Many amazing animals make their temporary homes at animal shelters. This is the story of Lewis, a cat who came to a shelter after a thrilling adventure on the high seas.
You can be part of the next adventure of an animal in need of a home by becoming their adoptive family.
Tales from the Shelter is a recurring series that is intended for children of all ages.
Tales from the Shelter # 1: Lewis The Pirate Cat
By the next morning, the storm had abated. Wreckage from the Dick Whittington floated around them, and Lewis was able to jump from board to board, retrieving some food, and luckily, a small cask of fresh water. He and the kittens were bedraggled from the storm, but Lewis was strict in not allowing the kittens to wash themselves with their tongues. As the sea water dried away, they had all been left covered in white salt crystals. It was sticky and uncomfortable, but Lewis knew that if the kittens started licking at the salt, they would soon become dehydrated and grow ill. And he was careful to ration what food and drink he’d found packed into the compartments of the life boat, even on that first day, because the grim reality was that he did not know how long it would be before they sighted a ship that could rescue them. Of course, it was possible that they never would.
Little Snow took it the best. She remained cheerful, somehow, remarking on the good fortune that could be found even in the direst of situations. They were alive. She and her brothers had lost their grandfather, which was a terrible sadness, but they were not alone, as they had been when they’d been swept from the ship in the storm. They had some food and water, and Lewis was strong enough to row the boat, if they sighted a ship or island on the horizon. Lewis tried to take her hopeful thoughts inside of him, but truthfully, he was scared.
The first night passed quietly. It was beautiful to lie in the boat and look up at the stars. Blackie spoke up with the thought that surely cats on land were looking up at the same sky and seeing the same stars. How far away could they really be if they were all under the same sky?
The second day was hot. Lewis tried to use some wooden pieces of wreckage to build a little roof over part of the boat, so that the kittens could take refuge in the shade. He was impressed by how little they complained.
A couple of curious fish neared the little craft and Lewis was able to catch one of them with a swift claw. He served the fish for dinner along with half a cup of kibble from their food stores. It was all they ate the whole day. Fortunately, that night the kittens were able to get some sleep despite their discomfort. Lewis was again awake almost the whole night, searching constantly across the dark open sea for the faintest glimmer from a ship’s lights.
He found his thoughts ranging widely out over the empty expanse of the sea at night. He recalled the faces of his mates from the ship–Peanut, Oreo, and Whiskers. Good kitties all, and now gone from his sight forever. They’d served together a year, since Lewis had signed onto the Whittington in the port of New York. And now those living, breathing cats were merely memories.
By the third day, Grey, the tiniest of the kittens, had developed a bit of a cough. Lewis gave him an extra ration of fresh water and that seemed to help. Snow had the idea that they might gently comb each other’s fur with their claws and untangle some of the salt-encrusted clumps. Lewis spent quite a pleasant hour lying in the boat, feeling the tickle of three little sets of claws as they cleaned. And though the four cats certainly did not look their best after they were done, at least their fur did not pull quite so harshly against their skin.
Lewis spent the rest of the day watching for a ship. In the evening, darkness stole down from the top of the sky until it finally met the shadowed sea below it, and then the whole world was nothing but a black sphere around them. The kittens curled up together, having eaten for dinner only half a dried mouse each, certainly not enough food to satisfy their hunger. Lewis looked out at the empty sea and felt a despair that was bigger than his whole body.
And then he heard it. It was faint, not enough noise to wake the kittens. Lewis got to his feet and traced the length of the lifeboat, searching for the source of the sound. It came again. Voices. And then there was a light, the light of a ship. Overwhelming relief stilled Lewis’s own voice in his throat, but he pawed at the kittens and they awoke. “A ship!” cried Blackie. And then Lewis was able to join him in crying out. “Hello! Help us! Please! We are shipwrecked!”
The ship was coming closer, and he could begin to make out details of its rigging and sails. It was a large ship, well-lighted, and in good repair. He heard voices from the deck. “Survivors! After all that wreckage! Hold on, cats, we are coming for you!”
Lewis nearly cried with gratitude. He pulled the kittens in close and felt a beautiful purring running through their hungry little bodies. “Please!” he cried. “I have children here!”
“We’re coming!” answered the sailors again, and Lewis heard the splash of a small boat hitting the water. In a moment, he could see a little lifeboat like their own, with a light in the bow, rowing across the waves to them. It was a wondrous sight. Rescue! He sent up prayers of thanks to the dark heavens above them.
The sailors in the boat had kind, friendly faces. They spoke gently to the kittens as they lifted them aboard, and made room for Lewis to sit beside his little charges in a sheltered spot in the boat. Then in a flash they had turned and were heading back for the ship.
As they got nearer, Lewis could see a great many cats standing on the deck of the grand vessel, their ears pricked up and their tails high above their heads. The sails were furled as the ship paused on its journey to await the return of its little lifeboat. They were almost alongside the ship before the lifeboat’s light cast itself over the name of the ship painted on the bow, and as it did, Lewis’s heart nearly stopped with an icy shock of fear. He felt his tail bristle and his ears flatten on his head. It was the Puss in Boots! A name that had struck terror in the hearts of Lewis’s fellow sailors who had perished on the Dick Whittington. Lewis gathered the kittens close. “Pirates,” he whispered. He hadn’t realized he’d said it out loud until the sailors in the boat stopped rowing and looked at him.
Lewis let out a loud hiss. “Pirates!” he cried. “You are pirates!” The kittens in his arms went still with fear.
One of the sailors got a saddened look on his face. He was a gray a short-hair who looked as if he might be a Russian Blue. “We mean you no harm,” he said quietly. “You’ve no treasure for us to steal, and we’d hardly tempt fate by letting harmless castaways die of hunger. Any of us could be shipwrecked someday, and terrified will be the ones who have done harm to others and then find themselves in the same situation, reliant on the kindness of strangers. Nay, we are not in the business of leaving kittens to die in an open boat.”
Lewis looked at the faces of the sailors. None of them had their fur raised. Their tails were sleek and unruffled, their ears high in the night air. “Please,” he begged them, “these aren’t my kittens, but I have charge of them. We have no choice but to trust your word.”
The Blue nodded in agreement. “No, you don’t,” he said. “But you won’t come to regret it. Now up the ladder you go and we’ll get you washed and fed and tucked away out of the wind. Things will look better in the morning when you’ve full bellies and dry fur.”
And that was how Lewis, a one-time farm cat from solid and steady Iowa fields, found himself climbing aboard a pirate ship.