Welcome to the Hayes family, little one. You came to us during a very difficult time and I wanted to share with you just why I may squeeze you too tight and worry after every little thing you do.
We had a cat named Oliver who we lost right before we met you. He was a very special cat to us. Extremely loved and a part of who me and Lincoln were, our identity. We were a unit. I had gotten Oliver as a Valentine’s Day present early on in our relationship and we became this perfect family of three.
Oliver was quite the character. He was snarky and stubborn, snuggly and sweet. A typical cat. The love he showed us was immeasurable. If we were away from him for even a day, he would meow his face off upon our return, even as he ate, yelling at us to never leave him again. He would cling to us, literally, with his claws for the days following as if to make sure we didn’t ‘abandon’ him.
Oliver took his time showing love to anyone else. He had to test you, try you out, get used to you before climbing into your lap for some pets. Once he did let you in, you were part of his team. He was like you and your sister, very demanding with food once he realized the human in front of him was kind and had hands that could scoop kibble into his bowl.
He slept with us every night and snuggled on the couch with us whenever we were home. He was Lincoln’s shadow, never far away from him at any time. He was a bit more independent than you and your sister and liked his alone time. But he would always end up on the bed at our feet in the morning, spread out like melted butter, sound asleep.
Oliver had a bit of a rude awakening when we got your sister, Daenerys. He was not a fan at first and she wanted to be his friend more than anything. He was angry, scared, and I had several breakdowns thinking he would never love me again. But they got used to each other slowly. We were able to sit on the couch with the two of them and after a few weeks, Oliver got back on the bed in his spot. Oliver and Dany even started playing on the stairs like you two have taken up at 1 AM because that is clearly a very convenient time for everyone. Thank you for that.
Then Oliver got sick. We don’t know what happened. We thought it was the heat that weekend or stress. Your grandpersons took good care of him while we were away for a few days but it got worse once we returned. We think maybe he was waiting for us to show us how badly he was hurting and put on a tough face for my mom and dad. We called the emergency service that night and started one of the worst journeys I’ve ever been on.
Oliver got better for a bit. We thought the vets had found out what was wrong after what seemed like a million tests. He even played with your sister like normal for a few days. By the way, Dany never left his side. You know how loving she is as she’s taken you under her wing (paw?). Even with a cat who bullied her during her first few months, she laid near him always. Then he got worse again. I knew something was very wrong one night and we were foolish and after speaking with the emergency clinic, we waited to take him in. They did not seemed concerned and we tried to stay positive. That night, a Saturday, we put the couch cushions on the floor and let Oliver crawl up between us. He laid down and stretched out in his usual Superman position. At one point, he reached out a paw and made sure to touch me. He did this a lot. He always had to be touching one or both of us. He looked relaxed, completely asleep. That was the last time we saw your brother.
The next few days were a blur of stress and tears and my heart completely being shattered. It was a downward spiral that made me and Lincoln sick with worry and confusion and anger. No one could find an answer and Oliver was gone. More pain meds didn’t work and he was acting like a whole different animal. He was in pain, he somehow was losing his sight, he wasn’t stable. We took him in and left him overnight in hopes he would become stable and we could run one more test. I didn’t stop crying those days. I talked to my mom. She told me to listen to my heart. I didn’t want to because I knew what my heart was saying and I wanted to be selfish and keep Oliver there with us because he was our family. He was a part of us and one of the remaining pieces of New York we brought with us. He was the first pet I had on my own. He was mine, ours, and just ours and it was up to us to decide what we wanted to do.
I told Lincoln what my heart was saying and it turned out, his heart answered the same. We walked into the emergency vet and listened to all the awful, horrible options that this could be and heard our little monster was not even stable enough to continue. They said we could wait or we could try a test but he was very weak and he was blind from whatever was happening inside of him. We came knowing we had to say the words but we still wanted to try. We fought as hard as we could before we said we were going to say goodbye. We held him and told him we loved him and how sorry we were we couldn’t fix this. I had promised him I would and I had failed. We were there with him the entire time and left our heart in that room when he was took his last breath.
