Caroline McCarthy & Minerva

When I met Minerva I was crying uncontrollably on a Friday the 13th. I’d just had to have my cat, Caterpillar, put to sleep. She was only 8 when she died, and she was my first and (thus far) only cat. I thought there was no way I could ever love a cat that much again, but I also couldn’t bear going home to an empty house from the animal hospital. So instead I went to the Brooklyn Cat Cafe, which is the perfect place to go when you want to cry and hug a cat because nobody will judge you and, well, the cats are there.

I was talking to one of the women who runs it, and I mentioned that if I were to adopt another cat I’d want another solo female cat who’d build a really close bond with me—and I’d want to adopt an adult cat, not a kitten, so that I had a good idea of her long-term personality. The response was immediate: “Oh! You should meet Minerva!” And then they pointed out this incredibly poised-looking black cat with gorgeous golden eyes. She looked like a flesh-and-blood version of the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, minus the nose ring.

Minerva had been rescued from a feral colony in a housing project where she’d made friends with a construction crew and would hang out in the back of their pickup truck with them as they ate lunch (sometimes even posing for selfies with them). She was unusually social among humans—but not among other cats, whom she loathed—and so even though she was an adult stray, the construction crew contacted the rescue affiliated with the cat cafe and suggested she might be able to find a home.

When I first met her, she wasn’t super into me. She accepted pets and chin scratches, but there wasn’t an instant connection. Nevertheless, I was so devastated from having lost Caterpillar that I filled out Minerva’s adoption application that day and went back to visit her almost daily until my application was approved. She came home later that month, and within 30 minutes of her arriving she was sitting next to me on the couch quietly while I worked on my laptop; there was no hiding under furniture or wariness around me. She slept at the foot of my bed that first night and has never slept anywhere else in the apartment since.

In spite of her friendliness, Minerva initially showed some quirks from having been rescued off the streets. She’d eat anything in front of her until she passed out, and had to be switched to a feeder on a timer to stagger her food access. I had to put a weight on top of my kitchen trash can because she’d try to climb into it to scavenge for food; she clearly had relied on trash for sustenance in the past. Once while I was eating a burger at my dining table, she jumped up, snatched the burger patty, and ran off with it. The first time I left her alone overnight, she panicked and smashed a bunch of stuff because, I think, she worried her source of food wouldn’t be coming back.

She also, much to my chagrin, wasn’t a snuggler. Caterpillar had loved to spoon. I started to wonder if maybe Minerva was just a normal, cat-like cat—she’d be friendly, but would keep a distance and do her own thing. This all changed after she got extremely sick, three months to the day after I first met her—which was, I kid you not, another Friday the 13th.

For a few days in July, Minerva had been using her litter box way more frequently than she should have, and I just chalked it up to her ongoing adjustment to household living. Then I came home on Friday, July 13 and found her lying listless and breathing heavily on my bed. I picked her up and held her like a baby, which she normally wouldn’t tolerate. She was clearly exhausted and really sick. I called the emergency vet—the same one where Caterpillar had died—and got Minerva into an Uber.

I cried on the floor of the waiting room until 4AM, convinced she wasn’t going to make it. My brother called me and stayed on the phone for an hour with me to keep up my spirits. Finally, the doctors told me I should go home and try to get some rest; Minerva had a parasite, it had hit her little body really hard, and they were hoping that she could be turned around easily. She ultimately had to stay in the ICU for two more nights, but when I got the call that she was all good to go home, she was purring and full of energy.

Maybe this brush with death had shaken Minerva’s sense of independence, because as soon as we got back to our apartment, our bond grew much closer. She started snuggling at night, following me around the apartment, and waiting for me at the front door when I came home. We also went on vacation together about a week after her hospital stay, mostly because I didn’t want to leave her alone and also because I didn’t want to burden a sitter with giving her the pills she was taking every day to continue her recovery. So we went on a road trip to upstate New York, bunking together in an A-frame cabin at Eastwind in the Catskills and hanging out in the evenings at the pet-friendly hotel bar, where I’d read a book and she’d sit on a stool watching the bartender mix cocktails, totally mesmerized. We stayed in a “glamping” tent on a farm near Cooperstown, where we went for walks together on the farm grounds. She’s great on a leash, but prefers to be the one leading the way. Minerva is a fantastic, ultra-chill traveler and loves being surrounded by people, especially if they want to give her belly rubs.

A couple of months after I adopted Minerva, a friend gifted me a deck of tarot cards, and I learned that Minerva loves watching cards get shuffled and dealt. Given that she’s an extra spooky black cat, this quickly turned into @minervathepanther, an Instagram account where Minerva “reads” tarot cards for other cats. Then I got certified as a reader myself, largely out of curiosity and also because I felt like if Minerva was going to be doing tarot readings for cats, they may as well be based in some kind of actual knowledge. 

We now “host” Friday the 13th tarot nights at Brooklyn Cat Cafe to benefit their cat rescue operations, doing readings for humans and cats alike, and we’ll be back on Friday, March 13. I’ve never been a particularly superstitious person, but having cat emergencies on consecutive Fridays the 13th made me freak out the next time one rolled around, and so it makes me particularly happy that we can now turn that right around and transform a particularly infamous date on the calendar into a special occasion for supporting cat rescue.

Caroline McCarthy works in advertising and also dabbles in writing and speaking about the future of digital media, including as part of TED’s Residency program. She enjoys hiking, hosting dinner parties, and visiting old cities where tons of cats wander the streets.

Author: girlsandtheircats

Photographer based in Brooklyn, NY.

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