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40 T/D/Y #34: Cat

I’ve always liked cats. When I was little—and indeed even still today—I loved tigers in particular. It’s possible that that love of tigers is derived in part from the fact that my dad’s family nickname at the restaurant was “Tiger,” for his sometimes fierce temper. To this day I have cousins who call him “Uncle Tiger,” although I don’t remember hearing that nickname at family gatherings when I was growing up. In any case, I thought tigers were awesome and I liked all cats in general. I would pretend I had a pet tiger, or could transform into one; conveniently, my best friend Andy liked wolves, so we each had our own imaginary animal and didn’t have to argue over who got to have the tiger.

We didn’t have any pets when I was growing up, though. I’m sure my siblings and I asked once or twice about it but my parents always just said no. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that all of us as adults eventually got pets at some point: my older sister got a couple birds, my younger sister and her partner got two cats, and my younger brother had a cat for a while but had to leave it with friends when he moved apartments and later figured out he was allergic to cats anyhow.

Once I moved to Seattle, I started thinking about getting a cat of my own, but I was reluctant to seek one out. I worried about being able to care for one, and I worried that getting a cat would just be a way for me to avoid seeking out human companionship. I also faced some strong enthusiasm from some friends, which I found a bit off-putting; I would get a cat when I was ready, and not because everyone else thought it was a great idea that I should do right away. So, a couple years went by, during which I considered getting a kitten from a family friend who was fostering some, but I never followed up on that.

And then in late 2004, I was feeling squeezed financially, and decided that I would not go back to my parents’ home for Christmas that year, my first (and so far only) time missing that gathering. I was pretty sad about it, but it seemed like the right thing to do. As it happened, about a week before Christmas, neighbors of my friends Tony and Farida discovered a stray flame-tipped Siamese kitten. After spending several hours checking around the neighborhood, they’d been unable to find anyone claiming the cat, nor had any missing-cat signs been posted, so they determined the cat needed a home. Farida invited me over for dinner as a pretext to bring me to meet the cat, who was adorable and not too shy of me. The cat needed a home, I wanted a cat, so I agreed to come back in a few days, Christmas Eve, and take it home. Despite being anxious all that day, when I saw the cat again I felt very happy with my decision, and the cat also seemed quite content to join me, walking right into the carrier and calmly checking out my apartment when we got home.

When I brought the cat to the vet, I learned it was female, about 17 months old, not microchipped already and not in their notices of lost cats, and so it was safe to claim her as my own. What I didn’t learn until a couple weeks later was that she had not yet been neutered, which was demonstrated by her suddenly spending her nights running around the apartment caterwauling. So we had a bit of a rough period settling in, but once she was fixed we got along well. Being a geek, I decided to name her in Tolkien’s Elvish language, and came up with the name “Nimloriel”, meaning “golden-white maiden”, in reference to her color (white with orange highlights), but that felt a bit heavy and I shortened it to just “Nimiel” (“white maiden”).

My anxieties proved unfounded, of course. Cats are generally easy to care for, and though she can be a nuisance at times and seems easily bored by her toys, she’s still little trouble and lots of fun. And as happy as I am to have her companionship, I’m certainly still looking for female companionship of the human kind.

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