A few weeks after my dad died Spirit started whispering “cat” into my heart. I broached the idea with my husband, who just about did a double-take because he too had been thinking it would be nice to live with a cat once again. We were both going through tough times and finding it hard to show up for ourselves, much less each other. Somehow “cat” seemed to be the answer.
We started looking through listings of rescues and visited various places around the city in search of just the right cat. We spent one particularly depressing afternoon at the ASCPA looking at so many ill, aged, and traumatized cats. That was when we knew that we weren’t going into this adoption thing under the pretense of being noble rescuers to a needy cat. I was barely able to care for myself at the time, and did not trust myself with any special needs animal. What I selfishly wanted was a “comfort cat.” Over the long, gray bus ride back we wondered where we would ever find the right cat for us.
It took a bit of searching but once I saw these two little tabbies at an adoption event, I knew we had found our cats. To be honest, there was nothing that really stood out about the pair. There were many other sweet cats, and pretty cats, and far more charismatic cats there. And as we wandered around from cage to cage, I wondered how we would decide between all our options. But something pulled me when I caught sight of these two litter mates rescued from Long Island. I sensed an overwhelming sweetness about them, even though they were both obviously really stressed and shut down at the time. The boy cat hissed at his sister for more room, but she didn’t budge, so he begrudgingly stepped out of the little plastic box they were squeezed into.
Carol Moon, the woman who ran the whole rescue / foster / adoption operation, suggested that we visit the pair in their foster home, where their personalities might shine more. Turns out they were being fostered right in our neighborhood of Washington Heights. We agreed, but my heart was already sold. I just knew, deep down, they were family.
When we visited their foster home, the boy came out immediately and wanted to play. A couple minutes later his sister creeped into the room, curious at all the commotion. Their foster mom expressed surprise, saying that the girl was extremely shy and usually hid from people. “She must like you.” Of course she does, I thought. She recognizes us as her people.
A few days later, we cleaned every inch of our apartment for a home visit. We hoped we seemed like the type of people who could a loving home to the cats. Carol took a look at all our living room windows and rightly predicted that the cats would love the view.
Five years ago today we officially adopted Beatrice and Virgil. I can’t overstate how instrumental they were in shepherding me through grief and burnout. Beatrice once held space for me while I cried for an entire day. She just sat about a foot away, tucked her paws in, shut her eyes, and breathed. I remember marveling at how this tiny little animal could handle the overwhelming flow of emotion that scared everyone else in the household, myself included.
That same day, Virgil kept his distance, holding vigil from the doorway, as if to say, “This is a bit too much for me, but I am here in my own way.” And was he ever. Virgil singlehandedly returned the spirit of play and joy to our home. And he just loves to be loved. If he isn’t amusing himself in some way, he goes after affection and soaks it all up unabashedly.
It wasn’t immediate, especially with Bea (who spent the first few weeks hiding under chairs and in the farthest corners of the apartment), but both turned out to be cuddly lapcats and demanders of belly rubs. As with every human companion to every fantastic cat, we think we are the luckiest people to have the very best cats in the world.
*P.S.: If you’re looking to adopt, I highly recommend the Animal Project. They specialize in bonded pairs, and I am now sold on the idea of two cats not only being easier, but better than one. If all social workers were like Carol Moon, I am convinced that every young person in foster care would end up at just the right family, because she somehow manages to match even the most challenging cats with just the right people.