Back in October, 2000, I was having a hard time. I had just gone through a bad break-up, I was living on my own (without roommates) for the first time, and I was lonely.
It was around that time that I adopted a kitten. I had always wanted one, but either my parents wouldn’t let me have one (as a kid) or my roommates were allergic. I did a little research and found a family that had 4-month old Tonkinese kittens for adoption. 6 little girls and 1 boy, born to a beautiful dark-brown cat named Phoebe. I couldn’t for the life of me tell them apart. One minute I’d make a friend and the next minute I’d lose her in a sea of cuteness. That is, until one little girl jumped on my back. Amused, I lifted her off my back and placed her back down on the ground. Within minutes, she was back on top of me. I remember taking this as a sign that she was choosing me. No matter how many times I put her down, she kept jumping back up. Then she would bite my hoodie zipper.
That night, I told my mom about the kittens. She said, “Don’t pick the jumpy, bite-y one!!! That one is a trouble-maker. Pick a nice, quiet one.”
I didn’t listen. A day later, I went home with the jumpy, bite-y kitten – *my* kitten, named Hayley.
As it turns out, she just liked jumping on people. She also liked to be in high places. Anyone who has ever stood in front of an open closest or bent over to do *anything* around her can attest to that one.
She was the tiniest, softest little cat I ever met. She never weighed in at more than 7lbs. Her size and her insane amounts of energy always tricked people into thinking she was a kitten, even at the “senior” age of 9.
She liked the color blue and she was relentless in her attempts to get a lick of your pear or peach.
She always liked to be warm and sought out the warmest spot in the house. Most of the time, this was under the covers between your knees, but often it was the cable box, or the laptop or, most recently, the kitchen table.
She rarely liked to sit *next* to you. *ON* you was her preferred spot. Close to your head. So she could lick it.
She had a bit of an oral fixation – she’s left cat-tooth marks in mini blinds, shower curtains, mouse cords, knitting needles, magazines, cell-phone chargers, and especially shopping bag handles.
When she wanted a cuddle, she would crouch by my feet and jump up straight into my arms.
She was a terror to other animals and tended to attack in a “fury of hell” (a blur of waving paws and claws). I even once saw her try to beat up a GINORMOUS German Shepherd. She was fearless. And Funny. Sometimes Bitchy, but mostly sweet and ridiculously affectionate. I jokingly called her “My Furry Tumor” because she followed me *everywhere* and was constantly physically attached to me.
She loved boxes and bags and couldn’t stand to be left out. If there was a closed door she would cry and cry and cry to be let in. Often, she’d shove her little paw under the door and wrap it around to rattle it. She. Wanted. In.
She hated being alone or left behind. My neighbor Ian teased that he always knew when we weren’t home because the hallway of our floor would fill with her sometimes irritated/sometimes sad complaints. She also hated being kept in. Every time the front door was opened was her big chance for escape! Coming home meant crouching down to catch the cat (or chasing her down the hall)
She talked a lot and had opinions on everything. I pretended I didn’t *really* think she understood what I said, but I always secretly believed that we did understand each other, at least a little bit.
She was Hayley, Haylstorm, Kitty-boo, Pussy Pants, Hayley-Schmaley, Haylers, Poopers, Winky, Wheezy, Hayley-Bop, Honey-cat and Hayley-Tonkers.
She was my friend.
She saw me through breakups with boyfriends and breakups with bad friends. Job promotions and job losses. Together, she and I lived in 7 different apartments in two different states. I was a single, lonely girl when we met and I always felt a little selfish for adopting her. She was always a comfort to me, but I know she was often lonely. I wasn’t around enough for a cat like Hayley. I was so happy when we moved to the Bronx because finally she had a family to love. Short of one of her sisters being with us, I felt she finally had the type of full-house home she always needed – Adam and I to give her cuddles and love, and two little boys to keep her entertained and on her toes. As feisty as she was, she showed amazing restraint and patience with those kids, sometimes scolding, but never harming them. Considering her crazy antics, I was always very impressed with how kind she was to those boys.
For the last year and half, Hayley has been pretty sick. Her occasional cat-puke incidents grew to be a daily (or several-times-a-daily) occurrence. Three vets, countless tests and piles of drugs later, no one could say any more than, “She has a tough case of IBD.” One that never really responded to any treatment. One that kept her sad and queasy most of the time.
It wasn’t until the night she passed away – February 22, 2010 – that we finally found out what was wrong with her. Our poor Hayley had been suffering from Intestinal Lymphosarcoma, CANCER, and no one had found it. The vet who diagnosed it did it in 20 minutes, over the phone while he was supposed to be celebrating his 41st birthday. When I took her in to see him that night (at 10pm!!), he confirmed it, letting me feel the lumps in her abdomen. He gave her fluids, and I took her home. Her temp was 10 degrees below normal and her body was already shutting down. I wrapped her up in blankets on my bed, curled my body around her and sat with her for almost four hours until she died at 2:40am.
I loved that little cat. She was my friend, and a better friend to me than I ever truly was to her.
RIP, my little baby cat. You will be greatly and forever missed.