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BATIK AND OLIVER COME HOME

For 43 years my husband and I had cats. Suddenly, we didn’t. Our last two were Sunny and Millard, both big and black. Sunny curled around my head at night. Millard stretched across my lap as I sat at the computer—I like to say he wrote half of Incomplete Passes. The two were not related by blood, but they were so totally bonded that they even developed cancer at the same time. Sunny passed away on July 17, and Millard went to find his brother on July 31.

“I need time to mourn,” Scott said. “But the house is so empty!” I cried. We compromised. I had a business trip scheduled for the end of August, and when I came back, we would get our new cats.

AKA Big Red Farting Cat

In our mid-sixties, Scott and I wanted mature cats, not kittens. Picking the first one was almost a no-brainer. A fat, orange boy named Batik has been my favorite for years at the shelter where I volunteer. He cuddles. He gives kisses like Sunny did. His major drawbacks were a sensitive stomach and the fact that at nine years old, he’d spent his entire life in a no-kill shelter. I brought my husband into the shelter and introduced him to Batik. The big guy jumped into Scott’s lap and put his head on Scott’s shoulder. It was done.

I didn’t have a second cat in mind. I never expected to lose two together. Who would it be? The second cat should be close to Batik in age, so they’d have similar energy levels and dietary needs. And it would help if he’d already lived in a home. When Batik saw that the other guy wasn’t afraid of the washing machine or TV, maybe he wouldn’t be afraid either. Although we’ve mostly had black cats, we decided not to take one this time. It would hurt too much to look at him right now.

I wouldn’t have dared to consider Oliver if he hadn’t been eight years old. Ollie is Mr. Perfect. Except for his age (most adopters want youngsters), he was possibly the most attractive cat at the shelter. He has Maine Coon looks, although he’s not as big as a purebred. He’s declawed. I didn’t need declawed, and I didn’t need gorgeous. What I needed was an older cat, with a laidback personality, who’d been someone’s pet. Ollie fit the bill. He was adopted from our shelter as a little guy and returned recently when his owner suffered financial reverses. He has the assurance of a cat that has always been adored.

Before I brought the guys home, I introduced them at the shelter. They sniffed each other’s butts and then ignored each other. Neither minded when I petted the other one. That was good enough.

Oliver immediately found a toy

I couldn’t wait to finish my shift at the shelter Friday night, so I could pack up the cats and bring them home. As our adoption committee advised, I confined the boys to a small area at first. This was my laundry room, where I feed my cats and keep the litter boxes. I brought the carriers in, opened them, and left them in place. Ollie came out first. He immediately found a catnip toy and pounced on it. He was going to do all right.

Batik, as expected, was slower to adjust. He came out of the carrier, but hid under a rack next to the washing machine. He ate right away, though—good sign—and returned to his carrier periodically to rest. We soon learned that Tiki passes gas when he’s nervous. I had brought home a special digestive formula, and now I mixed it with the food he’d been eating at the shelter.

A glimpse of the outdoors

We spent Saturday visiting the cats frequently, petting and brushing them, but we kept them confined. By Sunday morning, they were restless. We opened the door. Batik cautiously circled the first floor, periodically returning to home base in the laundry room. He wouldn’t try the stairs—he never had seen steps before—but soon settled down by the sliding glass doors that look out on our deck. I had looked forward to this. Tiki has spent the last few years in an interior room of the shelter, with a skylight but no window.

Ollie toured the entire house, meowing softly, before he stretched out in my second-floor office. I’m counting on his help with future writing projects.

The next few weeks will be an adventure. It will be exciting to learn the cats’ personalities and watch them blossom as they couldn’t in a crowded shelter. It’s a privilege to have Oliver, whom I see as the Aaron Rodgers of cats. Like the Packers’ MVP quarterback, he is handsome, playful, and a gentleman. I owe a huge debt to the people who shaped his early years and made him the confident, loving boy he is.

And it will be a joy to watch my old pal Tiki Bear spend his remaining years lying by the window in the sun, watching birds and chipmunks outside on the deck. With luck, his flatulence will disappear before he learns to scale the stairs and snuggle in our bed. We can’t replace Sunny and Millard, but if anyone can heal our hearts, this guy can. He is one big, round ball of sunshine.