The catnip was exhilarating—all-consuming, euphoric, if you will. Mesmerized by that jingle-jangling red and yellow ball, I batted the plaything across the floor, against the walls, and onto my sleeping suitemate, Max.
Max had been here longer than I had. A lot longer. He was an older Persian mix, a white ball of fluff with only a black blotch on his nose to prove he wasn’t just an overly large cotton ball. He flicked his tail and opened his mostly closed sleepy eyes for just a moment as my catnip ball hit him on its way across the cold cage floor.
Our shelter worker—adoption extraordinaire and secret treat sneaker—looked at me and smiled as she heard the ball rattle through the cage. She had been the one who took me in when my first family moved away and left me behind. She had made this my home away from home.
Then the man with the smile showed up.
The purrs and cries from the dozens of other kittens in the pink-walled cat room signaled it was time to put my furry game face on. The man walked into our room with a laughing child attached to each hand. The children ran their hands across our cages, stacked four high, as the smiling man whistled, eyes glancing over us all.
I dropped the ball, leaving it jingling as it stopped its roll across the cage floor. As Max slept toward the back of our cage, I rubbed my side across the metal bars, arched my back, and flicked my orange tail outside.
The children both pointed at the bright tail hanging outside the cold metal. The man with the smile walked over, children skipping in tow. I rubbed my nose against the bars as he put his hand into my cage, my body vibrating as I purred, hoping to find another home.
After talking with the shelter worker, the man with the smile helped me out of my cage and put me in his lap, and the children stroked my back. I could feel the envy from the dozens of other cats in the room. Max continued sleeping. This was old news for the old Persian.
The man with the smile couldn’t stop the laughing children from loving me. I was forever loved now; I could escape the cold metal bars and stacked cages. I was taken home. I was family.
But Max, for all I know, is still there, waiting to be loved, waiting to be a part of a family. Give Max a chance like the man with the smile did for me. Give cats like Max a forever home.
This article originally appears on PETA.org.
Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.