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The Love of My Life

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She is now eight years old and has been the mistress of my heart and my house for five and a half years. She is Cleo, my beloved cat.

I adopted her, a terrified little thing, from the SPCA in 2003. She was my birthday present from my son that year. My son would have preferred me to adopt a younger cat, but I said that if I didn’t take her at two and a half, probably no one would and she would be euthanized. I couldn’t bear the thought of that. After we brought her home, she went straight under my bed. It took my son and me a couple of hours to coax her out from under there. Since I didn’t know for sure if I would come back home with a cat, I had no food, no litter, and no litter box. According to her adoption papers, she was fed dry food. The fact is that all the animals were fed dry food at the shelter. While she was still under the bed, I went out and bought the necessary things but she wouldn’t touch the food. I found a can of tuna in the pantry and put a bowl of it on the floor. She pounced on it as if she hadn’t eaten in two weeks!

It took her a few days to get used to her new surroundings, although she was still terrified of everything and everyone. But gradually, she came to know me and my son, who lived in a building across from mine. She eventually got used to going on the balcony but she would absolutely not go out. She trembled like a leaf if I even carried her when I went to check my mailbox. There was a huge yard between the buildings and, many a time, I tried to take her outside so she could romp in the grass and enjoy the sun. But she ran back as fast as she could to the front door of my building, which was closed, of course, because I knew she would try to run back inside. One day, when I put her down in the yard, both the outside and inside doors of my son’s building were open. She just disappeared in it. There were only two stories but lots of little nooks and crannies and hallways in several directions, and the garage was only a few steps down from the entrance. Fortunately, the door to it was closed. I had no idea where she was and eventually heard her pitiful mewing and got her back. I did not try to take her out after that.

She has slept on my bed since soon after I got her. I firmly believe animals do know who loves them. She has repaid my love a thousand fold. She “kisses” me when I ask her. If I sit on the sofa in the living room, she is in my lap. If I read, she’s on my book or newspaper. When I eat, she is either on a chair near me or on the floor near my chair. When I am at the computer, she is always, always on it, making it difficult to type because the desk is small. She lays half on my mouse, half on the keyboard, and rolls on her back for me to rub her belly. I am an insomniac and play computer games all evening but when I finally go to bed, I always sit in it to read a bit. Cleo comes and stretches on top of me near my face, putting her paws on it until I say: “Bed time, Cleo, and she goes off to the end of the bed when I turn out the light. She stays there until I get up in the morning.

In my previous apartment, I used to give her milk at bedtime. She would sit in the kitchen and watch the turntable of the microwave while I was heating it, then trot to my bedroom when I told her, “Milk time for my Cleo.” Sometimes she lapped it, but most of the time she just dipped her paw in it and licked the paw—and made a mess on the floor! I moved to my present apartment a little over a year and a half ago, and for a while gave her milk, until I read that cats don’t digest it the way humans do. I stopped putting a dish on the floor then for her. But she is smart! Right now she is not on the computer desk, but in my bedroom closet (she has several beds in different places). When I bring a glass of milk into the room to hopefully help me sleep, she comes running from wherever she is and simply tries to drink from my glass of milk if it’s full enough or dips her paw in it and licks. That cat should have been a bloodhound! She may be anywhere in the apartment and when I go into the kitchen to get a piece of cheese, for instance, or some other “people” food, and she jumps right next to me to investigate what I’m eating, and to share in it if it’s something she likes. She loves butter, cheese, and chocolate, but I don’t give her the latter. Last week, I put a glass of orange juice on the desk. Well, this was “people” food, so she dipped her paw in it, licked it, and decided she did not care for orange juice!

Where I am, she is, even in the bathroom, in which the door is always open since her litter box is there. The only place she will not come with me is out of the apartment. My son now lives in the same building I do, and she still shakes like a leaf if I take her in the elevator to his apartment.

I love her so much! Unlike children, she never sasses me, never causes any problems, doesn’t cost me any money (except for the vet), and doesn’t disobey; she knows that when she does, I only have to say, “Where is the bottle?” When she used to scratch my leather sofa, I was at my wit’s end to get her to stop—that was before I found a slipcover that would more or less fit—and I would put water in a bottle and spray her lightly with it.

In my next life, I want to be a cat—to be fed, petted, loved, cherished, to sleep all day, to never get punished except for the occasional very, very light spraying of a little water, to never having to do any housework or worry about bills, to never getting kicked like a dog is sometimes. I love dogs as much as I love cats but a cat is far easier to take care of. I wish I could include a picture of my beauty; to me she is beautiful, even though she is a mixed breed whose mama committed some indiscretion. She’s gray with a white belly and white paws and has beautiful green eyes. Her name when I adopted her, poor thing, was White Paws. Here she is, Cleopatra, the Queen of the House!

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