After living with roommates for many years, I decided to move into my own apartment. I was single and for the past year had been living with a roommate and her boyfriend in Marina del Rey, California. Living together as roommates, like in the 70’s TV show "Three’s Company," worked out better than any of us expected but I knew they were going to get engaged soon and probably wanted to live alone as a couple. Plus, I was ready, for the first time ever, to live alone. I also really wanted a pet but my roommate was adamant about not having animals where we lived. She was scarred by past roommates who didn’t clean up after their pets. In a way I couldn’t blame her but this was my life too and I really wanted a pet.
One day I was walking with a friend and her dog and we passed an apartment building with a "For Rent" sign. It was for a studio apartment in an older building with large trees and a lion fountain in the front. We called the manager of the building and went inside to take a look. I was pleasantly surprised! The studio was perfect. It was large with huge windows and trees outside. I filled out the application and credit check form. The next day, I got a call from the manager of the apartment building. He told me the studio was mine if I still wanted to rent it. I immediately said “yes!”
A week after moving into my own apartment, I was looking on Facebook and came across some pictures of a kitten my friend Nancy was fostering from the animal rescue where she volunteered. I always loved animals and had both cats and dogs growing up. The pictures were not of a sweet, docile kitten, but he looked like a baby tiger with milk all over his face and his paws up like he was ready to attack. He was adorable and looked harmless because he was so little. For some reason, the minute I saw the pictures of this kitten, I thought “this is going to be my new pet.” I immediately contacted my friend and asked her about the kitten that she was fostering until he found a permanent home. She said he was only 2-3 weeks old when he was discovered by a woman in Los Angeles who heard a constant meowing in the alley behind where she lived. When the woman went out to see what was making all that noise, she found a tiny kitten all by himself. She brought him to an animal shelter so he would hopefully find a home. Kittens this young are a lot of work. They are too young to eat regular kitten food and need to be bottle fed kitten formula every few hours to provide them with the nutrients they need to grow. They would normally be nursing from their mothers at this age. Because of the expense and time to care for young kittens, they are sometimes euthanized after they are dropped off at a shelter. Fortunately for this kitten, a rescue took him out of the shelter just in time.
The rescue workers named the new kitten Meow because meowing so much is what saved his life. I went to see Meow at Nancy’s house in the valley. He was the sweetest, cutest kitten I had ever seen. He was so small that he could fit into the palm of my hand. I knew he needed a new name. Meow was not my idea of a good name for a male kitten. Ironically, the same day I saw his picture on Facebook, I saw another posting with the name Henry on it. I always thought it was cute when animals had people names, especially since he was going to be my new roommate.
I came home that afternoon carrying an animal crate and my new kitten Henry. My first thought was “where can I put the litter box so I won’t have to see it and smell it?” I would clean it a lot, but still, I didn’t have many choices in my 600 square foot studio apartment. Even though my apartment is small, it took Henry a long time to walk across it so I had to find a location central enough that he could make it to the litter box in time to use it. I decided to put the box under the vanity table where I put on my makeup. That was the perfect spot, close enough to the bathroom so I could clean it out when I needed to and no one would notice it when they walked into my apartment. I showed Henry where his litter box was. He got the concept of using it very fast but since he was only consuming a liquid diet at this point, everything that came out of him was runny and stinky. Because of the smell, I gave him the nickname Stinky.
It was a good thing I didn’t have a job yet because Henry woke me up every few hours to eat. He was relentless in waking me up, acting as if he hadn’t eaten for days. He would paw at my face and arms until I got out of bed to feed him. Not only did I have to get up in the middle of the night but I had to stand in my kitchen, prepare his kitten formula and bottle feed him. It was like having an actual baby. Sometimes he would grip the bottle himself and drink his formula until I could tell his belly was full and he had enough. When I was finally able to start him on regular kitten food, I felt a sense of relief. I thought that I would finally get some sleep because I wouldn’t need to bottle feed him anymore. I left a small bowl of food out for him so that when he was hungry, he wouldn’t have to wake me up. He could get food whenever he wanted. This idea didn’t work out like I thought it would. Henry still thought it was fun to jump on my nightstand, then walk on me or paw at my face and arms until I got up and showed him to his full bowl of food! I kept thinking “What did I get myself into?”
I found out early on that Henry had a lot of personality and was very entertaining. One day, when he was still very small, he decided to jump from my bed onto the glass coffee table. He landed on a stack of magazines and went surfing across the whole length of the table on them. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud! It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen, especially the look on his face as he was doing it.
He likes to play hide and seek. He hides behind a door frame and when I’m getting close, he jumps out to scare me. Then it’s my time to hide and as he gets close to me, I jump out. He jumps about 3 feet into the air and runs around my apartment. He likes to play this game with unsuspecting guests who come over, usually when they are coming out of the bathroom!
Another favorite game is our version of basketball with Q-tips. This has become a nighttime ritual when I get home from work. I know he wants to play when he meows and then starts walking toward the bathroom, wanting me to follow him in so we can play our game. He sits by the trash can and I try to throw a Q-tip into the basket while he blocks the throw with his paw. He's good at not letting me make a basket but sometimes he decides to start eating the soft, cotton part of the Q-tip instead!
Despite all the trials and tribulations of raising Henry from such a young age, he has brought so much love and laughter into my life. I never feel alone in my apartment with him there. He makes his presence known by meowing whenever he wants something, whether it be food, to play or just for me to pet him. Every day, when I come home from work, he greets me at the door and flops on the floor for a belly rub. And every morning and night when I’m watching TV, he cuddles up next to me on the bed and purrs while I’m petting him. Cats, like other animals, have their own unique personalities and give unconditional love. If you love and take care of your pet, they will be your most loyal friend!
EL SEGUNDO, CA