Julia





(Forgive me this lengthly post but this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime-moments, like one's own wedding or the birth of a child, where you can’t simply omit details!)

A month ago, I adopted a cat.

It had been a dream in the making since I came back to DC from Montréal in 2013, but because of many circumstances, including a string of very frequent and stressful moves, and landlords who would change their minds at the last moment about allowing me to have a cat, it didn't happen back then.

Of course, there were several cats I got attached to, especially when I started volunteering at the PetSmart cat center (the cats available for adoption there come from Last Chance Animal Rescue, a wonderful Maryland shelter that rescues cats from high-kill shelters and keeps them as long as it takes for them to be adopted).

Two of these cats I seriously thought I would be able to adopt within a few days, since I was expecting a move that fell through at the last moment. 

So I told myself that it was okay, that it wasn't meant to be, that there were countless other cats that needed homes and the one I would adopt was still out there (or possibly not born)

You know how I'm all about "right place, right time"? "Everything happens for a reason", I kept telling myself, and each roadblock was one less obstacle to overcome, and with each one, I would be getting closer to my goal, the kind of stability and peace of mind that would make me certain I could adopt an animal and know I can take care of him or her for his or her entire natural lifespan.

This goal, or rather this series of goals, were reached in December 2016

I first saw Julia while volunteering at PetSmart the week of Thanksgiving. An all-black cat curled in a ball and looking shyly through the metal bars of her cage with those yellow eyes that had that magnificent emerald-green rim around the pupils. 

She had just arrived to PetSmart, according to her file, and despite looking like a fully-grown adult cat, she was still, at nine months, being given kitten food. I initially felt that she wasn’t the most affectionate cat (I'm so sorry baby ! - she’s sitting next to me as I’m writing this and guilt-tripping me with that very distinctive "what do you mean, I'm not affectionate?" look in her eyes). Let's just say she was less cuddly than some of the other kittens who were there at the same time.

The day I adopted her, I wasn’t really expecting to go home with her. The cat I had my eyes on, a male all-black kitten named Chance, had already gotten adopted earlier that week. I wasn’t sure I’d adopt any cat, since I had just signed the lease to my new flat the very same morning, and it seemed like a slightly unwise decision to make, it would be better to give myself a week to settle in, and then adopt a cat. But deep down, I just knew that after waiting three years (or even a lifetime*), a week was too long a wait. And, trusting my intuition, I knew deep down this was the moment.

[I just remembered a conversation I had with a friend in France who is extremely psychic, and who told me before Halloween that she "saw" me with a shy all-black kitten that had a little white tuft of hair on his or her bell. She's just terrific and I hope she decides one day to offer her services professionally.]

No, on the day I adopted her, I was going to PetSmart with my cousins and my aunt, since the latter had finally agreed, after two years of begging, negotiating, cute-as-ever letters, and a hilariously adorable presentation called "Why we want a pet", to let the girls adopt a cat. My cousins, who came with me on Black Friday to swoon and squeal volunteer with the cats, had fallen in love with an adorable five-month-old tuxedo kitten called Domino, and went back to see her with their mother. There were a few close calls where she almost got adopted, including one the day before, (and my aunt wouldn't adopt any other cat), but in the end all the other volunteers agreed to hold her there until my aunt would get back from work and go adopt her.

While my cousins were absolutely certain of the cat they wanted to adopt (it was a VERY busy day with four adoptions, if I remember), I wasn't.

I fully went with my intuition, and even interrogated my ever-famous amethyst pendulum, probably making the other volunteer wonder if I was crazy. I was holding a tiny male tabby kitten who was very cuddly, and my aunt told me I should consider adopting him. But aside from having always wanted a all-black cat (that's my little witchy side, I guess) there was something about Julia, I don't know how to explain it, a very intuitive feeling or connection between the two of us, the feeling that we've maybe known each other before, and most importantly that we needed each other…

And I remembered those recurring dreams I had of a sweet, gentle black female cat, and realised it was possible Julia and I met for a reason, that things didn't work out with other flats and other cats for a reason as well.

