Pussy-Whipped

From the moment we met, Oliver had me wrapped around his little paw.

My husband, Judah, and I adopted Oliver from a shelter on Staten Island in January of 2008. We rented a car, got up early on a bitter-cold Saturday morning, made sure we were at the shelter the moment it opened, and stood outside in the cold to guarantee we were the first people in line.


My mom had found a cute, black-and-grey tiger kitten online. Listed as a male named Karen, we somehow knew the gender was correct and assumed the name was leftover from a previous listing.


When the shelter doors opened, we were the first inside. We provided Karen’s ID number from the website and eagerly awaited our bundle of fur.


After filling out some paperwork and dropping some cash, we were handed a cardboard box, shaped like a little house. Karen was inside.

I opened the box, heard the high-pitched meow of an orphan who needed a home, and declared, “Oliver.” It was crystal clear. His name would be Oliver.


Oliver meowed the entire hour-plus car ride home. Almost the entire ride. He quieted for a moment. Worried, Judah opened the box (I was driving). Full-force, the meowing resumed.

I imagine he wanted out of the box. To be held. To connect. But we had to get him home first.

For the next thirteen years (and counting), Oliver has never been shy about using his voice. He’s still teaching us to understand his requests. Like fine wine, we get better with age.


Oliver loves to be around people. He loves laps and shoulders. He will find a way to sit on the most precarious lap. Often, I think he is drawn to the challenge.


Sometimes, he just needs to be near people. He’ll sit on the couch, close but no contact.


He tends to get anxious if everyone is standing in the kitchen. He will yell for the humans to relocate and relax in the living room. I’m sure it’s for our own good. He’s so altruistic.

He sleeps in bed with us, usually on me. He will ride the wave of most nighttime repositioning, whether I want him to or not. He keeps me warm in the winter.


After a bout of sickness last year where we thought we might lose him, Oliver has become skittish about eating alone, especially in the mornings. He will stand outside our bedroom and meow, incessantly, until one of us accompanies him to the kitchen. Occasionally, he needs a food refresh. More often, he just needs a little company. An emotional support human.


Most cats will eat whatever you put in front of them. This was true of Oliver for most of his life. He’s a sucker for food. From the beginning, we gave him wet food once a day. At times, he would act as though he was starving to death and that bit of wet food is what would save him. Meanwhile, he had dry food available to him all day, every day.


Ever since his brush with death, when we couldn’t get him to eat anything, he’s gotten picky. He doesn’t even know what he wants day-to-day. If he does, he’s not clear with his ask.


We’ve started giving him wet food throughout the day. He no longer has to wait until 7:30 pm for the good stuff.


The dance usually goes something like this:


I’ll put some wet food in his bowl.


A cautious approach. A sniff at a distance.


If it’s a winner, he chows down. If not, he turns and looks at me as though I’m trying to feed him garbage or poison him, and meows.

He’d rather die than eat that. And he got too close for me to call his possible bluff.


I get out another can. Add it to the first, hoping it will mask the smell or combine nicely, like a wine pairing or a good cheese.


Most days, this is enough.


Rarely, it takes a third.

I don’t even make dinner for my husband and yet I will get out three different cans of cat food to make an appealing mixture of chicken bits and filler for my cat.


It’s true that I’m pussy-whipped. His wish is my command. But, he also makes his needs known. There is never any doubt how he feels about his food or if he’s in the mood for cuddles and closeness.



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