post cover

Episodes: Cats I have owned since I became an adult, ranked


Emily VanDerWerff

May 28 2016

7 min read



(Sometimes, on Fridays, we rank things, why not? Also, those are not my cats. Maybe they're your cats? Who knows!)

I say "since I became an adult" because when I was a kid, we routinely had dozens of farm cats I was varying degrees of friendly with. Also, for as much as I love all of the cats I've had since I got my first at the age of 22, none of them could possibly compete with Tinker, the cat I named at the age of 4, then watched grow to a ripe old age, mothering several litters of kittens.

(Sidebar: There was also my childhood cat Light-Light, sister of Dark-Dark, who was a lovingly mean old calico who survived all manner of indignities on her way to proving the "nine lives" thing correct. She even survived being run over by one of those gigantic lawn mowers they would use to cut grass in rural county ditches, though she forever had a badass scar over her eye and a limp after that. I am 90 percent certain when I die, Light-Light will be waiting on the other side to finish me off.)

On with the cats!

Sidenote: All of the cats are great.

6) Riley J. Rilerton, Esq.: Riley has by far the best origin story of any of our cats: Christmas night 2005, I heard a cat yowling in the parking lot of our apartment building in Riverside. It was the first holiday we'd ever spent away from home, and I think we both were pretty sad. Later, I had to drive to pick Libby up at work (she worked at a movie theater at the time), and when we came back, this solid black cat -- a kitten, but an older one -- trotted out of the darkness to greet us. Assuming he was somebody's present, we brought him inside...

Where he promptly began kicking everybody else's ass and just generally being a huge jerk to everybody. He's mellowed quite a bit with age and is now downright cuddly, but he made everybody's lives hard for a while there, and I don't entirely know why we kept him. Probably because we knew black cats have a harder time of it in shelters.

5) Pippa, also known as Pippapotamus, Pippapap, etc., etc., etc.: Pippa is going to die someday, and it's going to destroy me. From the second we got her, she decided that, hey, I was her person. Since then, it's been an endless stream of her trying to stay as close to me as possible. Her constant, wheezing presence is often nice.

Except sometimes, it's really, really not. Pippa doesn't just want to get close to me (or Libby if I'm not around). She seems to want to open up a small hole in our skin and crawl inside of us. And even that might not be close enough. Heaven, for Pippa, would be dissolving into a shared consciousness with both of our brains. For a mammal whose death will send me into inconsolable grief, I sure spend a lot of time plotting how I could murder her.

4) Linus: Linus, of Linus and Sally fame, used to be pretty all right, but he's increasingly taking lessons from Pippa in human-cat relations. So he drops a couple of spots on the list. Bad Linus.

3) Boo: Libby and I have elaborate fictions we've crafted around the cats, in which they have personalities and voices and etc., because we are crazy people who don't have children yet. Anyway, I would say that Boo's fictional personality is closest to the actual cat's personality. And the fictional Boo's personality is that of an absolutely insane person, who says anything she's thinking of and tears around the world, spreading chaos.

The actual Boo is our eldest, a little slower than she was when we got her (at a pet store, because she was trapped in a box with a sickly brother she kept pouncing on), but still generally acting like she's the only thing standing between us and about 57 different dark spirits only she can see. For all I know, she's right.

2) Sydney: Sydney was the first. Sydney's also the one who died, on a bleak day seven years ago this week. It turned out she suffered from an extremely rare blood disease, and I think when she passed, I finally understood why there are pet death sympathy cards. (Growing up on a farm, pet death becomes just another part of life, and not really in an Old Yeller/Where the Red Fern Grows kinda way.)

She was a beautiful Himalayan who hated me for coming in between her and Libby, even though she and Libby had spent all of two or three months together before Libby and I got married and moved in together (yes, we did it the old-fashioned way). Amusingly, Sydney would occasionally deign to cuddle with me, but often only on my birthday. (I am not making this up! I think it was because I always got my birthday off of work, so I would be at home alone, and she would want someone to cuddle with and decide, with a heavy sigh, I'm sure, that I would do.)

One time, she got lost, and the two of us wandered all over our apartment complex in Riverside, calling for her, asking people if they'd seen her, growing more and more apoplectic.

We went back to our apartment to make flyers to post around the complex, fearing the worst, and as we sat there, silently trying to keep from tears, we heard it: the familiar nose whistles she made when breathing. She had fallen behind a shelving unit and couldn't get out, but instead of complaining about it, she had just fallen asleep. When we rescued her, I think she was more unhappy to be awakened.

Anyway, we moved, and she died, and I still miss her. I spent a long time missing Riverside, a place where I was miserable, and maybe I just missed my stupid cat.

1) Sally: Sally is like Sydney in almost all particulars except a.) she is enormously fat and b.) she has the crankiest meow you could imagine. She sounds like she's complaining about the government in a CNN comments section when she really gets going.

Anyway, she's Linus's sister. We didn't really plan on adopting two cats at once, but they were 10 days old and didn't even have their eyes open when I spotted them at a pet store, lied to my wife about my level of experience with bottle feeding baby animals (which was precisely zero), and somehow brought them into our lives.

I don't really believe in divine providence, but if I did, Linus and Sally would be part of the eternal reaching down to touch our lives. We had to feed them every four hours (and by "we," I mostly mean Libby, as I only did so a handful of times), and it was a really rough time for both of us. I was working too much, and Libby was struggling through some existential crises, and I think we were both deeply unhappy, but every four hours, we had to feed those damn kittens, to make sure they made it to adulthood.

And now, they're both there, and they're both within 10 feet of each other (as they always are) and within 10 feet of us (as they usually are), and if I touch Sally with my foot, she'll start ranting about how the establishment is trying to keep her voice from being heard.

Anyway, cats: A+!


Episodes is published at least three times per week, and more if I feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox Dot Com.

Read more posts like this in your inbox

Subscribe to the newsletter