August 28, 2017

With a Little Help from My Friend: Lyla and Lola Overcome the Odds Together

Lyla and Lola
Lola (left) and her sister Lyla.

“They have changed and enriched our lives in innumerable ways, and we can't imagine being without them.” –Megan R. of Queens, NY.

In May 2016, a small group of cats were brought to the ASPCA after being removed from an overcrowded home. Though the cats weren’t suffering from any medical issues, the team at the ASPCA Adoption Center knew that due to the traumas of hoarding, some of the cats may take longer to trust humans. In this group were two young tabby cats—Lyla and Tinkerbell. Though the pair looked almost identical, they had two very distinct personalities. While Tinkerbell seemed unaffected by her past, remaining friendly and affectionate, Lyla was conflicted when it came to her interactions with people, allowing only the staff and volunteers at the Adoption Center to touch her while another cat was around.

Seeing this behavior, the Adoption Center team decided the duo should remain together. They felt certain that with the comfort of having Tinkerbell by her side, Lyla could grow to trust, and the pair would soon find the perfect home.

Around this time, a newly married couple came into the Adoption Center looking for a pair of feline friends to welcome into their family. Megan R. and her husband Billy decided they were ready to bring a couple of furry friends into their home as “wedding gifts” to each other. The couple tells us that they felt like their apartment needed the presence of a pet to feel more “home-like,” and that after doing some research and given their schedules, two cats would be better than one.

In the beginning of June 2016, they decided to head to the Adoption Center to see some of the available cats. “We went to the Adoption Center on a rainy Sunday afternoon,” Megan says. “We told ourselves that we were just going to look because we hadn't bought any supplies or done anything to prepare.”

Lola and Lyla resting
Lola showing off her extroverted side while her sister rests beside her.

As they toured the cat habitats with an ASPCA volunteer, Megan recalls spotting a tabby cat staring down at them from a high perch. After looking at a few cats and kittens, Megan and Billy returned back to where the grey tabby was. They then discovered that the watchful cat was Lyla and were introduced to both her and Tinkerbell. The volunteer explained that while Tinkerbell would be affectionate, Lyla may remain standoffish and spend most of her time hiding in a new home. Though they felt slightly apprehensive at first, the volunteer said something that stuck with the couple: “They may not be what you want, but you’re what they need.” It was in that moment that Billy asked his wife if they should go ahead and get the pair. Megan nodded her head “yes,” and Lyla and Tinkerbell were able to begin a new chapter in their lives. The couple kept Lyla’s name but gave Tinkerbell a new name to match her sister’s—Lola.

Lola resting in a box and Lyla sitting
Left: Lola naps in her favorite spot. Right: Lyla enjoying a relaxing afternoon.

Megan tells us that the cats’ initial adjustment to their home was slow, and took a few unexpected turns. Though the team at the Adoption Center recommended that Megan and Billy initially keep the cats isolated in the bathroom to slowly integrate them into their home, Lola was eager to explore. “She almost immediately decided that our apartment was hers —the shoes, all the toys, all the empty boxes and our undivided attention,” Megan says. “Lyla, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with us. She hid in the crate when we brought them home, and when we finally let them out of the bathroom, she hid under the couch for two weeks and would only come out when we went to bed or left for work.”

Though this fearful behavior would have been discouraging for some, Megan and Billy remained patient and knew that eventually, Lyla would begin to trust them. “Little by little, Lyla came out of her shell,” Megan says. “We think Lola helped Lyla adjust to life with us by being the more outgoing of the two, and by showing Lyla that she could interact with these big creatures in her new home. For example, Lola showed Lyla that she could crawl on the bed and howl in our faces for breakfast (unfortunately).” 

Lola and Lyla cuddling and them perched at a window
Left: The sisters cuddle up for a nap. Right: Lola (top) and Lyla sharing their favorite window perch.

While Lola has helped encourage Lyla, Megan tells us that there’s been plenty that Lola has learned from her sister as well. “Lyla showed Lola how to sort of be a cat,” Megan explains. “For example, Lola used to think the best way to get down from a high perch was to leap straight onto the chair below, then bounce off the cushion with a shocked squeal. But after observing Lyla's smooth bounds off the perch and down the arm of the chair, Lola has the moves down pat.”

A little over a year later, the well-adjusted pair live a life far from the traumas of their past. “Now they both make themselves comfortable wherever they please, mainly on the window sills and their favorite chairs and perches,” Megan says. “They love to sit within eyesight of us, slowly blinking at us, and in Lola's case, chirp for attention and run at us for head bunts every 30 minutes. In Lyla's case, she will lead us to her favorite spot, flop on her back and stick her chin up in the air for extended scratches.”

Lyla and Lola’s bond reminds us that while animals can often be a comfort to us in our times of need, sometimes they need a friend to find comfort of their own. Megan tells us that while Lyla can still be shy and more reserved, she has grown to trust her pet parents and has shown them what a sweet and loving cat she truly is.