My partner Jeff and I had just moved in together and were fantasizing about adopting a cat, but we didn’t feel quite ready yet as we were still getting acquainted with our new space and living together. While browsing adoption sites and craigslist purely out of curiosity, we stumbled onto a post about Choi and just couldn’t resist wanting to meet him! Not only is he so handsome, but the description of his personality sounded incredibly lovely. He was about 3-4 years old and looking for a new permanent home. In a bizarre coincidence, the owners actually knew us through my work at Refinery29 and Jeff’s work in film. They were happy to introduce us to Choi, and if we all clicked then we could adopt him. We set up a time to meet after we returned from visiting Jeff’s family (and their cats) over Thanksgiving.
However, things got stranger and more complicated from there. While visiting Jeff’s family I discovered—much to my chagrin—that I was actually allergic to cats. I had never spent that much time with them, but had always loved them from afar. Looking back though, it all made sense: the irritated nose, the itchy eyes. But it was never consistent and it only happened with some cats. We told Choi’s owners about my recently discovered allergies, but they still wanted us to meet him since he is a Maine Coon and they typically produce less dander than other cats. So a few days later, we met Choi. He rolled over to expose his velveteen belly, and it was love at first sight—with very few sneezes.
We’ve lived with Choi for almost two years and I feel incredibly lucky to have him in my life. He is a wonderful cat with a really sassy and sweet personality. To my surprise, he acts more like a dog than cat sometimes: playing fetch, wagging his tail and breaking EVERYTHING. He comes when you call his name and he’s obsessed with chest rubs. When we get home, he literally rolls over and presents his belly and taunts you (with his eyes) to try and resist petting him. However, if you touch his ponch, he will be quick to let you know he’s not into that.
Because Jeff travels a lot for work, Choi and I have spent a lot of one-on-one time developing a few tricks and customs. Every day after dinner Choi and I sit on the couch, eat treats, caress each other and try to be as present as possible. I do this for like 20 mins without doing things like checking my phone or multi-tasking. It’s become such a sweet bonding moment. He has the biggest eyes and when they look directly at me with a grateful stare I always feel his love, and it reminds me of how much his company keeps me grounded. Also, I exclusively speak to him in Spanish, no English. He’s actually gotten really good at understanding certain sentences and commands in Spanish. Maybe a lot has to do with intonation, but I still like to think that he is just my very smart bilingual cat.
These special moments with Choi became even more important after we found out that he has some really serious health issues. Last summer Choi was diagnosed with degenerative heart disease, as well as asthma and some digestive complications. All of these conditions have reduced his life expectancy, which has really devastated us. Luckily, he has taken really well to treatment and is such a good boy about taking his meds. The meds have actually visibly improved his quality of life, which is a welcome relief. We try to take it one day at a time and have become really conscious about making sure he knows how loved he is. We try to give him the best life possible.
Choi has become such an integral part of my life and who I am. He makes me feel more complete, and has a way of making every day feel a little special. I really just look forward to coming home to him. I am so grateful for his love and companionship, and will never forget that little ear nibble he does every morning to let me know it’s time for breakfast.
Vero Romero is a Mexican illustrator and designer currently working at Refinery29. Most of her illustration work centers around women and femmes, but she also really loves drawing felines. She lives in Bed Stuy with her partner, Jeff, and their cat, Choi. It’s only been two years since they adopted Choi, but their obsession with him has lead them to make and commission art pieces.