These days, my distinguished 11-year-old tabby, Bubba Lee Kinsey, reacts to life as though he’s always pleasantly buzzed on good weed.
"What’s that? You wanna hug me for like five minutes straight while whining about your day? I suppose you want me to purr and give you headbutts, too. No, it’s OK — you can play with my tail. Whatever helps, man. I’m down."
That wasn’t always the case, though. Bubba was a stray when I adopted him, and he wouldn’t snuggle with me until he was four years old. Even then, he frequently treated me more like prey than companion, making me feel like the gazelle to his tiger — I’d be grazing on some Easy Mac, and he’d try to devour my leg.
But now that Bubba is a wise old man, one thing is clear: This cat knows me. He sits beside me and not on top of me when I’m "working" on the computer (read: copiously liking cat pictures on Facebook). He comes when I call. We both enjoy granola bars and Twizzlers. He even wears a tie to impress his boss, my four-year-old calico, Phoenix, who rules my household with an adorably orange-and-gray-spotted fist.
After more than a decade of life — or about 60 cat years — Bubba is at the top of his game. That’s something to think about, because November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month.
Here are five more reasons elder kitties are awesome.
Bubba has a small slice missing from one of his ears and a scar on the left side of his nose. I’m not sure how he got these injuries. They’re most likely from his days as a hardened street cat. I like these quirks because they let me know that Bubba has, in the words of my mom, "been around the block a few times." He is a strong and worldly wanderer who has chosen to make his home in my Midtown Kansas City, Missouri, apartment — specifically on my dirty gym clothes. Like I said, he’s quirky! It’s a good thing.
When Bubba was younger, he’d frequently settle down for a long winter’s nap on my chest, and if I so much as exhaled too forcefully, his claws would dig into the tender flesh on my stomach as he propelled himself across the room in a state of panic. Today, he is much more relaxed. If I need to get up to use the restroom or get a snack while we’re watching television, he’ll still be in the exact same spot when I get back, as though cuddle time has a “pause” button.
At the no-kill animal shelter where I volunteer, there’s this gorgeous, older black cat who grumbles a lot. If she were a human, she’d be the girl who sits in the corner of the coffee shop with her hair pulled over her face, muttering under her breath about the lousy Internet connection and too much foam on her latte and the guy who is just sitting way too close to her. But since she’s a kitty, her extremely vocal displeasure is just silly and cute, especially since it’s not coupled with any physical expressions of anger.
Similarly, if Bubba Lee were a human instead of a cat, I’ve determined that he would probably be doing hard time for aggravated assault, and Phoenix would not be allowed within 1,000 feet of a school. But hey — they’re cats! They’re allowed to beat us up and act like creepy pervs sometimes.
Also, as Bubba gets older, he gets more demanding. Because jumping has gotten harder for him, he’ll wake me up in the middle of the night by meowing when he wants into bed. (I gave him a stepstool, but he stubbornly refuses to use it). And he may be interrupting my REM cycle, but the moment he settles in purring beside me, his little chin resting in the crook of my arm, I don’t even give a crap. For Bubba Lee, I would lose sleep every night.
I’m not embarrassed to admit that Bubba is pretty much my best friend. He’s seen me through multiple breakups, unemployment, MFA program rejections, and the aftermath of that bachelorette party where I drank way too much and was certain none of my friends would ever speak to me again. No matter how low down or down and out I felt, he would still make biscuits on my stomach and curl up purring beside me. After more than a decade, our bond runs deep.
Fluffy new kittens are great, but senior kitties are less likely to be adopted and therefore more likely to be euthanized or languish indefinitely in cages, when what they really deserve is a cozy bed in a warm patch of sunlight. If you’re thinking of adopting, consider one of the weird, wonderful, "life experienced" kitties who needs you. You’ll be glad you did.