Juni found us just over a year ago, when one of my best friends had rescued a pregnant neighborhood stray, and was trying to find homes for the newborn kittens. I excitedly went over to meet them—eager, but not at all expecting to adopt. Little Juni with her cap of grey and tiny two-toned body, immediately convinced me otherwise, when she crawled into my lap and fell fast asleep.
Several weeks later, my husband Brian and I brought Juni home with us after already having fallen in love with her. She was such a small furball curled up in the corner of her too-big carrier on the ride home. I kept peering through the mesh cat carrier windows to check in on her, and she stared back with her big, then-blue eyes. We were such nervous first-time parents, excited to give Juni a loving home, but terrified that we had no idea what we were doing.
Growing up, Brian had never had a pet, and I’ve only had an assortment of goldfish and guinea pigs. I’d always been a cat lady, but I never had one of my own to fully legitimize the title. To go from having the apartment to ourselves to suddenly sharing it with a free-roaming kitten honestly took a long while for the both of us to get used to. Every time she walked into the room I’d be so pleasantly surprised—she just didn’t feel real!
It turned out that adapting to having a kitten was easier than I’d imagined it would be. We suddenly had someone else to care about, a little life to raise and love together, and I was able to set aside a lot of the anxiety that I was holding onto. It just so happened that Juni’s birthday is Brian’s and my anniversary, which makes a special day that much more meaningful, and something we can celebrate together as a little family.
I work from home, and initially I was worried that having a cat companion would negatively affect my work schedule. In reality, I’ve only had to make minor adjustments, and if anything, adapting my schedule to hers added more structure to mine. When we first brought her home, I had to train myself to not spend the entire day at her side because she was just too cute to ignore! These days she’s my trusty studio assistant who’s asleep on the job more often than not, napping on a small faux fur blanket on the corner of my desk. When she’s not with me, she’s a little explorer around the apartment, making her daily rounds, investigating new sights and sounds. Having her around is such a calming presence, especially when work can often be so stressful.
My friend that we adopted Juni from (also an illustrator named Christina), ended up keeping Juni’s brother Moebi. They look very alike, except that Moebi has a little grey nose, and they couldn’t be more opposite in personality. Christina, unfortunately, moved away to Chicago a few months ago, but I’m so grateful to be cat aunties together. Keeping in touch is all the easier when we get to watch our cat siblings grow up together, even when they’re hundreds of miles apart.
Juni has gotten a lot more confident and cuddly over time. She always greets guests at the door and is never afraid to meet new people, though she takes her time to warm up to you. When we throw house parties she’ll make sure to say hello to each guest with a good sniff (and allow a pet if you’re lucky) before retiring from her hosting duties and falling asleep on her favorite chair nearby. That way she gets the best of both worlds: getting into bed early on a social night without having to deal with the FOMO.
Our tiny kitten that used to fit so snuggly into my cupped hands has grown into a cat triple that size while we grew into our roles as cat parents. Juni has to do so little to bring such happiness to our home, from the way that she stretches after a long nap, to how much she enjoys watching Planet Earth, or how happy she is when we come home to her. We’ve wasted so many hours doing nothing but fawn over how cute and silly she is. It’s so hard now to imagine what life would be like without her, and we’re only at the beginning of a long journey together.
Christina Chung (@christinaillos) is a cat mom and freelance illustrator that works in editorial and publishing illustration. She was raised between Seattle, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and is now based in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their little cat, Juni (@juniperlune).