I’ve never been a huge fan of the term “Cat Lady”. It immediately brings up images of sad, matronly looking women pouring ridiculous amounts of food into a living room flooded with greedy cats. I picture myself in a muumuu, rollers in my hair, loudly proclaiming that there was just never a man that was good enough for me, and that my cats are my true children. Despite all of my misgivings, I added a second cat to my small family nearly a year ago.
Today, my little tuxedo cat PJ turned one. I celebrated her birth with some cat-friendly cupcakes and a little can of tuna. Last June, I walked to the PetsMart by my house and ended up taking PJ home on a whim. Now, I get made fun of pretty routinely for how much I focus on her, how obsessed with her I am, and that I’ve completely turned into the “Cat Lady” persona I so fearfully dreaded.
While I still dress and act the same, the truth is, my reasoning behind my adoration for this tiny cat is grander than anyone really understands.
The morning of the day I ended up adopting PJ, I had planned to kill myself. I had been thinking about this decision for a few months; I had my reasons, and I was all but ready to go. I woke up and wrote a letter, making sure everyone in my life close to me knew that they were not to blame, and should feel no guilt for the actions that would later take place.
After I had set up everything that I needed to end my life, I remembered that a good friend from high school wanted to go out for a belated birthday lunch that day. I figured my plan wouldn’t be foiled even if it was few hours delayed, so I went, and I ended up having a good time. When I got home, I returned to my letter and my process, but my cat Mia was meowing incessantly, and I noticed that her food dish was completely empty. Not wanting to leave my only pet without an owner and food, I rushed over to the pet store to grab her a bag of cat food. After this, I thought, I will carry out my plan.
While I waited in line with the heavy bag in my hands, I saw that the windows in the adoption center each had tiny little black cats playfully frolicking behind them, with a notice informing curious cat parents that black cats are rarely adopted because of their color (and potential for bad luck, I assumed).
“Do you want to come inside and meet the kittens?” a sweet looking Humane Society volunteer asked me.
I shifted in place with my bag of food. “Um, I kind of have something to do.” I answered.
“Ok, well they’re all very sweet and up for adoption,” he shrugged.
“Fine, but just for a minute.” I decided. I set my cat food down by the door and walked inside the adoption area. An elderly woman was cradling a tiny black cat and I had literally never seen a happier person in my life.
I awkwardly stood by the door, wondering what the fuck I was doing.
A little black kitten jumped on top of my sneaker, attacking my shoelace and purring contently. I liked her. I stroked the little cat’s head and she looked up at me, hugging tightly to my Converse laces.
“Can I have this one?” I asked the volunteer.
He said yes, and informed me that today, all adoption fees were waived, so I was welcome to take her home right away. He handed me a bag of cat food and a cardboard crate. He told me congratulations. The elderly woman smiled and waved.
As if I was a robot who was slowly learning human functions, I swiped my debit card for Mia’s food, carried my crate home, and welcomed this small black cat into my home. She strutted around like she had been living there her whole life.
I aimlessly leafed through her background, which had been provided in a cute folder. Her paperwork stated that she and her sister had been found abandoned under an old shed, covered in mud and riddled with diseases, basically left for dead. As I looked at the playful kitten bravely exploring my home, she didn’t look like an animal that had ever experienced anything so terrible. Even though she’d been alive just two months, she had figured out a way to forgive and forget, to be happy and playful, to even let me be her new mom, though I was clearly unqualified.
I tucked myself into bed a few hours later, and as I started to doze off it occurred to me that I had forgotten to kill myself that day. My letter was still intact, my pills ready to go. My new pet crawled into bed and settled herself right next to my heart. She fell asleep easily, a gentle purr came shortly after her eyes closed.
I never did anything after that. I threw the letter and the pills away. I named her PJ (short for Princess Jasmine, one of my favorite Disney characters). I bought her some toys and a little bed. I held her when I was sad, and I played with her when I was happy. She’s still here, and I am too. She’s asleep at my feet right now.
I don’t know if we were supposed to find each other, or even if I made the right choice. But she makes me feel like I did. If this is what it’s like to be a Cat Lady, I’m ok with it.