I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with 8 cats in place of siblings, so sharing a living space with Filbert, Beeboo, Teddy, Joey, and George, is more like second nature to me than having human roommates.
The tabbies, Teddy and George, are the most outgoing. They’re only a few months apart in age. Filbert loves to groom just about anyone when he’s in the mood. He and Teddy have a special bond, and I often find them asleep arm in arm. Teddy loves to roughhouse with George and Filbert, but Filbert usually takes it too far and we have to step in. If I’m sitting on the couch or the bed for too long, 3 or 4 of them will end up joining me—sprouting up like a cat garden all over the mattress. Luckily, they don’t all sleep in the bed with us at night, though Filbert and Teddy will often make a nest in my armpit in the middle of the night, and George loves to sleep near my boyfriend Riley’s head.
Filbert came along first. At 4 weeks old, he had somehow separated himself from his feral family living in an abandoned yard behind my apartment, and ended up trapped inside the backyard of a neighboring building. He hissed when I cornered him but relaxed when I scooped him up in my furry coat. He looked like a tiny cow. Filbert is pure trouble—it makes complete sense to me now how he managed to strand himself in the first place. One time he broke through the window screen and got halfway down the alley, putting up a fight when I came to carry him back home. He uses my vintage knitwear as a scratching post if I leave it out. He’s a bully. He loves peanut butter, cookie crumbs, and aggressively biting my hand. Forcing cuddles on him will only get your face bit, but he’s the best cuddler in the house when he’s in the mood, and I’ll generally awake around 3am to find him nestled into my chest, sound asleep.
I wasn’t planning to keep Beeboo after finding her, feral at 5 weeks old, playing alone in a trash yard outside of a bodega. I carried her home wrapped like a baby in my scarf, and she warmed up quickly to being a house cat. Independent and confident, she broke free from her bathroom confinement after only 2 days and made fast friends with Filbert. Realizing a kitten would keep Filbert occupied, Beeboo kept ours as her home, and kept the nickname as well. She’s femme and frantic, but oh so gentle and kind. And chatty to boot. She’s an introvert, but she’s also a born leader—when it’s food time she wrangles everyone else and makes sure they’re eating before she resigns to her own bowl. She’s really a special lady.
Teddy is my favorite story—I was monitoring her litter from my window. The cat family was born in the same abandoned yard as Filbert had been 2 years earlier. The weather had been mild and they were too young to be taken from mom, but around the 4-week mark I made my move. I captured Teddy and her brother by hand after ambushing them which resulted in several bites, and then captured her three other siblings a day later with help from Bushwick Street Cats. I later trapped her mom and we got her TNR’ed. I fostered all 5 kittens in my little apartment, flea bathing them in my tub, and housing them in my kitchen with tin pans for litter boxes. I found them all fantastic homes, but with Teddy it was like she had chosen me. She would break out of her kitchen barricade and use her tiny claws to tether up my bed to sleep by my head every night. She demanded cuddles so much so that I safety-pinned my sweater up to make a kangaroo pouch for her to sleep in while I washed dishes. She took immediately to Filbert and Beeboo and they helped me care for her by keeping her clean and playing chase. She was part of the family. Teddy begs me to hold her and smiles SMILES when I give her cuddles. She screams when I sneeze. When I sing to myself she wails along with me. She’s the closest thing I have to a child.
George came to us through happenstance and a bit of magic. We spent 7 months in Philadelphia this year and while walking in a riverside park late at night, a friend tossed a coin into the water and Riley wished for the first thing that came to mind—a cat. As if we needed another cat. And out of the darkness comes running a handsome young tabby. He came right up to us and stayed by our side as we pet him, pulled burrs from his thick coat, and fed him cake crumbs. It turns out the park was home to a feral colony of about 20. George had been abandoned there about a month prior. After locating the colony caretaker, we, with his blessing, brought George to his first forever home—we did wish for him, after all! He’s a good-natured guy—handsome and strong and laid back. Classy. He’s the Andy Griffith of cats. He loves meeting new people and is an active member of our cat family, playing, sharing, and grooming. He’s a stunning example of a rescue cat and we’re proud to call him ours.
Joey (not pictured) is our resident loner. She loves sleeping in Riley’s dirty laundry. She doesn’t care much for people or other cats. She’s an accomplished squirrel watcher though and spends much of her afternoon by the window. Joey came from a rescue in Seattle, but was born a resident of Arizona. She’s a Norwegian Forest Cat and spends lots of time grooming her long majestic fur. Every few days she’ll ask for pets by dancing on her hind legs and meowing until someone pats her on the head, but 5 minutes later she’ll deny it ever happened. Joey loves a catnip toy, a dark closet, and being at least 10 feet away from Filbert at all times.
I never planned to have 5 cats in my adult life, but rescuing cats feels important to me and I feel happy knowing we’ve improved the livelihood of our cat fam—all of whom faced grim realities before their rescues. They all act as a big family too. Sure, they argue, but they love each other, and we often catch them grooming each other’s heads or sleeping next to one another. The human earth we’ve created is rough on cats and I believe it’s our duty to adopt (not shop).
Stella Rose Saint Clair is an artist, designer, fashion stylist, and vegan cooking aficionado living in a pink Brooklyn apartment with her partner Riley and 5 rescue cats: Filbert, Beeboo, Teddy, Joey, and George.