I’ve always loved animals, but never had a cat growing up. One time when I was a child, we found a neighborhood cat roaming around in our garden and I had the idea to “keep it” in our garage. The cat stayed in there with me for a few hours until my parents opened up the garage door and he ran away. I remember being so upset, as it was the closest I’d gotten to having a furry pet.
When I moved to my apartment in Dumbo about 10 years ago, I had a small backyard. One day, a cute family of black and white cats showed up at my back door. A mama, and her two kittens. They looked scruffy, dirty and very hungry, so I started feeding them every day. Eventually, one of the kittens showed up all by herself and appeared to have been abandoned by the mother. I scooped her up, took her to the vet to have her checked out, and when they asked me for her name to register her, the first name I thought of was “Panda” (because of her black and white coat). They assured me that I could change my mind later, but in the end, it stuck, and Panda came home with me. She’s been by my side ever since.
I was never really a “cat person” until I met her — most of the cats I had met were standoffish and not the friendliest, but Panda is more of a lazy dog than a cat to me. She loves to just lie around in the warm parts of the apartment. She can’t be bothered to climb or do much beyond eating. She especially loves to eat greens — broccoli, any leafy greens, and all of the house plants. We have to keep plants out of her reach. It’s been years of trying to get her to lose some weight but it seems no matter what I try, it doesn’t do much, so we just love her the way she is.
When I met my husband he was surprised I had a cat and he was a little unsure about her because of his allergies. She eventually won him over when he realized that she is the coolest cat ever and unlike anything he thought about cats before. She used to put her paw on his chest as if to say, “I’m the boss here.” We’ve recently discovered our whole family is slightly allergic to her, so we just have to vacuum, brush Panda regularly, and wash our hands after we pet her. We are happy to live with it for our lovable kitty.
My 3-year-old daughter, Poppy, calls Panda her big sister. We have sweet photos of Panda watching over Poppy when she was a baby. She would climb into her bassinet when she found the opportunity and we still find her in Poppy’s room most of the time— in her teepee or on her bed. When Poppy started talking, she would call Panda “NaNa”. It stuck and now that’s what our family calls her.
Joyce Lee is head of design at Madewell.