I had a strange and dysfunctional childhood. One day, when I was around 12 years old, my dad brought home a cat. I reminded my irresponsible parents that I was allergic, but it didn’t matter, the cat was there to stay. We called him Yang, short for “koh-yang” which just means “cat” in Korean.
I usually avoided Yang because I was a little nervous around him. One weekend as my parents prepared to leave me and my young sister alone for a few days (as was usual back then), they fed Yang some fried fish, bones and all. Inevitably, he choked. But I managed to save him, using pliers to pluck a bone from the back of his throat. After that, he became my cat. He loved me, and slept with me almost every night.
Time passed and one day, he was let out as usual. He never came back. Fast forward over 20 years and I still feel a lot of guilt over that cat. I also don’t talk to my parents anymore. Yang helped me overcome my fear of animals and pets. He helped me get through a difficult period in my life until I was old enough to move out and be on my own and eventually cut off ties from those toxic relationships completely.
Last year, I finally adopted my own cats, first Chloe and then Milo two months later, both from the ASPCA. They have their own distinct personalities. Chloe is beautiful, independent, sassy and a huge flirt with handsome men. She doesn’t need a lot of affection and her philosophy is “I do what I want.” When she was about four months old, I decided she was a little TOO sassy…and would benefit from some kitty socialization. I worked long hours back then and felt guilty about leaving her home alone. I went back to the ASPCA and there was only one little kitten there that day… he was shy, hiding behind a cardboard box, but as soon as I shook a little mouse toy, he peeked out. I brought Milo home that day and he’s always maintained that playfulness.
But the first four days after bringing him home were super stressful. I was trying to do the slow intro with Milo in the bathroom and Chloe would hiss every time she smelled him on me or anywhere near her. I was already attached to Milo aka “Mandoo” (Korean dumpling) and could not think about the possibility of having to bring him back to the shelter. Finally, I woke up one morning after deeming it safe to let them be in the same room and pulled back a curtain and they were cuddled up together on the windowsill. They love each other so much now and I can’t imagine having one without the other.
Milo meow-yells at me every night to play his favorite game where he chases a bumble bee toy around and dives after it into my pillows. But he’s “food insecure” which makes me so sad because I realize how underfed he had been before he was with the ASPCA. In fact, when I first met him, I couldn’t understand why his fur wasn’t soft and realized later it was because he wasn’t getting proper nutrition. Now his fur is super fluffy and soft and he loves showing off his fluffy pants!
While it was originally intimidating to have my own pets (so much adulting!), I have really embraced the whole experience. They provide me comfort and stability in a sometimes stressful and busy life… which makes the weekly allergy shots and daily meds worth it!
Sandra Choi (@sanjra_choi) is a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) and original New Yorker. When she’s not busy providing anesthesia, she’s working on her doctorate. She’s also the cofounder of @kith.kin.nyc and has an IG account dedicated just to @milo_chloe