For the first 18 years of my life, I shared a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx with my parents and my two brothers. Both brothers have asthma, so the dog we all desperately wanted was just a pipe dream. There was a brief period in 2002 where we accidentally ended up with nine hamsters. I wouldn’t recommend it. I didn’t grow up around cats, and if you had asked me just four years ago what I thought of them, I’d have told you they were cute and also a little scary. I never expected to arrive at a place in life where my closest companion and most precious friend is a sassy tuxedo whose passions in life include vanilla ice cream, headbutts, and chasing ice cubes down the hall.
In 2017, I found a roommate via Craigslist who moved in with her chunky tabby cat named Moona. I expected to feel pretty indifferent towards this cat but she was such a curious creature, mysterious and brooding until the sun went down, at which point she’d become a total lap kitty. She won my heart over completely, and I ended up spending a ton of time with her because of how often I was working from home that year. I even wrote a song about her ruthless attitude and disdain for rules. She inspired me to be a more direct and unambiguous individual. About six months later, I started seriously considering getting a cat of my own.
I went straight to Petfinder.com and stumbled across a few different profiles of cats being fostered by Brooklyn Animal Action. I wrote to them expressing interest in meeting a 4-year-old tuxedo cat with green eyes and a pink nose, and the response I received was simply “Margo is a true gem… She is sweet and affectionate and is good with other cats too.” I knew I had to meet her.
I signed the paperwork to adopt Margo three hours after meeting her because I read online that if a cat lets you hold their paws upon first meeting you, they’ll be a chill and well-adapted cat. I walked into her foster home and within five minutes she was sitting in my lap—I figured that was an even better sign, and I let myself fall in love.
The reality was a bit more complicated, though. Margo came into my life as a very anxious teen. For the first six months post-adoption, she peed in my bed once a week (lucky for me I have an in-unit washer/dryer). Prior to her foster home, she had been adopted by an owner who was frequently out of town, and so she absolutely hated being left alone. She took to this specific way of expressing her anxiety. But she would always make up for it by being super cuddly and giving the best massages. After a few trials of anti-anxiety medication, a couple of litter box changes, a rejiggering of my work schedule, and a brand-new mattress, she finally stopped. Thank God.
A few months after Margo’s arrival, my roommate and her tabby moved out. It was a bit of an adjustment, but Margo quickly made herself the owner of every single surface in the apartment. She also won over each of my new roommates, so although she lost her cat buddy, she gained three doting aunts who scratch behind her ears and sneak her treats whenever I’m not home.
I live a pretty hectic day-to-day, balancing my full-time job with my music career. But I feel really at peace whenever I’m at home with Margo. She’s an incredibly social and snuggly cat, and loves to be where the people are (as my roommates and I frequently sing to her). If I’m watching tv, she’s snuggled up in her favorite Amazon box on the floor, next to the couch. If I’m making dinner, she’s curled up like a little loaf of bread as close to the counter as we’ll allow her to get. If I’m sleeping, she’s sleeping right there with me, in the crook of my arm. She’s an extrovert and doesn’t like to be left out. She’s like a Dachshund honestly.
Margo has been very influential in my music writing—she loves live music and is always seated next to me when I’m practicing the guitar at home. I’ve also written songs about her. Most recently, I wrote a song for her called “Forevermore” which I premiered in a one-woman musical I wrote for the NY Fringe Festival last year. It’s about the early stages of our relationship, where she didn’t fully trust that I would stick around for good.
Aside from her perfect cream center, her black tummy dot, the little “schmutz” on her chin, her chirps, and her amazing massages, Margo also earns her keep in our Prospect Heights apartment by killing every bug. Flies, water bugs, katydids, you name it, Margo will kill it. She’s the best pest control, and as long as she doesn’t bring any carcasses into my bed, I will always celebrate her after a successful hunt.
I don’t plan on having kids any time soon, and the only reason why my parents aren’t angrier with me about that is because they’re obsessed with Margo. My mom calls her “mi nieta” which means granddaughter in Spanish, and I feel really grateful that they understand that Margo is, to me, like a child. But she is that and so much more: therapist, confidante, snack buddy, masseuse, little spoon, and the love of my life.
Keren Abreu is a singer-songwriter born and raised in the Bronx. She lives in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.