Christmas cat title

From Cowardly Lion to Christmas cat

Dalbie’s journey to becoming our Christmas cat

Cat magnet illustration

Eric holding Boo while laying on the couch
We had Boo for 16 years after he jumped into my arms begging to be adopted.

Integrating Dalbie, our Persian cat, into our family was not easy. It took 4 1/2 months for our Cowardly Lion to gather enough courage to love us. His story was quite the surprising experience. Eventually, our Cowardly Lion became our Christmas cat.

The cat magnet isn’t working 

I am a cat magnet. Many times, I can attract stray cats for a petting. I have never adopted a cat who didn’t immediately become mine. Until Dalbie. Dalbie was impervious to magnetism.

The situation was unprecedented. How unprecedented? This is an example: When I was searching for our cat Midnight, another black kitty literally leapt into my arms, begging to be adopted. He had been abandoned and a neighbor was caring for him. The neighbor said they had been calling him Boo. I took him to Eric. Boo was smart and promptly kissed Eric.

Boo’s reaction was extreme, but five of our six cats have loved us dearly from the start.

But not Dalbie. Dalbie was an exception. We waited months for our orange Persian to love us. At last, we enjoyed a miracle in time for Christmas 2015.

A catless house

Indy in front of my computer
Our last picture of our cat Indy.


Firecracker licking his chops in our bedroom
Our last picture of Firecracker

Boo stayed with us for 16 years until old age got him. Our next two kitties, Indy and Firecracker, followed him over the Rainbow Bridge far too quickly. Indy was yet another abandoned cat. Firecracker had to be rescued from his neglectful mother before she killed him.

As usual, our adopted family members settled in immediately and loved us dearly, just as we loved them.

And then there was Dalbie.

A pedigreed Persian who needs a home

When Firecracker passed, we had no furry purries to love us and welcome us home. We were lonely for some feline companionship. One of Eric’s co-workers had a pedigreed Persian cat that she needed to give away. She said she would give us the cat, Dalbie, and all his belongings if we would take him. We agreed. 

On July 3, 2015, we went to get our new cat. The co-worker told us Dalbie would kiss us if we made kissing noises. I thought that sounded great.

But Dalbie made it plain he didn’t want to go anywhere. The co-worker put him on my lap. He refused to stay and went back to hers. This was not going well. After everyone said good-bye to their cat, we placed Dalbie into his cat carrier and headed home. Dalbie lay flat in his cage, making no sound or movement. I petted him the entire half-hour drive home and expected that all would be well when we got him into the house.

Not so much.

The Christmas cat plays phantom

When we arrived home, we brought Dalbie into the living room and opened his cage. That was not a good idea. He fled into the guestroom. Even 4 1/2 years later, I can still see his terrified face. He looked up at us with stark fear on his face and vanished underneath the bed. Independence Day celebrations surely didn’t help. All the racket from firecrackers was not soothing to any animal.

After he dove under the guestroom bed, we did not see him again for weeks. If his food bowl and water dish hadn’t emptied and the litter box filled up, we would not have known whether he was still alive or not. We were discouraged. We wanted a kitty to love, not one we never saw.

Holding Lola on her first day with us

Enter Lola, a farm kitten with no pedigree

Eric’s cousin Heidi called. She said the farm had a kitten whose personality was far better suited to being a beloved housecat than to being a wild farm kitty. I picked her up Aug. 11, 2015. I finally had a warm, sweet kitty to cuddle. She was a tiny thing and we were concerned about Dalbie’s reaction to her. Would she comfort him and bring him out of hiding? Or would we have a less desirable outcome?

The Christmas cat as The Cowardly Lion

Cowardly Lion
Cowardly Lion (William Wallace Denslow/Public Domain)

The outcome was desirable.

After Lola arrived, we began seeing Dalbie. Most of the time, we’d see his back legs fleeing down the stairs, but at least we were seeing some part of our Persian. He did exist. Because of his lion-like appearance, we started calling Dalbie “The Cowardly Lion“.

We believe that Lola saved his life. Without her, he probably would have died of grief and despair.

By October, he would sit where we could see him, but he would not allow us to approach him. If we got too close, within about 20 feet, he would do his vanishing act.

The Christmas cat cries

first picture of Lola and Dalbie, our Christmas cat
Our first picture of Dalbie. He’s with Lola on our front staircase shortly before Thanksgiving.

Finally, on Nov. 9, 2015, Dalbie stayed in one place long enough for us to take his picture. Of course, Lola was with him to keep him calm. As soon as I took the picture, he vanished down the stairs.

Eric’s parents came for Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, 2015. While we ate our festive meal, Dalbie sat in the hall, visible from the dining room. We played our Thanksgiving music playlists to set the mood.

Dalbie sat near the stereo, tapping his tail onto the floor along with the music. His face looked so sad. He seemed to be longing for human companionship. Tears streamed down his face. Who knew that cats cried?

We were heartbroken as we watched him. We wanted to shower the kitty with affection, but he was not ready. 

The Christmas cat kisses

A kiss from the Christmas cat
I cried tears of joy when Dalbie kissed me for the first time Dec. 21, 2015, five months and two weeks after we brought him home.

As we approached Christmas, Dalbie let us come closer and closer to him. Finally, on Dec. 21, 2015, he stood at the top of the front staircase, looked up at me and mewed. It was a command mew, which I hoped meant, “Pet me now!” I handed Eric my phone. I hoped he’d capture a wonderful moment.

He did.

I knelt down and Dalbie put his face up to mine. I held my breath, afraid to move. Then I made the kissing noises the co-worker had told us about all those long months before. A pink tongue shot out of his mouth and licked my nose. Tears of joy streamed down my face. In between kitty kisses, I looked at Eric. Tears were running down his face, too.

That night, Lola slept at our feet and Dalbie wrapped himself around my face, purring loudly.

The Christmas cat had found his home, his love, and his courage.

He has slept wrapped around my face every night since.

Read another Christmastime story.


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