This week’s Feature Friday post is from Dana Fillo. Dana was a friend of Paul’s, both through work and through Rotary. She shares Paul’s love of cats and travel and is currently deciding on a location for her next adventure!
As submitted by author Dana Fillo on August 7, 2019:
Recently, I celebrated my 36th birthday. On this date, I reflected on what it means to be a little bit older–how my life has changed over the course of all of these years. When my friend Sarah asked me to write a post for Paul’s blog about cats, I was a little bit unsure where to begin, but I swiftly realized that a cat’s aging is often very similar to that of a human, and it got me thinking about my cat’s life since he has been with me.
I got my cat on Valentine’s Day. I returned from a trip to India, where I was lucky enough to witness the marriage of a friend from college. Prior to my trip, I’d said to a few friends, “I think I’ll consider getting a pet when I get back.” As soon as I got back, my friend Kristen called and said, “So….you wanted a cat? One of my coworkers found a cat living under their deck. They think it’s a stray and can’t keep it, so are looking to find a good home for it.”
This nice family had given this cat the name, Lucky. He was…..well, NOT a happy cat. He was terrified of his new surroundings, terrified of the young children, and extremely terrified of the dog. The family had somehow managed to corral this irate cat and took him to the vet, where he got fixed and got some shots. He had clearly been deprived of food prior to coming indoors; he was extremely skinny and his fur was matted. The family dog was yip-yipping around the living room, so Lucky hovered in the first floor half bath, petrified. I reached to pet him–he swatted my hand away with a hiss and a growl.
“If you aren’t interested in him, we will probably take him to the shelter this weekend,” the father said to me.
I looked at this terrified cat and knew immediately that if he was taken to the shelter, he’d be put down. A shelter would be a whole new level of terrifying for a starving, frightened cat. I couldn’t bear the thought of him making it through all those cold January nights outdoors, starving, only to meet his end in a shelter.
“Ok, I’ll take him,” I said. “Let me get some supplies and I’ll come back later in the week to pick him up.”
It took us two hours to wrangle Lucky and get him into his new carrier that weekend. When I finally put the carrier down in my apartment, Lucky didn’t budge. I spent hours coaxing him out with treats until he finally came out of his carrier and started eating. I decided to rename him Rocky, after the Beatles song, “Rocky Raccoon.” He was still skittish and jumpy, but slowly he began to come around.
Over the years, as he moved from adult cat to middle-aged cat, he grew to love his food, and got a bit of a pudgy tummy, not unlike most middle-aged humans. Rocky steadily grew into his new surroundings, and was increasingly snuggly and content. His level of laziness nowadays is pretty epic, but what cat doesn’t love to sleep 20+ hours a day? I find that I, too, have a desire to sleep more and more, and find that my workouts tire me out just a little bit more than they did 10 years ago. Rocky will play for ten minutes, then abruptly stop, fall over, and demand a belly rub. Playtime done!
While I find that I get increasingly stodgy and stubborn as I age, Rocky is actually quite the opposite. The older he gets, the more he wants to snuggle. When I adopted him, he first slept on the sofa, then moved to the foot of my bed. Nowadays, he curls up next to me in the evening, purring contentedly before he drifts off to sleep.
I know that I am incredibly lucky to share these years of my life with such a sweet, dedicated animal. As he grows older, he has had some health problems, and has needed to have some teeth removed. It’s been six years since he came to me. He sheds way more than I’d like, and likes to wake me up in the middle of the night to try to play, but he is mine, and I am grateful.
Dana, our pets live such temporary lives! Yet during those years they provide something exquisitely tactile: warm noses, the patting of their paws, the thickness of their shedding fur. The purring of my cats has been more satisfying than a finely tuned automotive engine ever could be. A recent Jeopardy contestant said that the best thing about cats is that they don’t need us. I disagree. Cats need attention; they simply have a better sense of the space that belongs to them even while ignoring our boundaries. Like your Rocky, my Annabel is a rescue. Born blind in one eye, she lived at six years on the streets, but had apparently been fed by humans in the neighborhood where she was rescued. Now, during warmer days, we go outside together, and she walks up to every neighbor looking for a pat on the head. It was a pleasure to read your piece, and thank you for including photographs.
Thank you so much for reading Dana’s wonderful post! As a self-proclaimed dog lover, I like the way you described a cat’s need of attention. It gave me a new perspective of, and appreciation for, cats.