direction of the noise with his huge eyes. Despite his scared and timid personality, he’s quite sweet and loves to cuddle. Sometimes we call him Kuya [which means older brother], as he was the first one to be born among the three.
WF: What about Lima and Jelly?
Lima has a lot of energy so we occasionally walk him on a leash. The problem is when he no longer wants to go back inside the house. When we’re indoors, he’ll often sit behind the closed screen doors and stare longingly at the lush grass and bushes in our garden. Lima can cause a lot of trouble because he’s unusually intelligent. If he catches you opening a door or a window, he immediately knows how to do it himself. We’ve caught him unlocking the same screen door a few times before, and I’ve seen him toggle at window latches so he can climb outside.
Jelly is the anti-social one of the bunch. She’s very cuddly and sweet when she’s alone with me, and loves to make little chirpy noises of affection. But when she’s with the other three cats, she tends to keep to herself and hisses when the others get too close. She doesn’t get too hissy with other humans, but she tends to stay away when large groups of visitors come over. She’s also the tiniest, which makes it kind of funny considering how she’s probably the most rough-and-tumble out of the four of them. There was a time when she went missing for a month. She eventually came back and had made friends with the strays living in the subdivision, who she occasionally talks to through the screen doors.
WF: What do your adopted cats enjoy doing with you?
ML: My babies are absolute cuddle monsters. I work from home and suffer from symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which can sometimes affect my productivity in a negative way. On days when I’m feeling exceptionally stressed or worn out, I’ll sometimes lie down on my bed for five to 10 minutes to get my bearings before going back to work. Whenever my cats see me lying down, they automatically follow suit and cuddle up next to me. Jelly is especially notorious for napping on my chest when I’m lying on my bed. I feel like they can sense when I’m having a really bad day and know that I need something warm to cuddle so I can feel a bit better.
WF: How has your life changed after adopting these cats?
ML: I’ve always had symptoms of GAD, but there were a couple of years when it made things really tough. I’d fallen out of love with a lot of the things I really enjoyed, and I never wanted to leave the house. Around the same time, my then-boyfriend broke up with me. I lost a lot of confidence in myself and didn’t really care for much anymore. The cats gave me a reason to keep going. I had to stick around to see them grow up, to play with them, and to provide them with food and trips to the vet. Whenever I stroked their fur, I would feel a spark of thankfulness that I was alive. They really helped me pull through. I’m handling my GAD a lot better now, and my time with the cats is spent with more smiles and hugs and kisses. I’m really grateful for that.
WF: Do you have any parenting tips for first-time cat owners?
X: ML: Protect your furniture! Some of our cats are notorious for scratching things that must not be scratched, including couches, rugs, doors, and the like. Let them get used to scratching poles or scratching pads while they’re still young. And maybe look into pet-proof fabrics for your furniture as well.
WF: What’s your advice for people thinking of adopting a pet?
ML: Seek help from other pet owners! I’m lucky to have relatives with a lot of experience in caring for healthy and well-adjusted pets, so I had a handful of people I could turn to if I needed advice or if I needed to borrow something, like a carrier or nail clippers. There’s also a growing community of animal adopters online. I’m part of a few local Facebook groups where people share their own tips when it comes to caring for strays and pets.
WF: Why would you personally encourage adopting animals?
ML: I get a sense of fulfilment knowing that I’m providing these pets with a good and loving home. I feel like my money, time, energy, and attention is going into something useful. I think I’ve also learned to be a lot more patient ever since adopting the cats. Sometimes, they’ll step all over my work or meow really loudly during inopportune times. You kind of just learn to go along with it. Providing them with a home is worth all the love they give back.
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