I love cats. It’s OK if you like dogs. I like dogs too. I just like cats more. I love their independent nature; their sleek, powerful bodies; their distinct personalities; their unhinged imaginations; their uncanny ability to muster deep-felt affection 30 minutes before feeding time.

My husband, Dwight, and I adopted two kittens in July 2021 and, truth be told, they can be holy terrors when they aren’t snuggled into our laps, purring with satisfaction. When they aren’t shredding the arm of the sofa, they are skittering across the kitchen floor in hot pursuit of a runaway coffee bean. When they aren’t fishing out – and chewing up – a stray elastic band from behind a filing cabinet, they are charging across the dining-room table in a game of cat and, well, cat.

We named the bold calico, with her multi-coloured fur and over-sized ears, Iris after that flamboyant, outgoing New York socialite Iris Apfel. (All she needed was round glasses.)

The lovely Rocki, 2019.
Emily loved lounging outdoors on her leash, 2010.

The tabby is Butterfield, a nod to the months of research behind my book about my grandmother. Butterfield was my great-grandmother’s birth name and when we picked up the sisters from the cat rescue group, this kitten’s reserved personality and pinstripe accents seemed like a fitting nod to the family’s British roots. Ha! Butterfield still has her pinstripes, but her personality is anything but aloof now that she’s free to careen around our house. But we still like the name. (And her.)

Cats have lorded over our house for most of our married life.

Before the sisters, there was Rocki, who broke our hearts by succumbing to a sudden illness early in 2021. Rocki had arrived on our front porch 10 years earlier and refused to leave. She was large, healthy and beautiful, but we were reluctant to invite her in because of our petite resident cat, Emily. We weren’t concerned about Emily’s safety. She had run the household with an iron claw since 2000. We were worried about Rocki.

After all, we had tried to adopt a gentle beauty named Nolan when Emily was young and, we thought, lonely. Emily used this as a teaching moment. Let’s just say that Nolan was very, very, very happy to move in with our good friends Frank and Sue (where he lived like a prince).

Indeed, Emily nursed her displeasure with Rocki even when she was literally on her death bed in a corner of the kitchen in 2018. Tiny and frail, 20 years old, she would lift her head and shoot Rocki a poisoned glare whenever the latter dared tiptoe downstairs.

Is it any wonder that their relationship sparked an idea for a children’s book in 2019? OK, so I gave the story a happy ending. That could have happened in some parallel cat universe. (Besides, the best part of the Rocki & Emily project was the opportunity to collaborate with artist Diane Shantz.)

Before Emily, there was Clyde, a huge, affable Holstein of a cat who tolerated our then-toddler Nate’s innovative signs of affection. Likewise, our first cat, Cecil, endured our first son Nick’s advances.

Yes, there was a cat before there were kids. In fact, there was also a beloved border collie, Cindy, whose No. 1 duty (in her mind) was to make the cat behave. When Nick made his debut, cornering all of the human attention, cat and collie forged a temporary truce while safely huddled under the dining room table. It was a few days before they snuck close enough for a nose-full of baby. And a new allegiance.

The really good news is that our parade of cats clearly had an impact. The guys now have cat-loving partners, Emma and Nathalia, and each household includes two cats – Oscar and Saoirse, and Eli and Onesie.

Meanwhile, please don’t tell Iris and Butterfield, but we still love all of the cats that came before them. As a kind kindergarten teacher once told Nick when he admitted he was concerned about the disruptive arrival of his new baby brother: “Your parents’ love for you won’t change. Love grows.”

Clyde and Nate, 1990.
Cecil and Nick, 1985.
Butterfield and Iris, September 2021.

2 thoughts on “Here’s to Iris, Butterfield, Rocki, Emily, Clyde, Cecil …

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