As a kid, I had a collection of oversized crewneck sweatshirts in different colors with various cat iron-on decals that my mom made for me, decorated with glitter puffy paint. I’d wear them with patterned leggings and knock-off Keds slip ons. The shirts were her compromise for never allowing me to adopt a cat IRL. I was a child cat lady, without even having a cat.
Fast forward 20 years. Adopting a cat wasn’t my idea; it was my then-partner’s a few years ago. But after Sam came to live with us, I fell in love. And then when that romantic, human relationship transitioned — and it was just me and Sam — I leaned all the way to Full Cat Lady.We’re yoked forever now; I like to think he feels the same way about me. Sam’s a squishy cuddler with an attitude (cattitude) tied to anxiety from his past life. The foster caretaker said he was found in a foreclosed home on Staten Island, before he made his way to Brooklyn. He feels most secure when there is plentiful, visible food and water — just like me — which might be partly due to his past life fears. But I also recognize in Sam a fellow sensualist who loves pleasure in all forms: luxuriating in the big sun spot in late afternoon, napping on the sheepskin rug, the good wet food. He is also crazy about human food, especially the indulgent kind. Until we figured out each other’s tricks — though sometimes it still happens when I’m not looking — I used to catch him up on the kitchen table eating my breakfast yogurt, or licking the butter dish, or stealing a bagel with lox. Anything with any detectable dairy content drives him crazy. I’ve found him tearing into a croissant that he’s dragged behind the couch. Bad and boujee kitty hunting, artisan pastry edition.
I do spoil him, maybe a little bit. I work in the world of food and restaurants, so all sorts of good things have made their way into my kitchen — and I also cook and host dinner at home a lot. I cook mostly veg at home, but I’m prone to buying happy, free-range roast chickens from two favorite neighborhood spots: Puerto Viejo, a Dominican restaurant in Prospect Heights, and Risbo, my friend’s all-rotisserie spot in Prospect Lefferts. They’re the only birds I get behind! And now Sam too. When I pull chicken for a salad or roast the bones again for stock, he’ll get a few scraps if he’s being good.
I travel a fair amount for work and life so Sam has had various catsitters and temporary roommates. He has a great memory for anyone who’s ever come by, especially folks who give generous portions of treats or can massage his little cat skull with one hand. People always send me photos and videos, only sometimes by request! (He’s a muse and very photogenic. He’s cream white with orange markings, kinda like the cat emoji before the most recent update.) Sam loves on everyone who comes over or stays at the apartment. His cuddles are equal opportunity. He loves hugs, kisses and hair stroking, both given and received. Friends of mine, a couple, stayed there last year while I was away; one of them told me afterwards that she thought her partner was brushing her hair in the middle of the night, and she turned around and it was Sam! Total boyfriend material.
As I said, he’s a cuddler and a lover, and loves climbing in my lap when I’m working on my computer from home. (I’ve learned how to type over him). He favors the armchair for naps but will get in bed with me at night, too; sometimes he’ll sit on my chest, like a weighty ghost, and other times literally hug me while asleep, with one paw around my neck. He’s affectionate with friends and visitors, but I think our furever connection is clear.
My friend who catsat him all summer finally spent time with both of us together and said kitty was way friendlier with me around: “Sam is a one-woman cat.”
Kimberly Chou Tsun An is a writer, curator and event producer who works at the intersection of food and its related realms: art, culture, community, pleasure, politics. She co-directs Food Book Fair, a festival of writing about eating.
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