By Sarah McGregor
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I adopted a kitten five years ago.
I’ve always been a cat person and I had a bunch of feline friends growing up. I wanted to get a kitty of my very own the second I moved to Portland, but I decided to wait a few years until I was absolutely sure I was stable (that’s a fucking joke in hindsight, but more on that another time). Just as I determined I was finally secure enough to have a cat, Figaro found his way into my life.
And oh, how I loved him! He was soft and fluffy and so cute and playful and he adored me immediately. He slept curled up next to my cheek. He licked my face and sunnied my outlook when I was stressed or scared or sad. We would watch "America’s Next Top Model" together and I’d talk to him and he’d gaze at me lovingly and purr. We were instant best friends.
But there was something a little off about him. He was really aggressive for a kitten. And when he got scared or anxious he would swipe and bite rather than run and hide like most kitties do. Before too long, I had to start warning people when they came to visit not to pet him or approach him. Eventually, I started putting him in my bedroom when I had guests, lest he dive-bomb them from behind the couch and dig his needle teeth into their unsuspecting arms.
I couldn’t figure out what was up. I’d read three books on raising healthy cats before I took him home. I did everything you’re supposed to do to have a well socialized cat. I took him to the vet who assured me there was nothing physically wrong.
I stopped inviting people over to my apartment. It was embarrassing to have a mean cat I couldn’t control, and people often assumed it was something I had done, that I had “raised him wrong.” Lots of people gave advice. Nothing worked. But despite the woes of owning a Bad Kitty, he was my darling and I adored him.
A few years later, my life fell apart. I lost my apartment and went to move in with a girlfriend who also had a cat. I knew it would be rough, but figured we’d all get used to it. Our families would blend! We’d be like the Brady Bunch of single cat ladies! We’d sit on the couch and sip wine with the kitties (now best friends, natch) cuddled up together between us.
Yeah, maybe on OPPOSITE DAY. It was a total nightmare. Both cats were super territorial and would fight and pee all over everything. Fig would attack anyone who came to the house and workers would complain about him and ask us to keep him restrained. After a year of cat drama hell, I moved out.
He chilled out significantly once it was just the two of us again. But even though he mellowed and purred and stopped pissing all over my stuff, I was worried. The roommate thing had not gone well. Was it just because there was another cat in the equation? Or would he freak out again if we ever lived with another person? I mean…would I ever be able to live with anyone?
Because I had this boyfriend.
Dusty was cute and smart and talented and we’d been sorta-kinda-maybe-hypothetically tossing around the idea of moving in together. But Dusty was not a fan of the Fig. How could he be? For every nice moment of playing or “Look at the kitty!” adorableness, there were 17 moments of this:
After a particularly awful night where Figaro was particularly aggressive and particularly loud and kept us up particularly late, Dusty went home early to get some cat-free shut-eye. I sat down on the couch and watched Figaro bat a Q-Tip around the hardwood floor of my apartment and cried.
I loved this cat. Warts and all, he was my furry friend and truest companion. My whole family is weird about pets, and when we get a pet that pet is for LIFE. Finding Figaro another home wasn’t an option. He was mine and losing him would break my heart.
But I wanted to move forward with Dusty and didn’t see how it would be possible. Figaro and I had tried roommates before and it was awful. Was I doomed to live alone for the rest of Fig’s life? He’s a super healthy indoor cat, so he could easily have another 12-15 years. I didn’t want to wait that long.
Luckily, I didn’t have to.
A few days before New Years of 2011, Dusty asked me to move in. In a move that illustrates everything I love about him, his exact words were -- “I want this to be your home. Will you pack up your stupid cat and move in?”
And so we did.
In the month leading up to my move, I was a nervous wreck. I had anxiety dreams about pee-stained carpets and wrecked music equipment and infected scratch wounds. One night I actually curled up on the floor next to Figaro and begged him to be good. I’m a grown-ass independent woman and yet I sat on the floor and begged a cat for help. He head-butted my face and purred and was as sweet as could be. Oh good, I thought, he’s listening!
Except not so much. It was rough going at first. Figaro did all his usual Figaro behavior and hissed at anyone who came near and yowled his little kitty head off when he was unhappy (which was ALWAYS). I was on pins and needles the first month and flipped out at every little thing. When I inevitably lost my shit and told Dusty it wouldn’t work and I should move, he reassured me that there was a learning curve and the three of us were still getting used to each other.
He was right. We did eventually get used to each other. And Figaro wasn’t all bad.
He stayed away from the expensive music equipment and has never peed outside his box. We still have to keep him away from company when there are large groups, but we’re largely able to laugh off his meanness now. Figaro’s toys and scratch pads litter the kitchen and living room and he loves this house and its big windows.
Best of all, Dusty and Figaro are friends who talk to each other and keep each other company when I’m out. Dusty calls him “Kittyro.” He picks Figaro up on his shoulder and coos “Why are you such a bad kitty?” as Fig purrs and purrs. And at night, when the three of us cuddle on the couch to watch X-Files re-runs, I look at my boyfriend and my sweet, evil kitty and think—
Sarah blogs with her cat on her lap at rosettesandrevolution.com and twitters @PhinaMcGregs.