I have a confession to make. I talk a lot about my oldest cat, Siouxsie, and my youngest cat, Belladonna, but I have one other cat who tends to get lost in the shuffle.

That cat is my “middle child,” Thomas.

Thomas is technically a senior cat himself, but at the age of 13, he’s still got plenty of years left in him, unlike 18-year-old Siouxsie, who has a lot fewer tomorrows than yesterdays. But he’s still quite a bit older and more sedate than two-year-old Belladonna, who steals the spotlight with her adorable antics.

He’s also the glue that holds my cat family together.

When I met Thomas, he was a shy and heartbroken three-year-old, surrendered to a shelter after his former owner had to go to a nursing home. There was just something about his essence that drew me to him. After a week or so, he began feeling safe enough to explore his home, and he made friends with my Sin├®ad O’Kitty. For years, she and Thomas engaged in acts of “deniable snuggling,” and when Sin├®ad got outside and met a sad fate at the fangs of coyotes, Thomas searched for her for days.

Once Thomas, Siouxsie and I recovered from our grief over losing Sin├®ad, I brought a new cat into my family. Thomas welcomed the new addition with open paws and immediately began treating little Dahlia like she was his little sister. They spent days lounging on the cat condo, observing life at the family homestead, and spent cold winter nights cuddled together. When a barn cat attacked Dahlia, Thomas came after him with a vengeance: The screams echoed through the night, and Thomas returned strutting proudly, with nothing but a little chip of skin out of his ear flap to show for the drubbing he’d given his opponent.

I can just imagine the two of them in a silent movie pose, Dahlia swooning against her fierce protector with the caption, “My hero!”

From then on, Thomas and Dahlia were totally inseparable. They snuggled, they groomed one another, they ate together, and I swear that if I had big enough litter boxes, they probably would have done their business together, too.

When Dahlia got cancer, she began separating herself from Thomas — and from me, too. Thomas followed me around the house with a questioning and almost tearful expression on his face. When I came home from the vet after doing my final act of love for Dahlia, he climbed into my lap and buried his face in my chest. I was in tears, and I swear he was, too.

A couple of months later when I brought Kissy home, Thomas went to welcome her as he had Dahlia, and she flipped out. Her chronic pain made her to respond to other cats with aggression, which naturally triggered Thomas to freak out and start chasing her around the house like he wanted to kill her. Every time I separated them, he’d look up at me with a shamefaced expression: “I’m sorry, Mama,” his eyes seemed to say, “I want to be nice to her but … something happens and I just can’t help myself!”

But something amazing happened as time passed: Kissy began to feel safe in her own skin. She started spending time in the living room, sometimes even sleeping on the couch. Then one day I saw this, and I knew all was right with the world.

Unfortunately, our time with Kissy was far too short, too, and once again, Thomas comforted me.

Then along came Belladonna, and once again, Thomas was the first to make her feel at home. Within a couple of hours of meeting, they were already snuggled together in the cat bed he used to share with Dahlia. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Dahlia had sent Belladonna along, maybe to help both of us feel better after the losses we’d endured.

And yes, even to this day, Thomas is the calm center of our home. When Bella starts chasing Siouxsie around, he stops what he’s doing and gives Bella the look of doom. Sometimes he even chases Bella to work off some of her extra energy and give Siouxsie a break.

Thomas’s soothing purr helps me to sleep when I’m feeling wound up, too. So I guess he’s the calming center of my mental circus, as well. All in all, he’s a truly amazing cat and I’m blessed to have him in my life.

Do you have a quietly awesome cat? Share your stories in the comments, and let’s talk!

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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.