So I put the male tabby kitten back in his cage (knowing that he wouldn't have any trouble getting adopted within a day or two), and told the volunteer I was ready to fill in Julia's paperwork and proceed with the adoption. And then I was, ten minutes later, my shopping cart filled with mostly useless and costly items cat essentials, walking out into the parking lot with my cousin Julie (the one and only #MiniDiva) and my cat Julia in her carrier. 

(Some of you will wonder why I kept her name: because I think it's beautiful, it suits her quite well, and as #MiniDiva says, in all modesty, "You need a Julie in your life since you're moving out, and Julia is close enough." I mean, I was planning to give my cat an operatic name like Wagner, Callas, Jonas (like Kaufmann!) Isolde, Lucia or Tosca, but 1) The main character's name in Spontini's La Vestale is Julia (or rather Giulia, which is so Carla Bruni-Sarkozy), 2) Unused operatic names means more reasons to adopt more cats! Although I might name my second cat, if she's a long-haired green-eyed grey tabby, after my former-high-school history teacher/mentor-inspiration/genius-queen/now-wonderful-friend. So, as I said, I need more cats!!! #Crazy)

Julia spent her first night at my aunt's home (since I had the keys to my flat but no furniture yet!). She got along so well with little Domino that, at the end of an exhausting day filled with several back-and-forth trips to carry my things to my new flat, the transport of a VERY heavy mattress, and a hectic race against time at IKEA with my aunt fifteen minutes before it was set to close, I felt guilty at the idea of separating them. 

But both of us little birds had to leave the nest, so with the help of my cousins (and many treats), I enticed Julia back into her carrier and off we went, into the night, to my new home.

I could feel that Julia was nervous during the car ride. Perhaps she thought that we were taking her back to that tiny cage at PetSmart; I kept taking to her softly and telling her that I wasn't abandoning her, but that she was going to be very happy. Just like on November 9th, there was Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and you know how much I find the Ode To Joy calming and foretelling of happiness.

When we made it to our new home, Julia very quickly acclimated, and was soon running around, rubbing herself to just about everything, and purring as if she had swallowed an engine. She slept next to me that night, and every night ever since.

Julia turned out to have a huge amount of affection to give, almost like a dog, but without the separation anxiety (a good thing because my work schedule can get a bit crazy sometimes). I wasn't expecting that at all, but she is extremely cuddly, and always follows me (or rather teleports, because I can't understand how she can possibly be so fast and silent) around the flat, even if I'm just going to get one thing and come back.

Oh and, whenever I go to the bathroom, the only place where she isn't allowed (although she slips in from time to time, which is the only way I can explain the disappearance of the cap on my bottle of lavender essential oil), I inevitably see her little black paws batting from under the door, in a hilarious #YouKnowYouAreACatOwner moment.

Oh, and she is such a totally French cat (even if I wonder if all cats are French by nature)! She loves wine bottles and corks, and let’s not mention Champagne or she’ll read my mind and go crazy, forcing me to open a bottle right now! I feel like she understands me better when I speak French to her, she always gets excited when I take out the baguette, Brie, and saucisson sec for breakfast, and I’ve caught sitting on the box of chocolates I got at Christmas with that look that said “they’re mine, even if I’m 100% percent carnivorous and do not eat chocolate. They’re mine, and don’t you claim the opposite”. (I managed to lure her away by opening a can of salmon pâté.) 

Cat ownership turned out to be much easier, and definitely more hassle-free than I thought. I had been warned by so many people (including my dad and my grandmother, who loves animals but only in their natural habitat) to not get a cat, and that it was a reckless decision that was only going to bring more headache into my life.

Julia is extremely clean and uses her litter box properly; there has been no “accidents” so far (touching tons of wood and some more). She has not scratched my leather couch or anything else but her scratching post. And she only broke one thing - the rim of the porcelain infuser of my favourite tea mug, but it was my fault - I put it in very precarious balance at the edge of my nightstand.

Cat-proofing was necessary (I realise she loves to chew wires at the expense of my Mac charger, although the worst part would have been if she came into any harm!) but I got it over with, having to be quite ingenious at some times. I realise the only time she will begin knocking things off tables is when she needs my attention or wants to wake me up to feed her. So I plan accordingly.