What followed is a blur. I felt a hole had been burned into me. Daenerys felt it too and was anxious for several days. This shift in her happened where she never left our side. She snuggled on the couch with us and followed us upstairs immediately to sleep with us the entire night. She’d get up in the morning when we did and wait for us while we were at work to repeat the same cycle. She was loving, attentive, almost like she was caring for us instead of us of her. We slowly became another unit. The world had ended but there was this hope, this family we were started over again. We were together in our pain and loneliness and it bonded us. It was as if we were in this bubble, just the three of us, holding each other as we cried.
Then you came along. I saw our local Humane Society had gotten a bunch of kittens from a shelter in Tennessee. I knew if I looked at their pictures, I would go get one. I looked. I saw you. I sent the link to Lincoln. We had a list of kittens we wanted to meet. We went to the shelter immediately after I got off work to try and get in before visiting hours were over. We met a few kittens, including an orange tabby like your brother was. My heart hesitated but she was incredibly sweet and climbed right into my lap like your brother did when we first met. I was almost relieved when a shelter employee told me someone had put in an application for her. I wasn’t sure I could take another orange tabby just yet.
We looked at the other cages and found yours. I loved your picture because, to be honest, you looked like a hot mess. A fun, adorable hot mess. I held you and you settled right into my arms. You were tiny, sweet, and a tuxedo like my first beloved cat Turbo. Lincoln was busy holding another kitten when a woman spoke to me about you. She said she also loved you but had just lost her tuxedo. I said we had lost our orange tabby. She said she was about to adopt the orange tabby I had been previously holding. We had switched. It was somehow perfect to me. I am almost certain she is just as happy with her orange tabby as we are with you.
We said we wanted to adopt you pretty quick. We came back the next day and took you home. We had planned to keep you separate as we did Oliver and Dany but we took a risk and let you out of the carrier as your sister sniffed it. There was some hissing but you just took off exploring, not phased by our resident little queen at all. We struggled to find a good name for you. We had so many options but wanted to get to know you first. You are so unique, little one, with long feet, a Siamese like face, big owl eyes, and black and white splattered like a painting on your nose and chest. You bound around like a tiny deer and have no fear of any thing. We knew you needed a good name full of personality. Cleopatra came to me out of no where and it fit. Two queens, one of the Nile, another of dragons. We became a family of four again.
Thank you, little queen, for reminding me why I adopt animals. When we lost Oliver, I wasn’t sure I wanted another animal of any sort. My grief was immense. He was so young. He wasn’t like my family pets all lived to be over 15. Their losses hurt me but I knew I was lucky to have them so long. Seven years with your brother was not nearly enough. I wanted at least seven more, if not twenty. But when we brought you home, I remembered why I adopt in the first place. To see you curled up, sound asleep, trusting us, loving us, happily playing with your sister, it helps to soothe my grief. When you climb up onto our laps and shove your teeny head under Dany’s face for her to bathe you, it makes me giggle every time. To see Dany step up into the big sister role has been magical. She’s still our weird, spunky cat, but she has taken to you so easily it almost feels like you were meant to live with us. I hate but also love how you steal my eyeliner pencils in the morning and bring them downstairs to hide under the rug. Why you do this every day at 6AM I don’t know but it’s bizarre and I love it. But also, stop it. Your meow is ridiculous; it sounds like a broken squeaky toy or like Simba when he is learning to roar. You are clumsy, rambunctious, and so in love with doing everything your big sister does, it’s too adorable to handle.
I still cry when I think about Oliver. He sits on my dresser until we can find a better place to keep him. I touch the box decorated with daisies every day, just to say hello. I would have loved to see his snarky face watch you play with anything that moves and glance back at me, saying silently “WTF is this?” I hope this explains why I take every thing out of your mouth that you pick up off the ground and freak out every thirty seconds when we have been out of the house too long. I am still reeling from this unexpected loss but I am so grateful for your father who let me get you and who has also fallen head over heels for both you and your sister. We are lucky we are able to have you two and care for you. I know now my life would be empty without animals. Even when it hurts to say goodbye, I know my heart will always be willing to take in another love. Even shattered, it has more than enough room for you, kitten, and I am so glad you chose us.