It was never my intention to get a cat.
My girlfriend at the time insisted that it would be a good idea. She was raised around cats, but I wasn’t, so I wasn’t particularly keen on it. I always thought of myself as more of a dog person. I stubbornly resisted until she convinced our landlady to let us have one in the building.
It was Mother’s Day of 2010 when we went to the shelter to pick one out. Since I was the reluctant one, she let me decide which cat we’d go home with.
If we were going to get a cat, I had my eyes set on an orange tabby. I grew up watching Morris the Cat strut around during 9 Lives cat food commercials, so why not?
See, Morris is so cool he even wears sunglasses.
I went through the cat rooms to pick one out. I made a beeline for each orange kitten, but none of them were particularly interested in me. One was sleeping and when I pet it, it looked up at me for a second, bored, and went back to sleep. Fine, dingus, I don’t want you either.
I found another pair of orange kittens; these two baby cats were beating the shit out of each other and wouldn’t even look at me.
Feeling a little disappointed, I sat down on a stool-sized cat tree, looking around. Maybe we weren’t going home with a cat after all. Then all of a sudden, a little calico, just-past-kitten but not-quite-adult-yet, hopped up on my lap. I shooed her off and looked around again to see if there was another orange tabby I missed somewhere. Nope.
I sat back down. The calico appeared on my lap again. I pet her a little. I tried to put her back on the floor so I could check a different room for more cats, but she suddenly reappeared on my legs before I could get up.
“You really want to come home with me today, huh?” I said, grudgingly. “Okay.”
I felt something, but I didn’t understand it at the time. Now I know. It was the sensation of us irrevocably bonding for the rest of our lives.
“I think I’m going to take this one,” I said, holding the little calico.
“Ima Nutt? Oh, you’re going to love her,” the adoption volunteer said.
Ima Nutt. What the fuck. That name had to go.
I named her Cricket after the little chirping noise she made when we brought her back home.
Little did I know, all cats make that chirping noise. I had no idea. But the name was perfect.
I learned a lot about her, and quickly.
She was so gentle that when she play-fought with my hands, she only bit carefully, and after she bit, she’d lick furiously as if to apologize for trying to kill me.
I found out the hard way that bread was one of her favorite human foods.
After coming home one day after work, I discovered a brand new loaf of bread on the floor of the kitchen with bite marks puncturing nearly the entire bag.
I was so mad.
She loved bread so much that I had to hide it in a spot too high for her to reach, otherwise that shit was a goner. Donuts and cake, too. What kind of cat likes donuts?!
And if you can believe it, she helped me become a food writer.
When I first started freelancing, I wrote only for Serious Eats. They let me get away with a lot of shit back then, including an April Fool’s Day post about me trying all of Cricket’s food.
You can tell that my writing really hasn’t changed much since. Including my love for all those little stuffed animals.
I also wrote about trying a shitload of these Purina Fancy Feast Broths inspired by Top Chef Richard Blais, which wasn’t a prank; I actually tried each and every one I could get my hands on.
She didn’t care for a single one.
I tweeted this at Chef Blais:
He blocked me.
I went through a lot with her.
I got to keep Cricket after the breakup, and I didn’t realize how much I’d need her by my side. I lost my job of 10 years shortly after. I’d be unemployed for a long, long, time, and for multiple stints. I was so lonely, but she filled my empty days with affection.
She had this habit of waking me up on days I didn’t want to get out of bed. During the worst times, I’d wake up to her tapping my cheek. Tap, tap, tap. When I opened my eyes, her round emerald eyes would be looking into mine, and she’d make a tiny chirp.
I will be forever grateful to her for that.
Most cats hate costumes. Cricket was no exception.
When Davida and I finally met, Cricket clung to her and refused to let go. Davida and I would be sitting on the couch, playing games or watching a show, and she’d always pick Davida’s lap to curl up on. I can’t say I wasn’t jealous, but at least I knew she approved of and stubbornly loved my fiancée to be as much as she loved me.
I was Cricket’s bond, but Davida was her best friend to the end of her days.
So in her honor, we made a sandwich out of some, if not all, of her favorite food.
Behold: The Cricket Deluxe.
This is a glazed donut sandwich with Spam, blueberry yogurt, candy corn (you should have seen her go batshit crazy over candy corn, I still don’t understand), and an entire piece of bread. Shrimp chips and milk on the side.
Let’s just say this was about as gross as you’d imagine. But you know it’s not about the sandwich.
It’s been a week since she passed, but it feels like an eternity. We cried a lot during the first few days. I felt like I wasn’t going to make it. Writing about her now is making me deeply sad, but in a different way I can’t explain.
I still swear I hear the jingle of her collar sometimes, rustling from her favorite spots. I see her outline from the corner of my eye and I just know she’ll come trotting around the corner when she hears the foil of a brand new yogurt container being opened. But she doesn’t. And she won’t.
Until she left us, I didn’t understand my immense capacity for love. That same capacity can be said about the loss I’m feeling right now. I know the sharp pain will dilute itself into a dull, throbbing ache, unpredictable at times, but it’ll always be there. And what hurts to think about the most, is that time is going to slowly erase my memories of her, bit by bit, until some of them get murky around the edges, if not disappear altogether.
But what was truly unexpected was how all of you reacted.
You shared my sorrow. I received dozens of calls, texts, social media messages that went on, non-stop. People eulogized her online in ways better than I could have. Here I was thinking, well, you’ll all think that she was just a little cat who I loved, deeply.
Turns out you all loved her just as much.
Look what you did, Cricket.
You became a legend.