11.25.2008

The Making of a Cat Woman.

"I'm thinking about naming my cat Oscar," I say to Sima and Jess as we hang around after a meeting. "What do you think about that?"
"I think you should meet your cat first," says Jess. "Then name it." Sima agrees.

I wander into Petco last night, ready to adopt on a theoretical level, pretty unsure on a tangible one. How will I know which cat is mine? It feels like choosing a family member, like looking at a group of people and imagining what they'll be like hungover or with bad breath. You can never tell until it happens.

I tell myself that I don't have to choose a cat tonight, that I can just look and come back later this week to meet the new ones. This comforts me and renders me anxious, as all big decisions do. I am always a wee bit scared of attaching myself to something. Or someone. I'm not afraid to put that out there where we can all see it.

So I walk over to the cages. They each have names on them with photos and paperwork attached. Duchess. Lucky. Molly. Then, Oscar.

There he is, all broad shouldered and sleepy. My jaw is literally on the floor. "Oscar!" I whisper into his cage. "Are you my cat?!"

Oscar is in a cage next to Paris, a thin black feline. For a moment I wonder if she is my cat, if this Oscar coincidence is only there to lead me to her. But she's in the back of her cage, disinterested. Oscar is crammed up against the front, ripe for the nose and neck petting.

At first I think: "this cat is drugged. He is too mellow." But after a few minutes, he just seems happy to have someone petting him. He's older than I thought I wanted, but somehow it feels like a good decision to choose a cat that's been around the block a bit. I ask the woman who is incessantly on the phone if I can pet him.

"That big guy? Oh yeah, he just came in yesterday."
"Really? From where?"
"Inwood. Someone threw him out of the house."

Verbalizing the reality doesn't phase Oscar. He's happy to be more accessible now; with the cage open, he bangs his head into my chest. "Ohhh hi buddy," I whisper. "Do you want to be my cat?"

I'm acutely aware of the danger of choosing a cat merely because of a weird coincidence. On the other hand, what a freakin' coincidence. I ask the woman if I can have Oscar and she asks me a series of questions about the screens on my windows and my past cat experience. I pass the test. Oscar is mine.

Immediately I freak out and call 20 people while pacing the aisles of Petco, among the leashes and litter. I carefully choose bowls for his food and water and a litter box. Before I leave the store, I take them over to Oscar's cage for inspection. "What do you think, dude? Are these your style?" Oscar sniffs in approval, curious about what I'm holding. The woman has drawn a big heart on his paperwork that says "I'm adopted and going home on Saturday!" I almost tear up.

Outside, I call my brother. "You're going to be a cat's uncle!" I laugh into the phone. "Ohhh boy," he says. Like everyone else, he wants to know details, colors, personality. At some point I call Jess, who declares my life one big destiny move after another. And who later helps me find the perfect middle name.

Oscar Paris Epting. Welcome to the fam.

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