We welcomed Janetta home when she was 8 years old. It was pretty scary the first few months, because she was overdue for a tune-up at the vet’s. She needed a lot of dental work, and she was so scared that she initially stopped grooming her beautiful coat—she matted up badly. The vet recommended a lion cut to get back to basics. Of course, we couldn’t take her to a standard issue groomer. Janetta was too fussy for that sort of thing, and instead she required a couture styling service at the vet’s, complete with a soothing medicated bath. Feeling refreshed, she became more comfortable with every step.
Ever a little lady, Janetta was born in Moscow and carries herself like a proud and regal character, but at the same time she lets these moments of silliness slip. One moment she’s perfectly poised—paws together, head upright, waiting for a handful of Friskies Wild West Party Mix—but other times she acts like a little kid in the way she paws for attention. I work from home, and she’s always padding around the desk, lounging across my keyboard and nuzzling the monitor. Eventually she settles in and enjoys the tap of the keys and the heat from the laptop.
We say Janetta is a cat of many looks. I say she’s like Madonna in that way. Sometimes she looks like a baby with huge eyes, chasing toys and enjoying a long paw massage, and then other times she is unknowable: She sits at the top of her cat tower with one leg outstretched, her fluffy tail swinging, and her eyes looking somewhere far away. I think she’s thinking about Russia.
Janetta and I have our own secret language. When I sneeze, she does the strangest thing: She opens her mouth and lets out this odd staccato, crackling sound that lasts for a good five seconds. She only does it when I sneeze, not when anyone else does. I think she’s worried about me. I’ve Googled this countless times—using every combination of words—but I’ve never heard of this phenomenon. Guess it’s just our thing.
She also kisses me when I have been away for a few days. When I sit on the couch or lie down, she rubs her heart-shaped kitty nose against my nose and lips. And when I shower, I come out to find her waiting by the door, her two front paws together. It’s so sweet.
Janetta is —pronounced “Zha-nyet-tuh”—in Russian, but in the past three years, she has earned many nicknames, like “ “Squeaker” because she often squeaks instead of meows. Other nicknames are “Baby,” “Munchkin,” or “Little J,” because she is so tiny—seven pounds!—and she looks like a kitten despite being a senior cat.
Like a baby, she is very attached. Each morning, she wakes up her dad, coming in for cuddles, following him into the kitchen for breakfast, then going back to bed for a second snooze with me. She often follows me into the bathroom to get ready in the morning. Our routine—and all of her little movements, sounds, looks, and moments of connection—keep me laughing every single day. They make the tough ones so much more bearable. She is our little clown. That’s another nickname.
While I had two wonderful cats growing up, something changed in me when Janetta came into my life. It’s hard to put into words, but Janetta made me feel a sense of connection to both something bigger and also the present moment that I never had before. She brings me joy I can’t describe, and she has made me further appreciate animals’ divine nature. Because of her, I’ve written extensively about animal welfare for Teen Vogue and routinely volunteer with my fiancé at City Critters, an organization devoted to helping cats find homes. Janetta has made me a more confident, more compassionate, and sillier person.
Jessica Matlin is the co-host of Fat Mascara and a regular contributor to Allure. Recently, she was the Beauty and Health Director of Teen Vogue, and before that, she has been an editor at places like Cosmopolitan, Allure, and W magazine.