When an elderly gray tabby named Misty came to live with me—after a shelter volunteer rightly pegged me as a soft touch—we were both grieving. She had lost her human mom and the home they shared for 16 years. I had recently lost a dear feline friend.
It seemed sadness was all we had in common. Misty didn’t like to be petted, which was a huge disappointment to a cuddler like me. She insisted on attention at 3 a.m., a time I prefer to sleep. I don’t care much for taking orders, but Misty sure enjoyed giving them.
No matter what the demand, she was relentless, employing strategy after strategy until sometimes in exasperation, other times in sheer wonder, I caved. I told her she was a pain in the butt. Come to think of it, that’s what friends and family say about me.
I soon learned we were alike in other ways too. A month after Misty moved in, we began to bond as we looked out the window side-by-side, fascinated by the swirling colors of the falling leaves.
Over the next few years, I discovered we both also adored organic tomato soup and watching TV. Neither of us could stand Oprah.
It wasn’t long before I was smitten. Did Princess Bossy Paws morph into the lap cat I thought I needed in my life? Are you kidding? Instead, I grew to love her on her terms, for the unique little scoundrel she was: strong-willed and smart, comical and communicative. Misty had distinct vocalizations for every command, whether to open the door to my screened porch—her summer paradise—or fetch her treats. Often, she impatiently urged me on with an escalating “mow (read: “now”), mow, MOW!!”
Misty's frostiness eventually melted. Instead of demanding an audience in the wee hours, she would find comfort in curling up next to me, purring us to sleep. Soon, she began beckoning me over to pet her for a glorious 7.5 seconds, up to a few minutes if she were feeling truly magnanimous.
By year three, she had begun a new tradition: Perched in front of my picture window, she would call out to me as I walked up the steps to my door. I meowed back, to leave no doubt in my neighbors’ minds that I’m a crazy cat lady. As the door opened, Misty would leap off the sofa to greet me, caressing my ankles with her furry face.
Head-butting came next. I’m told it is a kitty compliment of the highest order. Finally, I knew she loved me as I did her.
And so it was until we approached our fifth year together. Misty's kidneys were failing. Intervention wasn't successful, palliative measures were only transitory. She started refusing food she had eaten with gusto the week before. I asked her to tell me when she’d had enough. One day, she did.
Guilt is in my DNA. I will forever regret the times I lost patience with Misty. I regret shooing her off my desk when she danced across the keyboard, sending my documents into oblivion. And I profoundly regret not realizing immediately that her litterbox misses were a sign of illness.
Somehow, I know she forgave me all my transgressions. At the end, while I waited for the vet to arrive, Misty gave me the most precious gift of all: She allowed me to lie beside her and pet her as long as I wanted. She taught me to give love unconditionally. I helped her learn to accept it.
It’s not the length of our relationships that matters, but the quality. Whether you adopt a cat or dog, bunny, bird or other animal as your best friend, please consider a senior.