When I was a kid, we had an indoor/outdoor cat that my sisters named Jellicle because they were super into the Broadway show Cats at the time (and probably still are today). Our cat Jellicle was a badass huntress and very independent, yet still sociable and friendly to us kids. I remember that she’d often come running to my room whenever I sat and cried on my bed about kid things. She’d trot in, mewing with concern, jump into my lap and nuzzle my face. That’s exactly what a kid needs in those moments.
Jellicle lived a long time. When her time finally came, she had been lying down in the driveway and the road a lot. She eventually got hit by a car after more than a decade of avoiding such a thing. My brother sobbed as he picked her body up with a shovel. We buried her in the backyard.
When I was a teenager, I fell in love with a cat. My brother found him out in the yard at night. It was the dead of winter and the poor tabby was skin and bones. He didn’t approach us right away—though he was meowing for help—but once we tossed him a piece of lunch meat he lost all hesitation. I brought the tabby into the garage and went and got some dry cat food from the barn (we had a barn cat named Barn Cat). The tabby was so grateful for food that every few bites he would stop, hop into my lap and cover my face with kisses.
My father immediately said no, but after a good deal of my crying he said I could keep him, but that he wasn’t allowed in the house. The next day I let the cat into the house and my dad never said a word. I named the tabby Frodo (I was listening to The Lord of the Rings on cassette tapes at the time). Saving him created a strong bond between us. I eventually referred to him as “my boyfriend.”
After a couple of years in college, I noticed he was losing weight when I came home. I was in denial for a while, but eventually he had a seizure and we took him to the vet. Our vet wasn’t the most knowledgable or competent. He said Frodo’s kidney’s were shutting down and that he’d probably been poisoned by antifreeze. Since Frodo didn’t have access to antifreeze and the vet offered up no other explanation, there wasn’t much to do. We left Frodo at the vet for some testing.
After a phone call with the vet, my dad came into my room and said Frodo had gotten worse and needed to be put down. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move or speak. I conveyed to my dad that I couldn’t go with him, so my dad went and took care of it for me. I wailed per the exact definition of the word. My sister Beth tried to console me, but I was inconsolable.
When my dad brought Frodo home, I went out to the back of his truck and sobbed over my cat’s limp body. Seriously, that was over ten years ago and my eyes are full of tears right now while writing this. I loved that cat so much.
I was deeply grieved for a few days. My brother bought me circus peanuts to cheer me up. I recovered enough after a couple of weeks, but for the next two years I would get teary eyed whenever I took a moment to think about Frodo. I eventually moved on, but as we can see now, his memory can still get me.
The night I moved into a little casita in Puerto Rico (after college), I heard a meow outside my door. I yelled, “Forget it!” because I was really poor and didn’t want to be responsible for another living being. Also, I didn’t want to have to go through what I went through with Frodo again. The cat let himself in through the screen door. He walked right up to me and said, “I am your cat. Feed me.”
He was less than a year old and was an orange, long-haired tabby with a puffy, cartoonish tail. So I said, “Fine.” I told myself he’d mainly be an outside cat because I didn’t want to deal with a litter box, but after the third time he shit in the shower (always next to the drain) I said “Fine!” and got a litter box.
Due to the raging heat and the casita’s lack of air conditioning, Hobbes (pronounced “Hoe-base” in Spanish) spent the daylight hours under the kitchen sink. When the sun went down, he’d come out and chill with me and my roommate for a short while, and then he’d paw at the screen door. There were lots of street cats that hung out in our yard because it was fenced in, which protected them from street dogs. So every time I opened the door to let him out he’d pump himself up for a fight by swatting at me and then hissed as he ran out the door.
After I left Puerto Rico, I brought Hobbes with me to South Carolina, but once I quit that job after six months I realized that I moved too much and Hobbes needed stability. I gave him to my sister Kathleen, whose cat Chance became his instant best bud. He still swatted at my nieces whenever they let him out. They had to use a broom handle to open the door.
He had several great years with them before getting hit by a car. I’ll never understand how a cat could survive the streets of Puerto Rico (filled with stray cats, dogs, and plenty of cars) and not the suburban streets of Western New York. My poor guy.
And now I’m doing it to myself all over again. Attaching myself to another cat. Ripley has been with us for over a year now. Despite her being a giant pain in our asses, Brooks and I are absolutely in love with her. She’s full of personality, loves to reward us randomly with soft snuggles, and is a lot of fun to hang around with. All of her pain-in-the-ass attributes are just part of the paradox that is having cat-kids.
She’s a strictly indoor cat and perfectly healthy and young, so I’m not worried about losing her any time soon. In fact, on days when she’s being an extra pain in the ass, I’m convinced she’ll spitefully out live me.
Brooks and I vacillate a lot whenever we talk about getting another cat. When we adopted Ripley, she came with the sweetest cat, Newt. But he died a couple months later from a stupid virus.
But after a year of Ripley without a cat buddy, we are getting sick of all the scratches. She’s not being mean when she scratches us. She just loves to rough house. She needs a playmate, and we need to be able to sit on the couch with our feet on the floor (we have to tuck them up on the couch, otherwise she attacks them).
We worry about another cat changing the house dynamic in too many negative ways. I’m terrified either she or the new cat will start peeing outside the litter box. I just can’t live with that. We also worry Ripley won’t like the new cat and become miserable. She’s a super happy cat right now. And we also worry about space. We barely have a spot for one litter box.
I have specific criteria set when we do eventually go looking at cats. We want a cat like Newt. A young, laid-back male who doesn’t mind being a subordinate to an alpha female. Our future cat-son must also love to snuggle Brooks so I can stop chiding him for trying to snuggle the meat grinder. Ripley lets him her belly with his face about one out of every three times. Two out of three times Brooks gets a little more rugged.