She also has this tendency to run between my legs whenever I’m going somewhere - I did trip once or twice but now I can expect where she will be and know how to walk (even while holding something hot/fragile/both) with a cat trying to trip me only out of pure affection.

Talking of affection, last week she did the CUTEST THING EVER. I was lying in bed on a Saturday after a dreadful week, not wanting to go out and brave the snowstorm but having to, and she climbed on my back and began kneading on my sore neck with her paws, effectively giving me a massage.

(Of course, she was doing it to forgive herself because the little rascal had taken my only car keys from my bag and hidden them in the place where all things go to disappear - aka under the couch.)

There was a hilarious instance where I had the mad idea to get her a leash and harness so I could allow her to safely explore the outdoors under my supervision (like a friend of mine does with her own black cat). After having burnt about 2000 calories (which was rather useless during the holiday period) running after her from one end of the apartment to the other to get her to try on the harness, I gave up and returned the entire apparatus to PetSmart.

She’s not that interested in the outdoors anyways, as I realised when I once went to get something from my car at midnight and forgot to close the front door. I was terrified that I had lost her since I live in a wooded area with no fence, where finding a black cat in the middle of the night is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but after taking a look in the forest, I came back to find her at the same place she was when I got out, lying down on the couch like the Queen of Sheba herself, purring away with delight.

Trimming her nails was also epic and cost me about 3000 calories, but I realised all the advice on Youtube videos about wrapping the cat in a towel and talking to her softly was useless. It only resulted in a towel bundle with cat arms and legs sticking out of it, running across the apartment to chase after a piece of lint. And she wasn’t even angry at me! She just came, all cute and purry, to cuddle afterwards on my bed next to me (you can imagine I had thrown the towel - no pun intended - and was so exhausted after the marathon I had ran), and fell in complete, deep sleep, with her paws up and the tip of her tongue hanging out, purring loudly. So I, in an “OMG - lightbulb!!!” moment, took the clipper, massaged her paws and trimmed her nails in less than a minute without her even noticing! I never thought it would be this easy, even if I don’t regret burning the calories.

Julia has some cat madness moments: racing across the place chasing invisible things (probably ghosts of animals or even humans who lived here), knocking off her food bowl, pulling all of the sudden the curtains of my canopy bed - (just imagine the noise metallic curtain rings make when suddenly pulled against metallic bars), and performing triple axels on my belly, but it's normal and manageable. Or, rather, more or less manageable when the cat madness moments happen in the middle of the night on a day I have to teach classes from 9AM to 10PM and need to be on top (yes, totally à la Tyra Banks).

And there’s also the fact that when you have a mostly black wardrobe, having a black cat has its advantages: cat hair is virtually invisible on my clothes. On the other hand, there’s this hilarious moment when, at the end of a long day, after indulged in a glass of Bordeaux and taken off your contact lenses, making you virtually blind, you will end up crouching on the floor and petting the bundle of clothes you’ve taken off earlier, speaking to it gently with a soft voice while your black cat looks on from your bed with that look in her eyes that means only one thing: “You’re totally out of your mind, and I’m totally judging the hell out of you right now.”

I've realised I've been falling in love with her, everything about her is perfect, especially her meowing - which makes me think she's part Siamese, and her little chirrup noises, and her head-butting, and her kisses (and soft bites) and her purring and OMG SHE'S TOO PERFECT TO BE TRUUUUUE!!!

So here’s all about Julia, the perfect kitty.

Please consider making a gift to Last Chance Animal Rescue, adopting one of their wonderful pets, or volunteering your time to help them!

Love,

S.

PS: Don’t worry, it won’t get worse than this when I have a human baby.

PPS: This isn’t at all a promise.
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*I had a kitten named Bonnie when I was a child, but my mother made me give him away after he became ill with diarrhea. I know, quite fucked up, but ah well, one can't cry on spilled milk almost twenty years later. (One thing's for sure, no one will EVER make me give away Julia.) 
Many years later I became extremely close to my neighbors' cat, Scarlet, an outdoor grey tabby who was rather wild but would become extremely cuddly and sweet when she was around me. She passed away in 2013.

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