We adopted a new cat.
She doesn’t have a name yet, though we’re testing out several. “Storm” is among the contenders, so for the moment, let’s just call her that.
Adopting a new cat was not at all on our radar. During a weak moment, I started looking over a list of shelter cats in danger of being destroyed, and there Storm was. If you’ve been following me for a while, you can probably guess why I thought fate had a hand in this…
Storm is a dead fuckin’ ringer for Gray Cat.
Gray Cat is, or was, one of our five felines. We lost her almost exactly one year ago. She was 17 and diagnosed with Very Bad Things. We chose euthanasia over a series of invasive, awful treatments that might have kept her around for a little longer, but in such a way that guaranteed that her final months would be her worst. It was a hard decision and a terrible day.
I used to be someone who didn’t understand people who went off the deep end after the loss of a pet. It’s not that I doubted their sincerity; I merely wondered if they’d ever experienced more “serious” losses, or even more shittily, wondered if their priorities were out of whack. After Gray Cat, I got it.
I haven’t written much about Gray since then, nor have I said much about her in more private arenas. But I’ve thought about her every single day. We have photos of Gray all over the house, and I’ve learned to avoid them, because they’re fully capable of choking me up in two seconds flat, irrespective of my general mood. In so many ways, she was my best friend.
When we adopted Gray, she was already declawed (all four) and showed obvious signs of abuse and neglect. Earning her trust was not easy. Keeping her in a house with four cats who clearly saw her as a harmless mouse was even harder. We sacrificed so much personal comfort for the sake of that cat, and never once regretted it. She needed us, and she was the best.
I had a special relationship with Gray. I’m not exactly an emotional gusher, but Gray saw the best of me. I’d spent so many years coddling and protecting her, and she rewarded me with the kind of cat love that you normally only see in Friskies commercials. She trusted me so absolutely that I could wear her like a scarf.
Over the past year, I’ve dreamed about Gray more times than I can remember. Every dream has been dramatically different (and ridiculous), but the crux was always the same: My subconscious was trying to develop some cockamamie scenario wherein Gray Cat was still alive, and all I had to do was find her.
In every dream, I did. In every dream, I woke up right after.
Fast forward to Storm.
I think we all have a spiritual side, but if I’m self-judging, I’m kind of a realist, and being a realist means that you’re also kind of a skeptic. So no, I have no illusions about this. Storm isn’t Gray Cat reincarnated.
But on the other hand…
She’s around a year old, or so we’re told. It’s entirely possible that Storm was born on the very day that Gray Cat died. Weird, right?
Neither of us can believe how much she looks and acts like Gray. Same posture, same quirks, same everything. Now, don’t get me wrong: We’re completely aware that Storm is her own soul and has her own personality. We’re not expecting to use her as a surrogate. We’ll love her for who she is, and not for who she reminds us of.
But at the same time… man. My girlfriend had suggested looking for a new cat before, but I’d never, ever entertain the notion. Like, never. I caved only once, and at that precise moment, Storm was right there, waiting. It’s hard not to believe that we were meant to adopt this cat. You could shake the dice and roll them a million times, and you’d never create such a perfectly insisting chain of events. Even now, days later, I’m still in disbelief.
Storm’s getting over a cold right now — the common respiratory infection that so many shelter cats catch. She’s getting better, but last night was rough. Though she’s still warming up to us, she was too weak to fight as I repositioned her so that my arm could provide a little sleepytime body heat. When we woke up, I found Storm directly on top of my chest, purring like a lawnmower. I melted. And my neck still hurts from trying to hold that awkward position for what turned out to be two hours too long.
We know it won’t be easy. Storm is joining four senior cats, and integration will be difficult. We’re keeping them separate for now, and doing our best to make sure that nobody feels deprived. On balance, our daily lives would’ve been a whole lot easier had Storm not popped up on that list. Do I have any regrets? Hell freakin’ no.
Welcome home, Storm. You were meant to be here.
As for Gray, I still miss and will always miss her. Storm is not a replacement. But I can think of no tribute more fitting than adopting another sweet little girl who seemed to need us just as much. If I’d never known Gray, I’d never know Storm — and Storm would probably be dead right now. So, thank you, Gray. You’re creating awesome moments even long after you’re gone.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go buy love with crunchy treats and my best angel whispers.