Atticus (see also: Fatticus; Fatty-Cakes) walked – literally – into my life spring of 2013. On the invitation of a can of tuna served on the front stoop, the bold little thing, just under a year I’d have guessed by weight and length, waltzed into my apartment, at the time shared with three other girls (all confessed “dog people”) and, as can obviously be assumed, never left.
It wasn’t unusual to see strays on the streets of North Philly. Among many other things (few cheerful, positive, or cuddly) North Philly was known for its abundance of stray cats. Atticus was one of their lot wholeheartedly; took no shit, feared no dogs, ate straight up anything. He was the sort of cat that people who said they hated cats came to love. You could wrestle with him like a pup, cuddle with him like an old, raggedy stuffed animal, and share a midnight munchie – his favorite being 35 cent Oodles n’ Noodles.
Food, it would turn out, was something Atticus really, really enjoyed. Perhaps it was those formative months spent scrounging the unforgiving and un-bountiful city streets that instilled in him the dire desire to dine. Or maybe he’s on, still, a lifelong culinary quest to satisfy those original cravings that only back alley bodega dumpster diving can sate.
In any case, he quickly became a sizable companion whom I lugged – lifting from the legs not the back – from city to city.
Together, we moved back home to Pittsburgh and converted my deathly allergic childhood best friend into a roomie and, after not too long, willing cat-cuddle-buddy. He was an outdoor cat and it wasn’t long before our backyard filled with the small femurs, skulls and shoulder girdles of unidentifiable rodents.
Atticus grew a rap on the street. Neighbors greeted him by name, invited him in for dinner, walked with him to the bus stop in the morning. One woman mentioned casually that she came home one night to find him already inside of her apartment, waiting to warmly greet her. My sister, also a roomie at the time, road up the main drag of the neighborhood and saw him, too, strutting his way up the street, apparently headed for the Crazy Mocha.
Knowing I had to take him back indoors when I decided to move to New York was hard. The solution for this guilt was, obviously, to get another cat.
Enter Scout (see also: The Kitten; The Little One). Scout was procured in a Chick-fil-A parking lot from a girl of but eleven or twelve who confessed he was riddled with worms but did I want him anyway? He could fit in my palm, and spent his first month of New York life shut in solitary confinement (so as to not spread the worms); the first and last week of that month forced to swallow anti-worm-meds twice a day from a syringe.
Despite the love, attention and affection I paid to him during this time, I am lead to believe that this isolated and traumatizing introduction to life has left him with, how should we put this, social difficulties.
He is spastic, rigid, awkward and bashful. Next to no one aside from me can pet him, and those who can have mastered the delicate and intricate art of approaching him not from above, not too quickly, and using only a few fingers in just the right spot behind his ear.
Common perception aside he is really quite affectionate. He’s obsessed with Atticus, despite Atticus’ original detest, and then indifference toward him. When they cuddle it’s as though he can’t get close enough, perpetually shifting and repositioning himself until he is enveloped in Atticus’ fat rolls, just his slightly creepy slits of eyes visible in the fur covered blob.
Unlike Atticus (or maybe because of Atticus) he doesn’t eat much. He doesn’t seem to derive real pleasure from food, viewing it simply as the sustenance he needs to pursue his true, deep seeded passion: Meowing at me incessantly, bleating really, until I pick up and play with his teaser toy.
He’s easily amused, loves chasing – but not so much catching – things, and prefers to be pet on carpeting or soft surfaces.
They’re an odd pair – had they met under normal cat circumstances I don’t know that they would have taken to each other. Alas, life being the unpredictable and wily journey that it is, they have formed an undeniable bond and left a permanent paw print on each other’s hearts.
Nomi Leasure is a creative project manager and columnist from Pittsburgh, PA. She lives in Brooklyn and has a weekly advice column for London based Taylor Magazine. She’s going on her third year in New York, loves print magazines, cocktails and, of course, cuddling her cats.