When I first met Zoe she was in bad shape. She was sitting in the back of a cage at the Vancouver SPCA. Her fur was matted and stringy, and she looked like the saddest creature I had ever seen. I put my fingers through the bars and she rubbed her chin on my hand. I fell instantly in love.
Zoe had been a stray as a young cat. She was rescued by the SPCA, then lived with a young family until her eighth birthday. At that point the family had a baby and bought another cat, and Zoe didn’t handle it well. Her card warned that she had issues with unwanted urination.
I watched as other people came into the shelter, petted Zoe, then read her card and walked on. Nobody wants middle-aged cats, and they certainly didn’t want one who had problems with peeing. I was going to pick her up right then, but I had to return the next day with proof that my building allowed pets. I vowed that if Zoe was still there when I got back that I would adopt her. Of course she was still available.
My friend Tzhe was with me and he drove us both home. I opened her cardboard box in the guest bathroom and she immediately jumped out and fled into the hidden depths of our walk-in closet. I had been a pet owner for thirty seconds now and already I felt like a failure. Fortunately Tzhe was able to coax her out and she slowly started to familiarize herself with her surroundings. She was incredibly nervous, but to my relief she did understand what to do when I repeatedly placed her on the litter box. Zoe had found her home.
A scared Zoe seconds after arriving at our home.
I bought a cat brush and groomed her twice a day, and her long hair became soft and lustrous again. She was initially very timid around strangers, but over the years she became more and more relaxed. She would hop up on the sofa as I played games or watched TV, and I would pet her for as long as she wanted. After a while she would hop down to the floor, flop over on her back, and I’d rub her tummy. Sometimes my wife and I would rub her face and ears at the same time and you could see her drinking in the affection like it was the sweetest wine. She never got tired of it. I could pet her until my hand felt like it was going to fall off and she would still want more.
Zoe after a few months, well-groomed and regal.
She was not a bold creature. One day I arrived home from work and she was meowing frantically next to a small bird that had gotten caught behind the blinds. She stood there as I rescued the poor frightened bird and guided it to freedom. Zoe loved to chase and eat flies, but anything larger was just too scary for her to deal with.
Zoe’s favorite game was “cat hockey”, where she would bat around a twist-tie and then leap after it. When we had our hardwood floors put in, we took Zoe with us to a nearby hotel while we literally waited for the dust to settle. After we returned, cat hockey was faster and more exciting.
Zoe expresses her love of the new floors
She wasn’t always easy to deal with. When I changed litter brands, she expressed her displeasure by peeing in my wife’s shoes. I switched back and all was well, but there was always the worry that she would urinate on things. When she got older I got a second litter box so she wouldn’t have to travel as far each time, but sometimes she still had accidents.
In her final years Zoe started to have health problems. Her kidneys and pancreas started acting up, and vet bills became expensive. But she never complained or got upset. She never lashed out at anyone. She was the sweetest creature I’d ever known, right up until the end.
A few days before she died, Zoe seemed to have a burst of energy. She desperately wanted to get into our bedroom, which we had always kept a cat-free zone because of my wife’s allergies. She had never before scratched at the door or tried to push her way in, and would even stop at the boundary if the door was open, knowing that she wasn’t allowed in. This time was different, however. She wanted to get in there one last time. My wife opened her eyes from a nap and saw Zoe sitting next to her, purring as if nothing was wrong.
I miss Zoe. She was my first pet, and I’ll never forget her. She was the cat that nobody wanted, but in the end I wanted her. And that made all the difference.
I'm a writer and occasional programmer. I write science fiction stories and novels.
I am the writer for the upcoming documentary series Arcade Dreams.
I also write technology articles for Ars Technica.
I'm the creator of newLISP on Rockets, a web development framework and blog application.