Growing up, my only pets were two grey and white gerbils. My sisters and I frequently let these tiny rodents loose to wreak havoc in the hallways and terrify an aunt who regularly babysat us. We were mischievous children, but that’s another story.
Despite this failed attempt at caring for animals (the gerbils were promptly returned), I know I always had those pet-loving genes somewhere inside me. I can still recall begging my parents for a puppy, though they shrewdly managed to divert my attention with a brand new American Girl doll complete with a shiny bed and a closet full of clothes. If you were growing up in the ‘90s, that was a pretty big deal.
So, a few days before Juju’s owner arrived at my apartment last Wednesday, I was – to put it mildly – freaking out. I checked every nook and cranny at least a dozen times to make sure she wouldn’t choke on a stray button or long lost earring. I moved breakables, scrubbed floors and possibly bought out an entire pet store worth of toys.
I think my cat-craze started when one of my pals from college picked up Hazel, a tiny kitten with bright eyes and limitless energy. At the time, I couldn’t care for a feline friend of my own – unless, of course, I wanted to get booted out of my college dorm room. This all changed when I finally, finally scrounged up enough cash to move out on my own.
This past December, I decided that since I manage to feed myself, do laundry and pay the rent, it was time to start searching for the kitty of my dreams.
As someone who is totally clueless on a number of things (cats being one of them), I bought a Barron’s pet owner manual on kittens. I almost didn’t finish the slim volume because of its mind-melting overuse o f the words “little predator”, but after 12 years of waiting, I was determined to get that ball of yarn rolling.
For those of you who’ve broken out on your own and are searching for a pet, Craigslist or your local animal shelter are great places to go. When I first clicked on the Craigslist posting for Juju, I was smitten. When I visited her, I fell in love. I knew this five-year-old midnight black cat with giant green eyes would be my match.
And the gal whose only concern used to be the overflowing pile of laundry in her bedroom was right. The first night Juju arrived, she immediately headed for my closet and buried herself beneath stuffed animals and boots. When she finally strutted out, she made herself comfortable atop my bed and purred until I devoted every last ounce of attention to her petting. Did I mention that she fell asleep on the pillow next to me with her tiny paw on my hand?
Though it’s only been about a week, the search and the diminished savings account (kitty litter, food, scratching posts, toys, etc. add up!) is so worth it.
Though I’m over a decade late on getting that pet (sorry, 10-year-old self), I am so happy that I have my Juju now. Those of you who are pet owners will know what I mean when I say that she’s not simply a cat, she’s a part of my family. As I sit on my oversized green chair with Juju sprawled across my stomach, I can’t help but think that my place has never felt more like a home.