This is my cat, Phoenix.
She is needy, clingy, and demanding, a classic example of codependency run amok. She’s like that friend who gets jealous if you go to her favorite crepe place for brunch without her, even if she’s unavailable that day. If you don’t answer the phone when she calls, she’ll call five more times and send increasingly urgent texts: “OMFG WHERE THE EFF R U? R U DEAD? OMG.” When you finally call her back, she’ll say she wanted someone to talk to while she was in line at the grocery store.
Fortunately, Phoenix is a kitty, so her neediness manifests itself as a burning desire to be on top of me or next to me at all times — especially when I’m trying to work or talk on the phone. She’s also very talkative. She has a lot on her mind, and she’s not afraid to tell me about it. Though I’m pretty sure if she spoke English, she’d be saying, “Do you have any more food? Are you hungry? When are we going to eat? Why are you ignoring me? Are you mad at me? Let’s just eat together and then I’ll leave you alone. Just a snack. Just real quick.”
As far as cats go, she’s about as ridiculous as they come — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But in the beginning, Phoenix and I weren’t supposed to end up together, at least not long term. I was supposed to care for her temporarily until a friend who was struggling financially got back on her feet. I was apprehensive about bringing another cat into the home. In fact, at the time, I didn’t even want another cat, but I figured I could make an exception — a couple of months is no big deal, right? But Phoenix put my resolve to the test the minute her adorably spotted paws stepped through my front door.
It was 2009, and Phoenix was a six-month-old kitten. I worried about how she’d interact with my other cat, Bubba Lee Kinsey, a then eight-year-old tabby badly in need of an attitude adjustment. I was certain he would bully Phoenix straight into hiding under the bed, where she’d remain until my friend decided to relcaim her. But if she didn’t stay at my place, her only other option was going to a shelter. What choice did I have but to hope for the best?
The night I brought her home, things played out about the way I thought they would — that is, a lot of hissing, howling, and puffed-up tails as each cat tried to assert dominance. Eventually, each cat retreated to a different side of my small apartment, which didn’t exactly have rooms, and for several hours they just kind of stared at each other, their eyes filled with something between curiosity and homicidal rage. Whenever one twitched, the other twitched in response. If one moved too much or too quickly, the other would give a warning hiss. I gave up on the idea of getting any sleep that night.
Amazingly, the next morning when I fed them breakfast, they both ate without incident. Then the unthinkable happened. While Bubba Lee Kinsey had his back turned, probably cleaning his little gray toes as he is wont to do, Phoenix tackled him. She wrapped her paws around his neck and bit the back of his head, bringing him to the ground.
Bubba, a towering mass of feline ferocity of whom even I was occasionally afraid, had fallen — and that was the moment their whole dynamic changed. Later that same day, I caught the two cats sitting side-by-side in an open window. That night, we all slept in the same bed. It was a damn miracle, as far as I was concerned.
Over the next few weeks, I noticed that thanks to his new playmate, Bubba Lee Kinsey calmed down a lot. He stopped attacking my legs at random (a fun game that led to puncture wounds on my calves and, on one occasion, an infection that required antibiotics).
I loved Phoenix from the start, but she and I became inseparable when I cared for her after she got spayed. I kept her isolated in my bedroom, gave her pain medication, and monitored her stitches. I stroked the side of her face and spoke to her softly. She looked up at me with absolute gratitude — or maybe she was just stoned. Either way, Phoenix was my cat now — there was no going back. Fortunately, my friend was on board with this plan, and a brief phone call made it official.
I feel like it is no mistake that Phoenix is my little calico girl — and that’s why I don’t like the term “foster fail.” I know the term is used in a lighthearted way, but I do not feel like a failure for loving this silly cat more than I should. In fact, for all of the joy she has brought to me and Bubba Lee Kinsey, I think there would be something wrong with me if I loved her any less.
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.