It was 11 years ago today that I picked up Butterball and Apu from the shelter to start our new lives together. It was also 11 years ago this past September that my first and only cat, Bill, who was 13 years old, was diagnosed with an inoperable agressive oral tumor attached to his upper jaw. My job was to try and make him as comfortable as possible until I could tell that he no longer enjoyed food or being petted and the most loving thing would be to put him down. I did that in mid-November. Being single and coming home to an empty house each night after work was sheer torture. With the holidays fast approaching, everyone was telling me to wait until the first of the year to get another cat. I just couldn't wait and started taking trips to my local animal shelter. First to donate some money in Bill's name, then to start casually looking at the cats. I vowed at that time that I would never have just one animal. As I mentioned, when Bill died, it was too hard coming home with no one to greet me.
I found Butterball almost immediately. Even in the best of shelters, the noise and chaos can be overwhelming. To find a cat that is neither desperately trying to get out of his cage or terrified scrunched up at the back of the cage is a rarity. Butterball was just lounging taking everything in. I opened the cage to pet him and he immediately rolled over on his back for me to rub his belly. A cat has to feel incredibly secure in order to do that and I was smitten. I asked for him to be taken to the meet and greet room for cats and was shocked to see that he didn't have a tail! I asked was he born like that or did someone do that to him? The volunteers didn't know. Honestly, at first, the no tail thing kind of turned me off. But, three year old "Big Baby Butterscotch", his name at the time, won me over with his incredible combination of inquisitiveness and laid back attitude. I also kept saying to him, why you're just a big ol' Butterball and the name stuck. It didnt' take me long to figure out that Butterball was a Manx and he has all the characteristics of one--very dog-like, follows people around, protective of his home, and very calm. In Manx cats, their back legs are longer than their front legs so their back is rounded and sticks up. When they run they have almost a hopping gait like a rabbit which is a riot to watch.
Okay, I filled out the paperwork for Butterball. I needed to find another cat rather quickly as I wanted to bring them home together so there wouldn't be any turf wars. No other cat really appealed to me at the time. But, as many of you know, I am a sucker for the underdog. I had already made a decision that I would not get another black cat right away (Bill was black), and NEVER get another kitten (Bill was 6 weeks old when I got him). The kitten rule was for two reasons. One, I already raised a kitten and knew of their destructiveness and the fact that you basically could get nothing done with a kitten around. I also knew that kittens were adopted much, much more quickly than adult cats and I wanted to give another adult cat a home.
One Saturday afternoon I was at the shelter and this volunteer was there cuddling this little black kitten named Simon. He had a respiratory infection so was not very active. She kept saying how cute he was and didn't understand why everyone always passed him by. I asked her about him and she said at almost 3 months old, Simon had been passed from one family to another, about 4-5 times. He had already been at the shelter for almost a month which is pretty unheard of for a kitten. I sighed and said, can I hold him? Well, I never saw someone move as fast as that volunteer did to put Simon in my arms. He just looked at me and blew a little snot bubble from his nose, started purring, then fell fast asleep in my arms. I said, do you want to come home with Butterball and me? And, that was that. I filled out the paperwork and on December 2, 1996 I brought them home. Now, many of you know that The Simpsons is one of my all time favorite programs and friends kept saying that I had to name one of the cats Apu, since it was my favorite character and for some reason, I just loved to say "Apu". So, Simon became Apu.
After about a month, Butterball took up the role of loving uncle to Apu. Here he is making sure Apu's ears are nice and clean. Here's to hopefully many more years together.