Homeless cats find sanctuary on East Main Street

For those of us who love them, this is a story about cats. However, if you don't love them, we understand how you feel. Please bear with the writer and read what happens in the little house on Main Street in Rock Hill, where women who love these animals and understand their great worth to a home, to the elderly and to children, offer them a sanctuary. The people who run this safe place are desperately in need of help, and today they will have an open house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come visit and, if you can find it in your heart, give a dollar or two, cat food, cat litter or anything else that can be used by a crowded and impoverished environment filled with cats and dedicated folks with hearts full of kindness.

I passed the building once, and I thought I saw a very unusual thing, so I turned around and drove slowly past what use to be a religious bookstore. A big "picture window" faced the street, and in that window, ballet-like figures moved, leaped and pawed at imaginary shadows. I pulled up to the door, got out of the car and walked right up to the window. I saw tabbies, black and whites, oranges, blacks, grays and calicos; long-haired, short-haired, tall, short and pretty. There were no uglies, certainly not, for there are no uglies in the world of cats. All of them sat, stood and stared in their amazing cat beauty, looking at me though those big sheets of glass.

A human appeared in the window, and the cats all clustered around her. She smiled and made her way toward the door and, with a cat-person attitude, invited me in. That is how I discovered the St. Francis Cat Rescue Service, and what a lucky day that was for me.

One chased a lonely ladybug until she dropped to the floor. There were actions that implied an occupation, one giving herself a facial with paws that had just decimated a small flying moth. Others nodded off into a fast lunch-hour catnap, only to awaken suddenly and spring with amazing grace at an imaginary form that could have been a feline destroyer, possibly a giant bug on its way to destroying the whole cat race. The big black neutered Tom, leader of the group, with the matching white shoes and mustache, said in a low, growl-like voice, "Let's get together and attack." As I watched, they did. Some fell off the window ledge, and others were busy searching for that danger they had seen just a millisecond ago. They marveled at the many dangers lurking in every corner. So they acted as an assembly, eager to destroy all of the deceit and cunning would-be invaders of the cat world.

"Why are you here, my feline friends?" I asked. Some just stared, others made meowing faces, others pushed their ears back against their heads and hissed, and others, with owl-like eyes, visually pleaded with me to pick them up and acknowledge their charm and grace.

In that building, there is a world filled with cats. Some, I am sure, with sad and pathetic stories to tell, others rescued when they were only infants. Now, all they know is the kindness and generosity of the cat lovers in this place -- people, who see that they have food, litter for their bathrooms, rugs and old blankets to be shaped by talented paws into beds, playthings and imaginary homes. The cats form groups and women's clubs. They, no doubt, gossip about one another, listing the history of the too-fat calico, or of the black neutered Tom. They talk about the food and if they like it or not, telling each other, "If it doesn't improve, I am going to stop eating."

However, when the lady appears, there is no gossip. For you see, cats have an exceptional sense of doing exactly what is right. They know when to feign love and when to turn on their dangerous ability to look fierce. They stretch out their bodies and rise on their four legs, making a big hump in the middle of their backs and dancing to the right and then back and then to the left. All the time, their ears are tucked closely to their heads, and their beautiful high-pitched voices change into a low growl ranging from below middle C on that musical fence. Cats try to be strong and brave as all of their grander relatives are, but sometimes they lose. There have been moments when they have frightened a person to a point where he ran away. The ones who have had that good luck tell the story repeatedly to all the new kittens that arrive on a daily basis and will listen. The story is called "The Night I Frightened the Man Wearing the Red Sweater." Some of the more talented ones have set it to music. They are thinking of taking it on the road.

You see, in the world of cats, there are wonderful expressions of talent. They dance, they run, they act, and some of the of the Toms have exceptional voices, especially when they sing over the garden fence at 2 in the morning to a beautiful gray Persian who lives in the big brick house at the end of the street. Those boys are well known for their musical ability. They have sung all over the world, the big cats, the fast cats, the dangerous cats, the hairless cats and the barn cats have personally encountered one of these operatic Toms and enjoyed their company for a short period of time, and they have been remembered for generations by all who met them.

It is in this building, sitting right there at 1167 E. Main St., that you can see for yourself this cat land, a place where women and men work diligently to keep these animals healthy, happy and filled with hope that they will find a home where they will be loved and appreciated. Stop by, look in the window and consider taking one home. Your life will be enriched; just ask any cat owner. If you have questions, please call Samantha Rose, (803) 230-7286, or Charlene Rodriquez, (803) 554-9930.