I was introduced to Ragdolls by my mom when she got her Ragdoll, Sonny (a former Floppy Cat’s Ragdoll Kitten of the Month, actually). She had spent months watching videos of Ragdolls on YouTube before finding a breeder in her area (Furreal Ragdolls near Sacramento, Ca) and paying what seemed to be an exorbitant amount of money for her “Fur Angel” (her words, not mine), Sonny. He was a few months old when she brought him home, and I immediately came over to meet this beautiful little fluff ball of a kitten.
I was quickly won over by his beautiful blue eyes, and his luxurious and silky coat. It wasn’t long before he grew from a little ball of fluff to an enormous cat, weighing 23 lbs! Now, I love Sonny very much, but like most of my mom’s cats, he’s fairly aloof. He very much runs the household, and she spoils him rotten. But whenever I see him, I can’t resist picking him up and forcibly snuggling him until he REALLY tries to escape. Sonny once got a horrible case of fleas, and while Mom struggled to get rid of the vermin, it was me who said he needed a vigorous bath, and it was me who
delivered it. With that long coat, I explained to her that you really had to use your fingers and scrub firmly. Since then, we joke that he thinks of me as “the bath lady” and he is still wary of my visits, fearful that they will not only include a few forced snuggles, but also a fierce scrubbing.
What really impressed me about Sonny was his gentle treatment of my flame point Siamese cat, Alki. I had moved to Seattle and adopted Alki shortly after moving. Alki had always been a very friendly and outgoing cat until I allowed an old friend and her cat to move in with my fiancée and I. She was a terrible roommate, and her cat was pure evil. He abused Alki so much that eventually Alki refused to leave our bedroom at all. Often the mean kitty would sit outside our bedroom door and push on it with his paws, growling menacingly because he knew Alki was behind that door and he went out of his way to terrify him. Alki became so traumatized that he lost weight, began to clean himself obsessively, and pull out his fur. It was terrible. So, when we went back to Sacramento for Christmas that
year, my fiancée and I decided to bring Alki with us on the 12 hour drive. When we arrived at my mom’s house, Alki was terrified of Sonny because of his huge size! He immediately ran under the bed to hide. But Sonny was very patient, and inched his way under the bed nearer and nearer to Alki, gently reassuring him that he meant no harm and that Alki was perfectly safe. Alki did start to do better, but after a couple of weeks we had to go back home to Seattle. When we got there, my fiancée kicked out our terrible roommate and her awful cat so that Alki might feel safe again in his own home. But the damage had been done. Alki did improve, but he was no longer that friendly and outgoing kitten he once was.
Alki was still my sweet boy though. He is very attached to me, and spends every moment he can snuggling with me in bed. In fact, about six months after we got rid of the monster kitty, I was diagnosed with stage 3B cervical cancer in June 2015 at age 29, and I ended up spending over 8 months in bed with Alki. I had never in my life been so sick, and never in a million years did I ever think that something like this could happen to me. Alki never left my side. He slept curled up against me, under the covers with his paws curled around my arm. He sat in the bathroom with me when I would throw up. When ever I left to get chemo treatments or radiation, Alki would wait patiently on my bed and meow at me loudly when I returned. He even continued to recognize me, even when I lost my hair and lost 30 lbs. We were both in the same predicament, both of us hardly ever leaving our bedroom. Me, because I was too sick to leave my bed, and him because he was too scared to leave his safe haven.
When I was first diagnosed, and when I found out just how dire the circumstances were (I had a 40 – 50% chance of survival) I had to make choices about treatment and very quickly. I was told that the chemo and radiation would destroy my chance to have any more children. I already have a daughter, but I was not prepared to have to give up my chance to have more children at 29. But that’s what I did. I had to give that up to fight for my life. So, in many ways, Alki became the baby I would never get to have. We took care of each other.
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After six months of grueling treatment, I returned to Sacramento again for the holidays. I was done with treatment and in remission, and had an amazing Christmas with my family. I was laying in bed watching TV with my mom one day when she mentioned that she was thinking about getting Sonny a friend, another Ragdoll. I was very excited at the possibility of going to help her pick one out, so I immediately got on the phone with several breeders in her area. A few people called me back, but the only one with kittens available was Furreal Ragdolls, the same breeder she got Sonny from. So I made an appointment with Mary (the breeder) for the following day even though my mom was not ready to commit to getting another one, and she was convinced her fiancée wouldn’t be enthusiastic about the idea. But I was feeling good, almost healthy after such a long battle, and going to
snuggle some Ragdoll kittens seemed like an ideal way to spend one of my last days in Sacramento before heading back up to Seattle for the new year.
We made the hour long drive South to Mary’s just the two of us, Mom and I. It was a delightful little road trip that we seldom get now that I’m an adult and live in a different state. We talked about a lot of things, my cancer, my recovery, my fiancée and how amazing he is, my terrible roommate and her awful cat. Somewhere in there I had an idea that maybe getting another cat would help Alki be more confident, but I was worried about perhaps scarring him even further. But I remembered how reassuring Sonny was to Alki, and even though I was broke (having been out of work for 6 months at that point) and I brought no money with me, I knew that if I met the perfect cat, I would definitely bring one home for Alki. Alki had been my little buddy all through my treatment. What better way to give back to him than to get him a furry best friend? Ragdolls are social cats by nature, calm and lovable. This would be perfect for Alki, but I knew I had to be careful and pick the perfect one.
