Her appearance is disheveled. There is but one brush in this home and all inhabitants share it. Her person (and the entire contents of her apartment) is covered in a fine layer of hair. Grains of litter constantly stick betwixt her toes. Her kitchen reeks of kibble and tuna. She must tread cautiously. The floor is minefield of toy balls, plastic mice, one slip and she’ll come crashing to the floor. No man has touched her in months, perhaps years, but she has no shortage of bedfellows. Her many roommates all purr as she coos, “Hello, Muffin! Who’s a pretty kitty, Tiger? You’re precious, Princesss!”This is the Crazy Cat Lady cliché. This may very well be my future. Last week my roommates and I acquired the most vital part of such a transformation. His name is Phillip. We call him Pip.
I have longed for a cat since age five. Knowing my parents would never get one, I wrote letters to Santa. It seemed a modest request compared to other little girls asking for ponies. By age nine, after years kitten-less Christmases, I was old enough to realize Santa’s view on cats and that of my parents was one and the same. No one was ever going to get me a cat. Still, I clung to the dream. I imagined finding a lost kitten, my mother agreeing to let it in our home only until we found his rightful owner. By the time it came clear he’d been abandoned, my parents would have grown so fond of him they would agree to let him stay! With this hope, I would hallucinate kittens: hearing them in the rustling of leaves, seeing them curled on the sidewalk until I got close enough to see instead, a piece of kitten-sized garbage. I never found a real one; my family never owned a cat.
Many New York apartments do not allow pets. This was precisely the case for all places I lived my first four years in the city. When I moved in October, each piece of furniture the movers hauled upstairs was accompanied by a cacophony of barking from behind the closed doors of several neighbors. There was no question, my building allows pets. On top of that? None of my roommates are allergic and beyond that, they both like cats. It was only a matter of time.Cages were stacked upon cages at the “Cat Castle” of Animal Care & Control. Their inhabitants varied greatly. Some sleeping, some cowering under blankets, others alert and eager at the slightest hint of attention. They were all given names, most likely what ever was next on a list. I asked the attendant to open the cage of “Liberty”, a 3 year-old female who was positively begging for a petting. April was across the room with “Carla”.
“I think she has a kitty cold.” April said, “Are you under the weather, pretty girl?”
“This is silly, we want a boy and we’re both with girls right now.” I said, as Liberty paced back and forth in front of her cage, mewing and sending brown cat hair flying with every pet of my hand.
“I know, but she looks so sweet and sad!”
We closed their cages and continued looking. We were hoping for a boy kitten, less than a year old. “Gino” was a beautiful orange, spunky and displaying alpha male characteristics. “Ralph” was black with white spots and the face of a cranky old man. And then we saw him. Mostly white with splotches of tortoise-shell on his top and calico on his tip, “Emilio” was smaller than all the other cats we’d seen. The paperwork on his cage told us he was estimated at one year old, a stray picked up on Valentine Avenue in the Bronx. He was curled in a ball but rose quickly as we stood in front of his cage. Curious and criminally cute, affectionate but not needy, we knew he was top contender even from behind bars. Once the attendant opened the latch and he allowed us to pick him up, sitting perfectly content in our arms, we hoped he’d be ours. “He’s perfect,” April whispered as he purred.
Soon to be perfect anyway. When we met him, he had two major flaws: his name (“Emilio” is not a good name for any cat) and his reproductive status. Fortunately unlike their human counterparts, you can change a male cat. We signed adoption papers, scheduled his neutering for the next morning, and knew we change his name as soon as we got to know him a little better.
That is how our little white cat came into our lives. We brought him home the evening after his neutering, a day of unparalleled change. After over an hour of discussion, a trial name that didn’t quite work, we all agreed he was “Pip”. He stood in our living room utterly bewildered. Already emasculated, we added insult to injury as we snapped a purple “cone of shame” around his neck. Then the three of us showered love upon him, such as he hadn’t seen in over two weeks.
I’m the over-protective mom. The one who searched “neuter surgery recovery” and checked all nutritional facts to get the best cat food. Now our little guy sits, de-coned and content. He’s a big cuddle bug, a purr-machine, and he even likes when you rub his belly (rare with cats). Sweet as pie and now that he is almost fully recovered, beginning to reveal a playful side. He’s made all my childhood dreams come true. He’s made me more cliché.
I’d love to hear about your cat, if you’ve ever had one. All readers who aren’t “cat people”- fear not! This is the first and final post I devote to subject. This will never be “Crazy Cat Lady Cliché!