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Cats I Have Loved: Max and Oliver

After a little over a month of grieving the loss of our recently rescued kitten, Tonks, my husband, Judah, and I started looking for another cat. This time, we were considering getting two.

We had heard that two cats are better than one. We were a little skeptical that this was a “shelter pitch” to get people to adopt more cats.

The more we looked into it, the more it made sense as truth. When you have two cats, they learn to take their aggression out on each other instead of the humans who live in the house. They also learn not to bite hard because when you bite your playmate, they no longer want to play. Human children seem to take a little longer to understand this universal truth.

Additionally, when the cats are home alone, they have each other to play with instead of tearing up the house when bored.

In early 2008, we adopted two sweet kittens. One from a shelter on Staten Island and one from Long Island. Oliver and Max, respectively. Oliver is a grey-and-black tiger tabby, and Max was an orange-and-white tabby just like the many cats in my life who came before him.

We officially adopted them a couple of days apart but brought them home weeks apart. Max lived with a foster family and was required to weigh four pounds before we could take him from his foster mother and litter.

My mother discovered Oliver through an internet search. He was listed as a male named Karen. It seems he had very recently been dropped off with his littermates and haphazardly entered into the computer system, assigned an ID number from a female cat named Karen who had recently died. We’re pretty sure he had been in someone’s garage before being dropped off at the shelter, but we have no idea for how long.

Oliver arrived home with an upper respiratory infection and still has wicked sneeze attacks that make him look possessed to this day. We thought it was a silver lining that Max wasn’t with us yet so he wouldn’t get sick, too.

We picked up Max two weeks later only to find a new litter of kittens were being fostered at the home and had brought an upper respiratory infection with them. One of Max’s eyes was swollen and goopy. The foster mom gave us some medicine for his eye and sent us on our way.

After having been the king of the castle for two whole weeks, Oliver thought we brought Max home as a gift. A live toy to bat around, play with, and attack.

Max was too weak to fend for himself, so we had to keep them separated until Max was strong enough to at least try to stand up for himself. The first week or two, I was worried the cats weren’t going to get along. We had two blankets we would rub on each cat to get their scent and then swap the blankets when they were sleeping so they got used to each other’s smell. While it felt like a long time, day-to-day, in no time, they were best buddies, often seeking one another out to cuddle while they slept.

Oliver remained the alpha cat, but, once he felt better, Max was fearless. I termed him our “curiosity killed the cat” cat. Also the “new patrol”. He could sniff out anything new that came into the house. He wasn’t scared to hang out in the living room while I vacuumed it. Meanwhile, Oliver would be under a bed somewhere. He was our “scaredy-cat”. He may have been the alpha, but he would startle and scurry at any noise.

Max was never much of a lap cat, and he hated to be held. This was sad to me since I had literally carried my childhood cat, Juliette, on my hip like a child. But Max wasn’t completely anti-social. He would often greet us at the door when we arrived home or hang out in our general vicinity.

While Max tended to be more of a loner, Oliver is the most social cat I have ever had. We joke this physical touch is his love language, and he’s up for it all day, every day. Similar to Juliette, I often carry Oliver on my hip, but, more often than not, he’s actually on my shoulder.

When he was tiny, I used to put him, standing, on my shoulder while I prepped food in the kitchen. Now, whenever I pick him up or he climbs on my lap, he typically goes straight for the shoulder and is happy to stay there. When not on a shoulder, he will sleep on one of our laps for hours. The human need to go to the bathroom is usually the inconvenience that ends the cuddle session.

We lost Max suddenly last year at the age of thirteen. Oliver spent days looking around the house for him, letting out a sad cry for his friend. Judah and I also let out sad cries. Our house isn’t the same without Max.

People ask me if we plan to get another cat. It’s a sensible question. I am a cat lady after all.

For now, Oliver is our one and only. He is fourteen, not in fantastic health, but still as cuddly as ever. We are soaking up and reciprocating the love every single day.

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