By Megan Kramer
I don’t know why it started, but one day in college I decided I needed a cat. It was as if every piece of unsolicited advice that told me my biological clock would start ticking one day came true. But mine was ticking for a cat.
I couldn’t stop browsing shelters and adoption pages online. I knew I wanted to adopt, because the town I was in had a very large stray cat problem, and shelters everywhere were overrun with cats of every age that didn’t have homes. I finally decided to head over to one that was including shots, neutering and micro-chipping in the adoption fee, and that also boasted a beautiful female tortoiseshell kitten.
When I got there, I was overcome with emotions at seeing all of the caged-in felines. I took my time visiting with each one, until I finally came to the cages where the tortoiseshell was being kept. She was loping around with some fellow kittens, looking quite content considering the situation. But then my eyes drifted to a cage next to hers, where one lone tabby kitten was curled up, barely even looking at me as I approached.
I read his small history—they didn’t know his exact age or where he came from, because he just showed up one day, young and alone. I picked him up, and instead of struggling, he immediately curled up so he fit snuggly into my cupped hand. I knew I could never put him back inside that cage again.
Once the adoption was settled and he was done getting fixed up at the vet, I brought him home, where he hid behind the couch for two straight days. Eventually, though, he became accustomed to seeing me and began to roam around the apartment. And as he grew up, we became almost inseparable. I named him Leo.
Leo was like any young cat — a disaster. He clawed up toilet paper rolls; chewed on my window blinds; sprayed litter everywhere after using his box; hunted bugs; climbed onto every single countertop, knocking all the things onto the floor as he went. But he was also unlike what I thought a cat would be.
He learned what it sounded like when I was getting into bed for a nap, and would rush from wherever he was in the apartment to join me. If I sat down, he was in my lap. If I lay down, he was stretched next to me, with his paws around my neck like a hug. If I was in the shower, he was on the ledge of the bathtub, in between the shower curtain and the liner so he wouldn’t get wet. If I was in class or otherwise away from the apartment, he was sitting on a windowsill looking for me, or meowing at the occasional maintenance worker, which I assume was him asking where I was.
Unexpectedly, Leo became my best friend. We all hear stories about the indifference of cats — my boyfriend likes to say that if you died alone in your house, a dog would mourn your dead body, whereas a cat would immediately start eating it. While that is a gross extreme, I understand the sentiment. I’ve met plenty of cats that didn’t give a single shit about me, but the difference was that they were not my cats. I raised Leo from a very small kitten to a hearty one-year-old — at one point, he was big enough to wrestle my mom’s toy schnauzer. I loved him with my whole heart, and I know he loved me.
Sadly, Leo died from complex urinary tract problems while I was studying abroad in Ireland about a year after I adopted him. My aunt, who was watching him for me, called me to tell me the news. We cried together, and I still cry when I think about that phone call and how I wasn’t able to be with him during those final days. I miss him, but I’ll always love Leo for showing me that a cat can be a woman’s best friend — and there’s nothing crazy about it.
Megan is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.