Mallory Heyer, Sinopa & Tesla

XJ8A8711aDuring my junior year of college, my roommate and I had such a bad mouse problem that I started calling the mice my other roommates. My human roommate and I went to the animal shelter because they had a BOGO on cats that day. How could we resist? I saw Sinopa in her little box and she reached over to me, I touched her paw, I knew she would be mine. She was not yet ready to be adopted, as she was still quite fresh from being spayed, so I drove to the shelter the moment they opened the next day to briefly play with her and get to know her before taking her home with me. Someone came up to me when I was in line and asked if they could have her… I said no.  I’m glad I was the first person there that day.XJ8A8440aSinopa is the laziest, most affectionate cat I have ever met. She likes really aggressive, firm petting that pulls her ears back until I can hear the click of spit in her mouth. If I’m about to stop she will take her head and aggressively shove it under my hand to imitate how I was just petting her. She loves it. With her laziness, she only likes to play if she is sitting in a ‘pre-approved’ play area— she does not move from it, she hardly wiggles a paw. If I move a felt rope in her face, she will occasionally bite it or bat at it, but I feel more like she enjoys the performance of me trying to get her to move and play.

Since adopting her, she has become obsessed with food. I believe her obsession stems from her childhood. When I first brought her home, she had a tapeworm. I didn’t’ know that at the time, but she was soooo hungry. She wouldn’t even let me eat a bowl of cereal in peace. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving night that I found out what was wrong with her. We were in my bed together and she was at my feet. Suddenly I felt a really interesting texture on my toes. I looked down and saw a white little chunk coming out of her butt. I kept her in my room and took the hottest shower of my life. And then I went Black Friday shopping for tapeworm medicine. Apparently the shelter I adopted her from de-worms the cats from all worms except for tapeworms.XJ8A8552aDuring the first year I had Sinopa, my roommate’s cat passed away and I wanted to find a new buddy for her. I had always dreamt of having a Siamese cat, but I didn’t want to get one from a breeder. I looked on craigslist and different shelter’s websites daily, waiting to see if a Siamese cat would show up. A small vet clinic in the middle-of-nowhere Minnesota posted a listing for Tesla, describing him as a stray in immediate need of a home.  It took me 45 minutes to drive to the vet— I called them three times along the way to make sure no one else had adopted him.

I was sitting in a chair and Tesla immediately walked up to me and curled up on my chest close to my face. He was in such rough shape that the vet couldn’t tell me his age. I didn’t care if he was 3 or 15. I immediately knew I needed to adopt him and give him the best life that I could. Judging from the condition he was in, I thought he could have been pretty old.XJ8A8445aAfter giving him a loving home, his nails became stronger and his coat became softer. My local vet estimated that he was somewhere around two years old. I was so happy that I’d get to spend more time than I previously thought I had with him. He had the cutest meow. It sounded like he was saying “brrrrow.” He still has a bit of the “brrrow” in his meow accent, but it has definitely faded.

One of my favorite memories of Tesla is when I was in art school. I did a lot of painting, so I had paintbrushes on my desk. Tesla had an obsession with them. He would steal the brushes from my desk and play with them. He had this technique where he would hold the bristles in his mouth, throw the brush and run after it again. I joked that he was the reincarnation of Jackson Pollock. I even had him preform for my installation and performance class… unfortunately, he was too shy to show everyone.

I would buy him his own brushes, as his obsession was so strong that whenever I had a friend over he would dig through their purses and backpacks to see if they had any paint or makeup brushes. Unfortunately, his fascination with brushes has died down—now he loves a very specific brand of mice toys.XJ8A8665aTesla has not had an easy life. Since I’ve adopted him, he’s been in a cone at least once a year. He always finds himself in some sort of trouble, from ripping out a nail, falling out of his cat tree, to getting so sick that he sneezes blood. I’ve always given him so much love and care, but I really regret not taking the hint and getting him pet insurance. Two years ago, a bump showed up next to Tesla’s eye that I thought was a massive zit. When I took him into the vet, he didn’t want to touch it because they thought it was a cyst and they worried it would become infected. I also really regret not pushing them to test it. A year later I found out it was a mast cell tumor. He went into surgery to remove five of the cysts on his face so they could biopsy them. Every bump tested positive. He has cancer. The vet recommended that I take him to an oncologist to test his spleen/blood to see how far it has spread.XJ8A8682aUnfortunately, the tumors had gotten to his spleen and were pumping the cancer through his body. The oncologist told me I’d only have a few more months with him if they didn’t remove it. If they gave him a splenectomy, I’d be able to get at least another year with him. I had just gotten a new job with a raise, so I was luckily able to afford the procedure.

Tesla has never seemed sick from the cancer, which always made it harder. He’s always been so playful, happy, and so affectionate. He’s now only a month away from what his life expectancy was last year, and unfortunately, it’s starting to show. I really hope he’ll survive beyond it though.

Through it all, he is still so affectionate and snuggly. He always sleeps curled up next to me, often times he wants me to hold his paw. Sinopa likes to sleep nearby, but she likes to be a bit more in control of her environment. When I cry about Tesla though, Sinopa is often the one to comfort me.XJ8A8502a

Mallory Heyer is an illustrator and designer. She works full time as a senior designer for Nickelodeon, but spends a lot of her free time drawing her cats and doing freelance illustration work.


Photographer based in Brooklyn, NY.

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