When we arrived at Mary’s, the place was overflowing with cat toys, cat trees, and soft pillows and blankets. It was truly a palace for the little fluffies. This was a woman who loved her animals. I could see that straight away. She welcomed us in, glanced at my bald head, my pale complexion, and my skinny frame but didn’t ask about my illness. It didn’t matter much though, because I was so excited to get those kittens in my arms, for the first time in months I was not self conscious about my appearance. Mom and I headed straight for the couch and Mary lifted three or four perfect little Ragdoll kittens (just 9 or 10 weeks old!) out of a playpen and handed us their favorite toys. All she had available were boys. There was a little girl but she was reserved and being picked up later that day.
Well, I made myself at home immediately and started playing with the kittens. I held them, and kissed them, and rubbed their fat little bellies! Most were frolicking about across the living room floor, but one of them jumped up on the couch and curled up next to my leg. I began absentmindedly stroking him as I told Mary about Alki’s dilemma. She agreed that a Ragdoll kitten was the perfect solution as Mom eyed the adult cats for sale, and I picked up my little cuddle buddy and placed him in my lap. He promptly fell asleep with his head in my hand, occasionally rousing from his slumber to look at me with sleepy cornflower blue eyes. He purred loud enough that I could feel it in my toes!
There was some more commotion as the family who had reserved the little girl kitten came to pick her up. They told us the story of how they had lost their little girl kitty after having her for 16 years or so. It had been a year, and they were ready to adopt another, but I was touched seeing the mom with tears in her eyes as she described her best friend. Her kitty had been very lovable, a lap cat in the truest sense. They had reserved a girl kitten because their last kitty was female, but this little girl Ragdoll was a busy little bee! She was active and playful and running around the room with her brothers. The mom stressed again how much she really wanted a lovable kitten, and eyed the sleepy kitty on my lap.
Her husband spoke up.
“I think you’ve got a friend there,” he said, smiling.
“I do,” I smiled back. “He’s been sleeping on me the past two hours.”
Right then, he looked up at me with those wide blue eyes, and his beautiful lilac markings, and I knew that I was going to take him home.
“I’ll take him,” I said. My mom smiled at me. All at once, I remembered holding my daughter for the first time, and felt a pang knowing that I’d never hold another one of my babies ever again, but also feeling a bit like I already was.
“What will you name him?” the other mom asked. Their two kids stopped playing with the kittens, Mary walked over and sat down next to me. All eyes were on me.
“Well,” I said, the name suddenly coming to me. “I just got done with treatment for cancer last month.” They all smiled gently. They must have known I was sick, but no one had asked me about it.
“It was a horrible experience, but I’m all done now and hopefully in remission. I also, have a very strange sense of humor, so I think I’ll name him Chemo.”
They all looked at me, shocked. But Mom chuckled, and I was smiling, and everyone came around and we all got a case of the giggles.
“Is that morbid?” I asked Mary.
“Chemo,” she said, chuckling. “No, I think it’s perfect.”
So I filled out the paperwork, and my mom promised to fly up with him the following month. She arrived with him (and a bottle of Cristal to celebrate my remission) about a month ago, and he is now 4 months old. When Mom arrived with him, my fiancée took one look at him and instantly forgot how much money Chemo cost, and fell instantly in love with him. But we were nervous to introduce him to Alki. I had made my mom promise that she’d keep him if Alki reacted negatively. I read articles on how to best introduce cats, I gave Alki a pep talk, I made Mom be the one to walk in with Chemo so Alki wouldn’t hate me forever.
Chemo walked right up to Alki, they sniffed at each other for a bit, and within an hour they were chasing each other around the house and curled up together in the bed I had just purchased. Alki had spent so much time taking care of me, he took to big brotherhood with finesse. He seems to know that Chemo is his kitten. He cleans him, snuggles him, teaches him how to punk the dogs. And every night they curl up together on our bed and Alki grooms Chemo until they fall asleep. They are the best of friends.
Since Chemo’s arrival Alki is much more confident. They play constantly and Alki spends less time waiting for me by the door. They love their catnip stuffed wine bottle toys, and the feather toy attached to a plastic handle. They have “kitten parkour” tournaments at 5 am. Alki has gained weight and no longer pulls his fur out. Both cats are indoor cats, but I am training Chemo to walk on a leash so he can safely explore the outdoors (he LOVES it). Chemo is a hit at our local Petco in Bellevue, and everyone that meets him instantly falls in love with him. He is outgoing and friendly, but still loves to cuddle up on my lap and fall asleep. When we took him to get his shots, the vet told my fiancée that Chemo is a good eater, and Sam (my fiancée)’s chest puffed up with pride. We cannot have a baby of our very own, but we are proud as peacocks of our fur babies.
Chemo is on Instagram, and yes, he has more followers than I do. He is “chemo.the.ragdoll” and he’s very photogenic and popular.
Last night, I told Sam about my intention of sharing this story with you guys and how I hope that Chemo will be Ragdoll Kitten of the Month just like Sonny.
“Babe,” he said, “you’ve become your mother.”
I pet Chemo as he curled up in my lap with one hand, and toasted Sam with my wine glass in the other.
“Well,” I said, “when it comes to Ragdolls and wine, anyway.”
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