For many years, I’d wanted to get a cat. And for just as many years, my boyfriend had resisted. He claimed that cats were creepy, would poop in our house, would never really love us, and would rip up our furniture. Cats are not creepy and they do love you, I tried to tell him (I didn’t have much ground on the pooping and furniture-ruining points), but he wouldn’t budge, so I spent many nights watching Real Housewives alone, wishing I had a cat to keep me company. Sad me! No, it wasn’t that dramatic, I just wanted a cute cat to pet.
So I pestered and pestered, and would read him heartbreaking listings from Petfinder.com (if you’re ever in the mood for a good weep, just peruse those adoption blurbs — “Little Albie, a 4-month-old male kitten, was found in a dumpster. We’ve nursed the friendly guy back to health, and now he’s looking for a forever home!” You’re crying now, right? I am!). Finally, after a nice dinner, a few margaritas, and particularly intense Petfinder session in which I read aloud a listing about a kitten named Emma — my name! — with one leg — one leg! — my boyfriend said to me, tears in his eyes (not really): “Fine, get the cat, but if our apartment smells like poop, it’s on you.” “Hooray,” I yelled, and quickly began Googling “how to adopt a cat in NYC.”
The next weekend, I set out on my mission. I even wore my glasses to convey just how serious I was. I took out my contacts! That’s how serious I was. I arrived at a Petco in midtown and was thrilled to see a number of kittens displayed for adoption. I liked one in particular, a small gray guy with green eyes. “Can I see that one over there?” I asked the volunteer manning the cats. She eyed me suspiciously — she was somewhere between 30 and 60 years old, had butt-length brown hair, and was in worn-out overalls. “Do you already have a cat at home?” she responded. “No, this will be our first!” I gave a chipper, cat-loving smile, one I hoped read ‘happy’ instead of ‘hoarder.’ “I’m sorry, then. You can’t adopt any one of these cats. You can only adopt them in pairs. Otherwise, it’s inhumane. Are you willing to do that?” I was confused, and started to sweat under her cat-lady glare. “I think we just want one cat,” I replied softly. I showed her my list of other adoption sites. “Will any of these places let me get just one cat?” She squinted at my iPhone. “Nope. No way. It’s a citywide policy for all the non-profits. We only allow kittens to be adopted in pairs.” I had just spent years convincing my boyfriend to get one cat, and now this scary lady was telling me we had to get two?
I wandered out of the store, dejected, and called another organization.
“Can I adopt one kitten from you?”
“Only two, sweetheart.”
And another. “Can I adopt one kitten from you?”
“No, not if you don’t have another cat at home.” But she did recommend a Humane Society an hour uptown.
So, fine, I thought, what’s the big deal? I’ll go up and get a cat. One cat. I got to the Humane Society with high hopes. And then I went in. It was poorly lit and smelled overwhelmingly of wet animals. People were elbowing me and dogs were barking loudly. I followed the signs to the cat area, and on the way up some narrow stairs, I started to get dizzy. Like, really dizzy. Like, panic attack dizzy. Once in the cat room, a tiny square filled with cages of the saddest meowing cats you’ve ever seen, I began to choke on clumps of fur floating in the air like dandelion fluff. I know that the Humane Society is a wonderful organization that saves the lives of so many animals. And yet, at the moment, all I could think was: For the love of god get me out of this hellhole GET ME OUT OF HERE!! My chest tightened, and I felt like I was going to pass out on the floor of the cat room and forever be deemed unsuitable to raise a kitten. I ran out, gasping, eyes tearing up, glasses falling down my face. I got into a cab and sobbed.
I called my boyfriend. “So, did you find us one?” he asked cheerfully. “I CAN’T BREATHE. I THINK I’M DYING.” I tried to explain what happened, but wasn’t making a lot of sense. “I was going to get us a cat. But then I could only get two. So then I came here. And then I couldn’t breathe.” After several minutes (during which I debated telling the cab driver to take me to the hospital), I calmed down, and by the time I got home, I was tear-streaked but semi-recovered.
The next weekend, I adopted one cat from a different Petco. That lady had lied to me. But you know what? It is kind of tragic to only have one. He was lonely, I could just tell. So a couple months later, I adopted another. Now we have two cats, Ollie and Nucky. And they do watch the Real Housewives with me. And our apartment smells like poop. And my boyfriend and I are engaged and he’s stuck with me and our two cats forever. The end.