I moved to New York almost two years ago to start a new job and a new chapter. I was really excited, but I was definitely more anxious about moving than I wanted to admit. I’d lived in the Boston area for seven years and Cambridge for the last three, where I’d built a solid community in a neighborhood that felt like home. I also lived with three of the world’s best roommates (and our lovable roommate cat). Now I would be moving to a new (huge) city and living alone for the first time.
It took one whirlwind weekend touring every 5th floor walkup below 14th street for me to find my apartment. I was lucky enough to have college friends in New York who helped me paint, build Ikea furniture, and get settled in. I told myself that I might want to eventually adopt a cat but that I wouldn’t rush it. I knew I’d be working a ton, and I’d been told that I’d want to spend all of my free time out of the apartment taking advantage of the amazing city. I worried that having a cat wouldn’t be great for my social life and making new friends.
After about two months of living alone, I noticed some signs that my resolve was shifting: I was swiping through the PetFinder app instead of dating apps, I found myself rerouting walks to pass by the local animal shelter, and then one weekend I visited three shelters and two fosters including taking a train, bus, and taxi deep into Brooklyn to meet these orange brothers I’d seen on PetFinder.
When I saw them, I knew they were the cats I was looking for. Two orange boys. One XL, entirely orange, curly whiskers, loud purr but no meow. One XS, white paws and a white ascot, amber eyes, loud purr, frequent chirp.
There was an application and vetting process (their foster mom—a total rock star—even inspected my apartment to make sure it was 100% cat safe) and on 11/11 their foster mom brought them home.
I wasn’t sure how it would be with two cats in my tiny apartment, but I liked the idea of adopting a bonded pair so they’d have each other to play with, especially while I was at work. And having two has turned out to be perfect.
They are classic brothers. Sullivan is definitely the “big” brother. He’s a total ham, and he’s the boss. He’s pushy about meals and treats and toys but he always shares in the end.
Thompson, the “little” brother, is nearly two pounds lighter than Sullivan, and he’s got kitten energy. He always wants to play or hide. One minute he’ll pounce on Sullivan to get a game going, and the next he’ll be trying to groom him. He just wants to be his brother’s best friend and it reminds me of every little sibling stereotype (as a younger sister, I can relate).
I always say that they’re just like two golden retrievers that got accidentally shrunk in the wash. They are really friendly and love to play and be around people, and even love chasing tennis balls. I’ve had a few self-proclaimed “dog people” (the “I never really liked cats” type) come meet them, and by the end they admit that these cats are ok (I take it as a small victory for breaking cat stereotypes).
They are obsessed with pigeons and have daily hunting sessions. They’ll perch in the window and chirp through the glass at pigeons roosting on the fire escape. The birds clearly know they’re safe and seem to enjoy putting on a show. Once a pigeon posted up right on the sill and they had a staring contest all morning.
Sully actually can’t meow (I say it’s because he was a miscreant youth on the city streets but the vet actually doesn’t know why) so Thompson does the speaking for the both of them. T is my alarm clock. At 6am on the dot, he jumps on the bed, chirps, jumps off, runs the length of the apartment, and does it again. Over and over. It’s really effective, though most mornings I end up feeding them and going back to snooze a little longer.
On more than a few occasions I’ve come home after a late night and turned on the light to see two judgmental faces staring at me from the couch. I can read on their faces “what on earth have you been doing out at this hour? It’s past curfew.”
I’m pretty sure cats are proof of magic. I don’t know how they do it, but they always seem to know if I’ve had a tough day or if I’m not feeling well. They’ll ramp up the purrs and affection. When I’m home sick, Sullivan will curl up right on my chest and just purr. This has been such a gift, especially for my first year of living alone which came with so many ups and downs. I feel really lucky to have found them and to be able to have them in my life.
Last year I threw a Passover Seder with my friend and we had about 14 guests. I don’t have a big table, so I unhinged the closet door, propped it on two low shelves, and we all sat around it on the floor. I was worried about how the cats would be with so many people, and how so many people would be with the cats, but Sullivan and Thompson stole the show! It helped remind me that although I was worried they’d keep me home and make it harder to make new friends, they’ve actually helped me build my new community.
Clara Gray is from Vermont and has slowly increased the size of her home towns from around 3K to 62K to 685K to over 8.6 million. She works in Product Marketing at Flatiron Health. She lives and works in Soho and loves spending time in the neighborhood.