With Merlot missing for so long, some people think I'm crazy for continuing my search. After two weeks, most people would have given up. But not me. I won't give up until I find her.
Nobody can understand why she's important to me without knowing our story.
My name is Nakita Beck. I am Merlot's owner. Ever since I was little, there has always been a cat (or two, or four) in my life. My mom claims I purred as a baby because her cat, Smokey Joe, would sleep on her pregnant belly. I literally grew up with a stray cat named Aladdin that my parents took in when I was a baby. He lived to be 17 years old. One of the best days of my life was when my parents let me get my own kitten that I named Tigger. And one of my worst days of my life was when he died unexpectedly when I was in high school.
I always had a cat in my life, that is, until I moved to Des Moines, IA to attend college. I graduated college with 2 degrees, got a full time job in the area, and settled into adulthood. But one thing was missing, and that was a cat of my own.
Everyone around me wondered when I was going to get a cat of my own. All I ever talked about was cats, but I didn't own one. I made a million excuse: I'll get one once I graduate/get a job, I can't afford it right now, my roommate doesn't like cats, I'm waiting for the right cat, etc.
But the truth was... I didn't believe in myself. At that point in my life, I was struggling with a lot emotional turmoil. At 23 years old, I was diagnosed with depression. I started to see a therapist weekly and working on overcoming my depression and anxieties.
It was a few months into my therapy sessions, when my therapist asked me, "If you could do anything right now, what would it be?" I think she was expecting me to say something like "Travel to world. Go sky diving. Be on Broadway." But instead, without missing a beat, I said "I would get a cat."
So, we worked with that. She helped workout why adopting a cat was such a hard decision for me. One reason was that I still wasn't over the death of my first cat Tigger and blamed myself for his death, even though his death was not preventable. Secondly, I didn't believe in the idea that I could care for a living creature. Despite growing up with them, being one of the most responsible people I know, and despite absolutely obsessing over them, my depression convinced me that I couldn't have a pet because I would kill it.
My therapist helped me make a plan. Each week, I had to buy one item a cat would need. The first thing I bought was a food bowl. The next week I bought some catnip mice. Slowly, I started gathering a collection. The more I bought, the more comfortable I was with the idea of owning a cat. Before I knew it, I turned my apartment into a cat utopia; a giant cat tree, a box full of toys, a fancy self-heating cat bed, even one of those water fountain drinking bowls.
Finally, I felt capable and I set a date. For my 24th birthday, I would adopt a cat of my own. My first "adult" cat. A cat that was my sole responsibility, not my families.
The afternoon of April 21, I went to Furry Friends Refuge to find a cat. I spent hours looking and driving back and forth between their two locations. There was 2 things I was looking for: I wanted a cuddly cat, and I wanted an adult cat.
Merlot had other plans though.
She had only available at the shelter for only a few days. She was brought in as a stray, estimated to be 5-6 months old. Nobody claimed her from stray hold, so she was vaccinated, fixed, microchipped, and placed her in one of their communal rooms.
The first time I walked into that room, I didn't even really acknowledged her. She was sleeping in a hard to reach place and was clearly younger than what I wanted. I came back to the room a few hours later to look at another cat that caught my eye. But that cat started to show signs of aggression and I decided that wasn't the best for me.
That's when Merlot appeared. She walked up to me and gave me a little nose bump, and demanded to be petted.
I sat in the floor of that room with her, agonizing over whether or not I really wanted a cat that young. I don't remember what made up my mind, but before I knew it, I in the shelter's office filling out paperwork.
I remember sitting in my car, Merlot in the backseat in her carrier, and I started crying because I was so overwhelmed. What if I made the wrong decision? Was I really ready to care for a cat?
Merlot had no trouble showing me I was.
She got sick a week after I adopted her. I stayed up all night with her when she threw up and feed her boiled chicken when she didn't have an appetite. I was on the phone with the vet the moment they opened and rushed her in. Turned out, she just had a bad ear infection. A few days of ear drops, and she was all better. And I was able to prove to myself that I knew what I was doing.
WHY I LOVE HER
Merlot is a unique cat. I knew this the moment I took her home. She didn't cry in her carrier. She made herself comfortable and enjoyed the ride. Instead of hiding when we got to the apartment, she went exploring and wanted to play. At the vet, she still didn't cry and she just wanted to explore.
She wasn't the cat I originally wanted, but I think she was the cat I needed in my life. She kept me active because she always wanted to play. She made me social because I had a beautiful cat I wanted to show people. She made me comfortable with myself and my depression by providing me comfort when I needed it.
We got into a nice routine. When I started to wake up in the morning, she would come running to my bed and give me little kiss on my nose. If I didn't get out of bed fast enough, she would bite my hands or thighs, which would definitely get me up quickly. She would chase me to her food bowl, take a few bites, then chase me into the bathroom. She sit by the shower waiting for me to get out or lay down in the sink and watch me get ready. We would play with her favorite wand toy before I went to work. She would follow me to the door, which always made it hard to leave. And when I got home, she was waiting for me. I would sit down on the floor and she would run over to give me nudges and kisses. It would melt away the stress of the day away. She knew when it was time for bed. She would jump up into her cat bed at the end of my bed and go to sleep, occasionally sneaking over to my side during the night for cuddles.
I hate myself for what happened. I should have known better, should have not taken her outside, I should have looked for a more secure location, I should have researched the her harness more, I should have double checked it fit right. But I didn't. And the image of her vanishing into the woods haunts me every time I close my eyes.
I tried to catch her so hard, but I tripped and lost her. I ran through the woods, crying and calling for her. I called into the work from the wood, while sobbing. I was hyperventilating by the time I called my roommate. I spent over three hours combing through those woods. I looked for her until I was ready to collapse. Then I went home, covered in dirt, sweat, bug bites, and burs, and made missing posters. Then went right back out and started to hang them up. I couldn't talk to my neighbors without tearing up.
Every morning, I wake up and walk the neighborhood, or I drive to a new sighting location and hang up posters until I have to go to work. Every night, I sit outside with tuna for a few hours and just wait for her to appear. I spent multiple hours a day checking on all the lost and found pages on Facebook and Craigslist. I'm constantly trying to research a new way to find her, no matter how far fetched. I'm depleted my bank account looking for her. And I'm not going to stop until I find her.
Merlot means the world to me. And I will find her.