In June of 2019, I lost the feline love of my life. You cat lovers know which type of cat I’m talking about—the soulmate kitty who shapes your very being and is instrumental to who you become as a person. Gidget, a tortoiseshell kitten, came home from the shelter when I was 12, was my rock for 16 glorious years, and departed this world much too early due to a neurological disorder. To think about the span of years we’ve shared together sends me into a very emotional realm of sentiment. She was my family; Gidget had been in my life longer than she hadn’t. The magnitude of our bond still prompts me daily to take pause and reflect on how grateful I am to have had a companion like her. Thankfully, I still had her ‘brother’ Munch, who had come to live with me following my parents’ divorce.
That’s when Munch’s true personality began to blossom. It’s difficult to encapsulate Munch’s magic in words. Munch is a plush snowman. Munch is a boneless seal made of velvet. Munch is a calm cotton ball. Munch was born an old soul assuming the body of a not-quite-cat-looking creature. Munch exudes gentleness, brought into this world to cuddle and to be your quiet friend who genuinely enjoys your company. He is the master of head butting and he is incapable of harboring any spiteful cattributes. His inner circle is selectively small and unfortunately most will never know the extent of his healing powers. But it’s not that he’s ever standoffish, oh no, he just doesn’t fuss over the need to meet new people (and new cats, for that matter). He provides my partner and I with an unbounded feeling of comfort, making it impossible to allow outside problems to corrode our souls. His existence is a daily reminder that love and a safe place to curl up is all you need. Sure, it’s a simple life he leads, but it’s one with love and intention, and isn’t that the dream? After Gidget’s passing, Munch had this intuitive understanding that I was hurting badly, and with the support from my beloved partner Rob, I was able to channel my grief and capacity for love through fostering, thus embarking on a new endeavor all in Gidget’s legacy.
Fast forward four months: my foster total had gone up to 21 when I saw the saddest old-man Scottish Fold on a local cat rescue networking group. I thought to myself, “Oh, I could fix him up and get him adopted in a flash.” I had no intention of adopting another cat; I had it wired in my brain that I was (in the style of a superhero): “Never to adopt again, only foster, so I can save! More! Animals!” Well, Rasmus, that sad old-man Scottish Fold, had other plans. Upon meeting him at the Red Oak animal shelter, Rasmus was readily equipped with pitiful sniffling, conjunctivitis, diarrhea caked on his fur, and mangled ingrown nails, all of which made me fall instantly in love. He started purring the moment I picked him up and in my usual dramatic flair, my next thought was, “I cannot live without this cat.”
His first six years are a complete mystery to me, as the information I do have only dates back to August 2019 where there were repetitive issues with his newly adoptive owners. They eventually dumped him outside the shelter after hours most likely because of his myriad illnesses. To this day, it physically enrages me to my core to think they abandoned this cat when he needed them most, but I quickly shift that passion towards the gratitude I feel for having been the lucky gal to nurture him back to health.
Rasmus’s first day with me was like we’d been lifelong ol’ pals. Once I brought him home, he sat happily in my lap, soaking in the attention, and hardly took any time to decompress. I will never forget his first night on the couch with us, his head nestled so sweetly in my partner’s arms, sleeping peacefully and trusting of us in spite of past humans having so utterly failed him. His ability to sleep through anything, coupled with his complete horrified shock when a foster kitten would sneak up on him, led me to discover that Rasmus is deaf! It makes total sense; sometimes when Rasmus can’t find us, he meows VERY loudly as he has no way of gauging his volume. I swear I see Munch, who has an impossibly tiny meow, cringe every time Rasmus starts his separation anxiety-induced wailing, which legitimately sounds like he’s saying “HELLOOOOOOOOO.” And then when he finally makes eye contact with one of us, he mutters a tiny “hello.” It’s adorable.
Aside from his hilarious antics, this miniature version of the animatronic lion from Jumanji is a LOVER! He fills whatever negative space there is surrounding me, forehead to forehead, paws wrapped around my arms, snuggling as though he were being paid for it. Every night he’s under the covers, wedged in between us. He snores like a 62-year-old man and he’s constantly sneezing on me but I love him the same. He doesn’t have the attitude some cats possess; I can confidently rub my face into his belly and he adores it. I also find it endearing that in his old age, he still plays with his tail. Rasmus despises being alone and always craves the companionship of a human. He coexists with Munch but he doesn’t seek comfort from him.
We recently moved from Dallas to Portland and as we were slowly packing up, Rasmus was losing his mind. I could read the expression on his face so clearly: “What! Is! Happening! Where is the order?!?” Also during that move, I could read Munch’s unamused expression of, “You mean to tell me this bozo is A) not a foster and B) coming with us?!” When I think of Rasmus and Munch as humans, I imagine Neil Simon’s Felix and Oscar, only these two are scrawny old men who have a set routine of reading the morning paper together, napping in the parlor together, and venturing out at night to a seedy jazz club together where one puffs his pipe and the other nurses a small glass of sherry, both too stubborn to engage in conversation with another, and yet an unspoken agreement exists between their bond.
I love having senior cats and taking care of them in their golden years. Sure their individual dietary needs and supplement regimens have more steps than filing my taxes, but the companionship they have to offer is a feeling I can only describe as equivalent to seeing elderly folks interact with toddlers. They’re my babies and yet, they possess such wisdom to which I’m beholden. Together, my orange otter pup and my grey seal pup have brought so much joy to my life and I know my little baby Gidget is perpetually purring in all of our hearts.
Sammy Rat Rios is a performing and visual artist residing in Portland, OR with her partner Rob, two cats Munch and Rasmus, rabbit Desdemona, and a militant army of houseplants. She is a songwriter/producer for her electronic solo project Rat Rios and can be found in front of and behind the screen for various theater, film, and podcast productions