In October 2014, I left my husband. It was a hard, weird, blurry month. It contained at least two of the worst moments of my life. It was filled with confusion, anger, and fear.
It’s also the month that Greg, Claire, and Galia became my home. They were there for me, immediately and without hesitation. When I didn’t even know what I needed or wanted, they had a warm and safe place for me. Before I could make any decisions about what to do past the current day, they let me nestle into their tiny two-bedroom apartment — originally intended for just two of them to live in — and never for a moment made me feel like I was imposing.
About halfway through October, I decided I wanted a tiny place of my own, a refuge, space to be myself and regroup. With some help I had found one and moved in before the end of the month. I had very little: I slept on an L. L. Bean camp cot, and cooked my breakfast eggs in the one small saucepan I owned.
On October 29, I was walking home at night and came across a couple who were playing with a tiny kitten on the sidewalk. She had been jumping around in the street, they said, and they’d lured her back to the sidewalk. Of course I knelt down and petted her and squealed over her little pink nose and her fuzzy black tail. The couple was on the phone with some local animal authority, who said just to leave her, she probably belonged somewhere nearby. So, after a few minutes, the couple got up and left. I stayed petting her and watching her gambol for a little longer, and when I got up to continue walking home, she pranced alongside me.
We went that way for about three blocks — she would run up ahead to investigate something, and then turn around and wait for me to catch up. I told myself I was NOT going to take her home. My elderly George-cat was just enjoying life as an only cat again, and my brand-new studio was much too small to add a kitten.
I got myself over the denial gap by saying, well, at least I should take her in for the night, give her some food and water, and take her to the vet in the morning. That’s the decent and humane thing to do. I brought her home and gave her some water and a little food. At first she seemed unsure about this new thing called “indoors,” but she adjusted quickly. It was already past 11 at night, but I texted a picture to Greg, Claire, and Galia, and within 15 minutes they were all at my place cooing and squeeing. At one point, she was gnawing on Greg’s finger and abruptly fell asleep mid-gnaw. It had been a long day for a kitten.
I’m not sure exactly when I made the decision to keep her, but at the vet next day I named her Sabrina. I bought a book on raising kittens and I made toys out of yarn and cardboard. When she wasn’t a blur of motion, I took as many pictures as I could.
On the face of it, a time of upheaval isn’t a good time to adopt a pet. But she was just what I needed, right then in my life. A thing about codependence is that even when you’ve left your partner for really bad behavior on their part, most of what you feel is guilt — and this sudden unsettling void where all your caregiving energy used to go. Sabrina gave me someone to take care of, someone who needed me in a very uncomplicated way. She gave me a concrete reason to believe I was still a good person, I had done something positive in the world, someone was better off because of me. And yet caring for her was hardly martyrdom or sacrifice. Kittens for codependence detox: highly recommended.
We called her the Manic Pixie Dream Kitten because of her effect on George and on Max, Claire’s cat. Both George and Max were male cats who’d been bullied in other multi-cat households. They were sweet and timid and liked cuddling, but were not into chasing and pouncing kinds of games. Sabrina charmed both of them, though. After a few days of wariness, George accepted her as his sometimes-annoying baby sister. He thought her antics were absurd, but one afternoon after watching her chase a piece of danging string for several minutes, he gave the thing some swats himself.
As for Max, we took her over to meet him in early December. The first time she visited, he followed her as she explored all over the apartment, going into all the places she’d just vacated, presumably to make sure she hadn’t messed anything up. I took her over there on a pretty regular basis, and by Christmastime they were buddies, and would chase each other around the house.
Now we live in a bigger place, with stairs that Sabrina loves to tear up and down. Most nights she sleeps curled up at my feet. We still call her “kitten” even though technically I guess she’s an adult now. She rarely meows… mostly she makes little chirping noises. But sometimes when one of us leaves she’ll stand at the door downstairs and meow piteously. I think she loves us.