Chris is an Army intelligence analyst who fell in love with cats when he first met his wife more than 20 years ago. Now his family is a refuge for felines in need, including two senior cats adopted through Pets for Patriots.
How a dog guy became a cat guy
In the early 2000s Chris was stationed in Germany. At the time his family included his wife, three young sons, and a cat. Nearly a decade later the boys are 17, 19, and 21, and five rescued cats call their household home.
Chris was not always a cat person. Growing up in Hemet, California, his family always had dogs. In the fifth grade he met a girl named Kim who grew up with both dogs and cats.
Many years later Chris and Kim dated and, eventually, got married.
“When Kim and I got together, she had two cats,” Chris recalls. “I became a cat person [the] first night I came over to her house.”
It is perhaps not surprising that Chris would develop a fondness for felines. The Army analyst was struck by their smarts.
“I really like the intelligence. A lot of people don’t understand how smart cats are, they don’t understand their personalities,” he says. “They’re a very complex animal. I like that about them. You can see how they think, how they interact, [and] they’re just as affectionate as dogs I had growing up.”
But it was Kim’s devotion to her four-legged pack that perhaps was most compelling of all. One of her two senior cats at the time was 19 and in renal failure.
“Kim was giving her IVs, feeding her special formula to get her healthy, and nursed her back to health,” Chris recalls. “She knows that you don’t give up on a cat just because it’s older.”
“He picked us”
In 2016, Chris and Kim and went to Anne Arundel County Animal Control to look for an older female cat. They came at the right time to meet Maria – since renamed Mika – who had just been surrendered.
Earlier that same year Anne Arundel County Animal Control joined our national shelter partner program. The municipal shelter waives adoption fees for veterans in our program.
Mika was a then nine year-old cat who had a seemingly unstable life. His original adopters could no longer care for him and, after several years, gave him to a friend. Just six months later the friend brought him to the shelter.
Ironically Mika was about to be transferred out to the shelter that originally adopted him when Chris and Kim visited Anne Arundel County Animal Control.
“We just felt drawn,” he says. “We knew that it was right. When we did the socialization time just to make sure we liked his temperament he laid at Kim’s feet, he had no problem at all. He picked us, and that was it.”
While no one knows for sure what Mika endured, one unusual mystery was solved soon after they took Mika home.
The cat had been surrendered as Maria and believed to be female. But as it happens, she is a he – so Maria was renamed Mika.
“Everyone always says Mika was lucky, but [we] both feel like we were lucky we got him,” Chris explains. “We found out he was a boy, felt really fortunate to have him.”
Now Mika soaks up all the love he can get. The stunning feline is always sought after by Chris’ sons, as well as their girlfriends when they visit the house.
“Mika is the center of attention just when he walks into the room.”
Life in the Army
Chris was inspired to enlist in the Army following his mother’s service in the National Guard. He and Kim married a couple of years prior to his enlistment, a career decision he made because he “wanted a better way of life.”
As a target intelligence analyst Chris is responsible to develop and provide strategic and tactical information critical to combat commanders. Over the course of his two decades in service he has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and stationed in Hawaii, Germany, Texas, and now Maryland.
Chris has many memories from now serving 20 years in the Army – and counting. Being stationed in Germany sticks out in his mind because his family had never been to Europe prior to that assignment.
“It was our opportunity to travel,” he says. “Kids got to grow up there, got to do a lot of traveling.”
When the family returned to the states they had three cats, even though they went overseas initially with only one.
A finicky feline joins the pack
Kim’s love of senior cats is now shared by her husband.
Almost two years to the day after adopting Mika the couple returned to Anne Arundel County Animal Control and adopted Eva.
The then nine year-old feline had been at the shelter for eight months after her owner had been moved into hospice care. Kim had seen Eva’s story on social media and her love of senior cats inspired her to act.
Chris and Kim felt compelled to give Eva a better life. They went to the socialization room to spend some time with her and the skittish cat allowed Chris to hold her.
“Because Eva had been there for so long, everyone was so excited that she was potentially going to be adopted,” Chris says.
To this day Eva remains somewhat standoffish. She does not enjoy the company of other cats or being held, and is not as affectionate as the others, either.
But the finicky feline has a sweet spot for the Army veteran.
“She tends to follow me around the house so Kim calls her my little dog.”
Chris enjoys the special affection Eva seems to have for him. Although she shies from the other cats, she does seek out Chris when he returns from work.
“She makes me smile every day,” he says. “She follows me around, she talks to me. I’m the only one she does that with. She’s picked me out, it’s been really nice.”
For the love of senior cats
Chris believes Pets for Patriots is a valuable resource for veterans interested to adopt companion pets.
“The fact that service members and their families can adopt a pet and can be set up for success right out of the chute,” he says, “and being able to buy pet supplies if you don’t already have them. It’s a great way for service members to bring a rescue animal into their home.”
The Army veteran has high praise for Anne Arundel County Animal Control, too. He believes the staff is compassionate and tries to do what is in the best interests of the animals. But he admits they can no longer volunteer there.
“We like the shelter. We can’t go there any more,” he explains. “Every time we go there we come home with a cat.”
Although the Army analyst has always been partial to animals in need, the plights of unwanted dogs and cats came into focus during his deployments.
Chris noticed service members adopting pets and then returning them when it was time for them to move on.
“We treat our cats like they are a part of our family. We wouldn’t give up our kids. You wouldn’t give up your kid just because you’re moving.”
This opened Chris’ eyes to the reasons that dogs and cats find themselves in shelters, through no faults of their own.
“They were probably adopted when they were young. They’ve known a stable home and lived in comfort and then just to get thrown into a shelter without understanding why,” he says. “We’re probably just going to adopt older cats from now on. It’s all about the quality of life you give an animal.”
Chris then made a prediction that describes his household to this day.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be without cats.”