By the time I was 12 years old, my parents were sick of me carrying on about how I wanted a cat. They eventually gave in and adopted a “kitten” from a family, who because of allergies, could no longer keep her. Turns out the “kitten” was a full-grown 14lb cat named Ivy. I didn’t care that she wasn’t a kitten, I finally had my first pet! That was the day I confirmed what I had suspected, I was a cat person.
In the spring of 2009, I was standing over a litter of kittens. I had come with one in mind. Black and white, she was tiny, sassy, and unexpectedly lanky. The black beauty mark on her face made her look delicate, but the way she moved through the room suggested otherwise. I named her Holga. While I had only come for one cat, a small grey and white fluff wandered over and climbed into my lap. He purred, kneaded my clothes, and looked me right in the eyes. Our connection was instant. I named him Pickle.
I was in college, life was tough, Pickle and Holga made it easier. My feelings of depression and anxiety were often obliterated when Pickle and Holga would gallop like small horses throughout my studio apartment. Their energy, love, and kitten antics brought excitement to each day. I was so grateful to have them. I remember early on, lying in bed with them, watching them breathe, feeling so responsible for their happiness and health. We bonded instantly. I knew I’d do anything for them.
Years later the three of us have lived in so many different cities, dozens of different apartments, and driven cross country, twice. Pickle is still as loving as the day we met. He dreams of being a wild outdoor cat but is visibly excited for bedtime and loves to curl up at our feet every night after kneading my shirt. Holga, still beautiful with the right amount of sass, is the queen of the house. She often coos like a pigeon and her favorite way of saying she likes you is to headbutt your boob or armpit with brute strength unseen in most cats. She’s had asthma for almost her entire life and most recently she was diagnosed with chronic heart failure with a year life expectancy. We came close to losing her, but after a 4-day stay in the ICU she showed us just how strong she is. She’s shaved and bruised, but happily nuzzles her head under my chin and rolls around in the sun. We know this disease will ultimately take her from us, but I feel lucky to have her home and to be the person to care for her till the end.
It was our first summer in Red Hook and I had become painfully aware of the unneutered stray and feral cat epidemic in Brooklyn. Walking home one night I spotted a beautiful longhaired kitten in the street. She walked right up to me and I scooped her up. She was injured and I knew she couldn’t be left outside. At that moment I had nothing to carry her in so I reluctantly put her back down and told her to wait right there. I quickly returned with a carrier and she was sitting exactly where I told her to wait. That night she slept in my bathtub. In the morning I took her to the vet. They asked me for a name, I called her Onion.
Onion had a respiratory, eye, and ear infection. To top it off she had several infected bite wounds on her body. I didn’t know it then, but the vet had doubts she would even make it. Weeks later, after a lot of love and medicine, she was thriving with a clean bill of health and ready for adoption. She was so special that I was having a hard time letting her go. I obsessively googled “having 3 cats in NYC”, “how much space is OK for 3 cats”, “is 3 cats too many cats?” I went on the Girls and Their Cats Instagram page and searched for people with 3+ cats to justify the decision, that deep down, I had already made.
Onion is undoubtedly the wild child of the house—friendly, but still a bit feral. She likes to keep us on our toes. She’s got a vendetta against all house plants and loves to claw her way to the top of a screen door. She loves when you hold her and sing her songs about how naughty she is. She has only ever meowed twice: once when receiving a bath and another time, at a single, lowly leaf, floating in the wind outside. Onion is just generally happy to be here, and she lets you know by her constant purr. We couldn’t imagine life without her.
Having three cats honestly feels really special. Like we are a part of a club that a lot of people are too scared to join. A club where you don’t own un-scratched furniture and clothing covered in hair is a requirement. I’m not going to say that having three is easy, but it’s been rewarding. It’s the calm moments that bring me the most joy. Everyone curled up together in the mornings, or all three perched in one window looking at the squirrels. Together, they have taught me how to be patient and completely selfless. Holga’s illness has forced me to slow down, breathe, and allow myself more personal time. Rescuing Onion inspired me to get more involved with cat rescue and TNR in my neighborhood. Pickle, Holga, and Onion have added so much to my life and I’m lucky to have found them.
Lauren Loncar is a photographer living with her three cats, fiancé, and goldfish in Brooklyn, NY.