Josephine and I have been on a journey together for many years now. Josephine being my 15 1/2 year old cat. I had the pleasure of meeting her May 7, 2000 when she belonged to my best friend. She came to live with me January 23, 2003- and I often refer to her as my best gift, ever. I took care of her when her previous owner was out of town, and I knew from the first moment I saw her that she was special.
You would think that the beginning of our life together would have fallen together easily. It did not happen that way. She was traumatized from being removed from the only home she most likely remembered, although she was not getting along with the other cat and dogs that lived there, and she was peeing outside the litter box. Her first full day with us my then-husband got home and called me, asking if I had the cat since she was not there. After some hurried and panicked looking, we found her in our closet, back behind my footlocker. Luckily, her emergency vet appointment came through, and we found out she was very, very sick with a severe kidney infection. Luckily she recovered.
Josie is a very sweet yet demanding cat. She wants what she wants, and she wants lots of it. Now. NOW! She is also a difficult cat to get a ‘read’ on… or at least she was in the beginning. She would scream like she was going to tear you apart if you picked her up. Now I know that is just her way of dealing with a sudden change, but it was terrifying in the early days. She was afraid of the windows, not really ever having been able to see out before in her previous townhouse residence. She also bit. A lot. Try to brush her? CHOMP. Pet her in the wrong way? CHOMP CHOMP. Touch her tail, feet, legs, or face? It was like putting your hand in the garbage disposal and turning it on. She did not like loud noises, company, or any changes in ANYTHING. To sum it up… she was a handful. She did not and still does not suffer fools easily. (And be warned, she still bites others… HARD. Just not me.)
She and I found the way to communicate with each other, but it was a struggle. I worked with her patiently to get her past her biting. She discovered she loved to play, and had more cat toys than many small children. We settled into a routine. All was well. Then, we moved to a brand new town home in less than stellar part of town, thinking the neighborhood was on the verge of gentifrication. We could not have been more wrong. And Josie HATED the new house. And showed her displeasure in the most definitive way a cat can… she used it as a litter box. We took her to vets, we took her to specialists, we took her to animal behaviorists, she went to Philly for an MRI that proved her mystery limp was an attention seeking behavior. We tried holistic therapies. We tried kitty prozac. We got her a feline friend. She was not happy. In desperation, I sought out a pet psychic. The pet psychic informed skeptical me that Josie hated the noise from the street and the gunshots she heard from the crime ridden neighborhood. She hated the other cat, and felt that she was ‘losing me’ due to increasing demands at work, tension in my marriage, and the other 2 cats. The solution? Her own room. I scoffed, but I was willing to try ANYTHING. I prepared a space for her that night.
To my utter amazement, it worked! She ‘asked’ (by thumping on the door) to be let in and out of her special room, one of our unused extra bedrooms outfitted with her own cat box, food and water dishes, toys, etc. I spent time in there with her, and she would ask to go in when she was feeling stressed, asked to come out when she was ready to rejoin the household. Now- she would still pee in the dining room, but after my divorce I realized that was merely to annoy my husband, something I began to suspect since she would not do it when I was home, and would often pee in front of him with a smug expression.
In our years together in my small, quiet apartment, our bond has grown stronger. She is always nearby, and keeps a close eye on my whereabouts. She is my confidant, my teddy bear, my fuzzy life preserver- I simply do not deserve her.
From her, I have learned new lessons in patience, in unconditional love, in redemption. She is in her twilight years now, and to quote Gretchen Rubin in the Happiness Project, the days are long, the years are short. In 2008 she has 2 serious strokes, and recovered from them. In 2010 she almost succumbed to a systemic infection. She has had to have her top fangs extracted. But she still is my sweetheart. She is getting thinner now, and the vets cannot find out why. She also is much more vocal, and stays closer to me. She now wakes me up a couple times in the night for me to pull her closer, to soothe her back to sleep. I fear our days together are growing short. I treasure each day.
She has shown me that love evolves, and it takes renewed energy and the ability to take new opportunities. Most folks do not think of cats having a sense of humor, but she does. Sweet and silly sometimes, and snarky another time, she is a furry comedian. She has rewarded my patience 1,000-fold. She has also shown me to listen to my intuition as she does hers. I have learned that if she does not like someone, that is not a healthy person to have in my life. And her resillience and force of will is truly inspiring. I hope to have her in my life, happy and healthy for as long as she can. Stay as you will, leave if you must…
My life has not been the same since I met Josephine. It has been so much better. I only hope that she feels the same way.