I have been a cat guy since my teens when our family adopted a Siamese-Persian mix (Maurice). I had another cat (Peshak) while roommates with my older brother while he was in post-grad and I was finishing my undergrad. Several years later, I found a cat (Lulu) in the parking lot where I was attending a wedding, and my parents took her in. But while living on my own, I always wanted a kitty of my own, but I ended up living in many countries and always moving around so I didn’t seriously consider it.
One Saturday morning beginning of this year, my partner and I joked (again) about getting a cat while also thinking about where we could go for a hike that day. We had been living in Phoenix, Arizona for over a year due to my job relocation. I suggested we could visit a no-kill shelter called Halo located half-way between our place and the mountain we wanted to hike. I just wanted to take a peek in, look at some cats and dogs, and feel warm & fuzzy before going on a hike. We didn’t have a serious intention of getting a pet as neither of us wanted to stay in Phoenix for another brutal summer – and we didn’t know where we would move. There were just too may uncertainties.
We got to the shelter before noon, and I was immediately drawn to a particular cat that had its back turned towards the visitors. From the half of him I could see, he resembled a longer hair version of Maurice – similar Siamese type coloring. There was no info on him – no card on the outside of his cage. And since he seemed to be wanting to be left alone, I decided I’ll come back to him later after I check out the other cats. I went back after less than 5 minutes to check up on him, but he was gone! I looked around and noticed all the cats we initially saw were gone too. They had all been loaded onto trucks to be taken to nearby Petsmart and Petco stores for adoption. I asked one of the volunteers if she could give me some info on the kitty that was in the particular cage and described the color of the cat (although I hadn’t seen the face yet). She told me his name is Romeo and he’s a 2 year, 1 month old front-declawed Himalayan mix and gave me the location of the Petsmart he will be transported to. It turned out that location was on the northern end of town, we were south of the middle (downtown), and our hiking destination was further south. I told my partner I wanted to go to the Petsmart location and check out the kitty. He thought I was crazy and said I thought we’re just looking at cats – not adopting one! I said it was hard to explain, but I just needed to see THIS particular cat. We’re both stubborn Tauruses, so he went along with it. Since Romeo wouldn’t show up at the Petsmart for another 2 hours or so, we decided to go hiking at a different mountain towards the direction of the Petsmart. After our hike, I called Petsmart, and they told me they hadn’t received any pets for adoption from Halo yet that day, so we decided to grab lunch. I called again after lunch and was told they got some cats and dogs from Halo and that Romeo was among them. We left immediately. I still didn’t have the intention of adopting a cat as I was aware of the responsibility and both our lives were in major flux. I apologized to my partner again for going through this, but I said if I didn’t, then a “what if?” would always stick in the back of my mind. I said, “You must think I’m crazy.” He understood, laughed and said, “Fine. Let’s go. I’m just going to go along with your obsessive behavior today.”
Romeo had only been in his cage at the store for 15 minutes when we arrived. I was expecting to see a version of my first cat, Maurice, but when he turned around his face was quite different. He had the blue eyes, but not the dark face – instead he had an asymmetrical upside down white colored v-shape pattern. I thought, “Cute, but not like Maurice or Siamese type”. But, I was still drawn to him and he seemed so chill and comfortable with us. We were there for about 10 minutes petting him and decided to get some coffee, do some reading and think it over.
While at the coffee shop, I didn’t read my book. Instead I researched being a cat-dad. Having a pet in my 40s is quite different than having one that belongs to the entire family. Peshak had passed away 20 years ago, Maurice in 2003, and Lulu in 2010. But Maurice and Lulu had lived with my parents and Peshak was shared with my brother. So I didn’t have my own cat since college – but even she was more my older brother’s cat. So I contacted one of my best friends who has 3 cats and she told me it’s not really that much trouble or expensive (until they get old). She urged me to get him. But, after almost 2 hours at the café, I decided I wanted Romeo, but at that very moment, my partner (who is vegetarian and loves animals but has never grown up with one) said “I’m just not ready. Sorry.” I got a bit sad and took out my book and started reading. Then he apparently received messages with a close pet owner friend of his from out of state who somehow got him to change his mind. 10 minutes later, he put down his phone and book and said to me “I want Romeo. I think I’m ready.” The rest is history.
I was not expecting to adopt a cat that day or anytime soon. But, I think Romeo had cast some sort of spell on me that day when he had his back turned to me at the shelter. That’s the only way I can explain driving from one side of town to another on a mission when I had no serious intention of adopting a cat earlier. After taking him to a vet, she confirmed his age, but informed me that he was not a Himalayan mix, but a Ragdoll – a breed I hadn’t heard of at the time. The shelter in Phoenix had also told us he was found abandoned there. I made subsequent calls to the shelter to find out if his name was given to him there or Romeo was his real name from previous owners. I was given a different story on 2 different occasions I called. I was also told he was surrendered by the owners. Then I was told he was a stray. I checked out a Facebook page of lost and found pets in the Phoenix area for the 3 months around the time Romeo was found. There was nothing. So I gave up on trying to track his history and why such a beautiful and gentle kitty was abandoned or surrendered or became a stray. I wanted to let his previous owners know he was doing just fine! But, now I’ve come to accept that we will never know his back story. It will remain a mystery to us. Now we’re his and I’m so thankful I saw him that day back in January. Had I arrived just a few minutes later at the shelter – even just one stop-light later, I would have missed him. It was meant to be.
Fast forward 9 months and Romeo has relocated with us back to my home state in Los Angeles. We have been here for 2 months and he loves it. Although he was clearly an indoor cat before as he was quite nervous about the outdoors initially, he loves going outside. Of course, being front-declawed and with coyotes who venture into our neighborhood in the evenings from the nearby Hollywood Hills, I NEVER let him go outside on his own. I take him out 2-3 times a day around our apartment complex – sometimes with a leash! He loves meeting other cats and sometimes goes into other people’s apartments if their doors are open. Everyone loves him. He’s just not afraid of people and used to being liked. He’s basically very interested in humans and other cats. He’s not afraid of dogs, but doesn’t show much interest in them. We live in a small 1950s “tiki” style 2-story apartment complex with 35 units all overlooking a swimming pool courtyard with small gardens so it’s a perfect environment for him. There are also many pet owners in my complex. Romeo sleeps on the bed with us about half the time, and he often sits on my music studio desk and keeps me company when I’m working on music. I still don’t know why cats like to sit on computer and music keyboards – especially if they see you preoccupied with them…
He’s an extremely affectionate and gentle cat. On the other hand, he’s very needy, very vocal, and follows us from room to room (especially if he wants wet food or be taken outside). If we wake up late and he hasn’t been fed for some time, he will drown one of his pet mice toys in his water bowl to let us know he’s not pleased. When his meow-ing is out of control because he wants to go outside while we’re watching a movie, I sometimes put a “Thundershirt” (I highly recommend it, especially for travelling) on him, which calms him down. We’re starting our new life here with our kitty. I sometimes joke with friends that if my partner and I wore lipstick, Romeo would be covered in red everyday. He gets way too much love from us, but we can’t help it. Not to sound like a movie, but I’ve had a rough year and when I first got Romeo, I thought I was saving him, but it turns out he saved me on many levels as well.
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