I’m lounging in bed, with the air conditioning humming away, and Joe the cat sprawled luxuriously across the other half of this queen sized mattress. Because, clearly, it’s meant for him.

joe the cat doing what he does best.

This is the way to sleep.

Come October, I’ll have had Joe the cat in my life for 2 years, and for the first 18 months of our cohabitation, my bedroom was off-limits to him since he has mostly white fur and I have mostly black clothing (and oftentimes, insomnia). This changed when some work was being done on my apartment, and the only room I could conceivably shut him away in while I was at work and the contractors were here was… my bedroom.

So it began. Lines were crossed. Boundaries broken. Now, he knows when it’s bedtime. I turn off the TV, refill my glass of water, turn off the light in the living room, and he’s on his way to my bedroom before I am. We have our routine. He jumps up on the bed, attempts to wiggle his way onto my chest, with his ass-end in my face. I gently push him off (since I’m reading / typing, for fucks’ sake), he nudges my hand for a bit, and finally settles onto his side of the bed, where he may raise a balletic leg to lick his nether regions.

I’d been in my apartment for more than 2 years when I finally decided to adopt a cat. It was a question of finance and responsibilities, and somewhat one of psychological readiness since my childhood cats both had to be euthanized due to feline leukemia when I was in the early years of college. But one thing I knew for certain was that when I did adopt, I didn’t want a kitten… I wanted an adult cat because they don’t get adopted as often, and because it wouldn’t be fair to bring a high energy ball of kitten fur into my world of 6:45am-7:30pm work days.

It’s been said that the cat picks its owner, not the other way around, and that’s how it was with Joe. On a cool October day, I went to my local animal shelter and said I was interested in adopting an adult cat. I’d seen one on their site named Lady Gaga–a tortoise shell cat, who was a little on the plump side–who was an adult and needed a home. They took her out of her cage, and she promptly sniffed me and immediately walked away to a corner so she could groom herself alone.

The shelter volunteer asked, “Are you looking for a lap cat?” I said yes. “Then you should meet Joe.” She opened up a cage and brought out a black and white cat with a bit of a grumpy face; she told me he looked like a bit of a grump, but that he had the sweetest disposition and always greeted her with a meow on the mornings when she worked.

I sat cross-legged in the center of the room surrounded by other cats in cages, and she put Joe on the floor. He sniffed, walked closer, sniffed my hand, walked closer, put a paw on my leg, then another paw, and then brought the rest of himself up off the floor to curl up in my lap. I started petting him, he started purring, and then closed his eyes. My eyes started to well up, and my stomach did the little flip that it does when I see or read something particularly moving (like a well-delivered cereal commercial or particularly engaging “listicle”). That was it, dear readers. Joe and I were bonded.

There was paperwork, and some waiting while they made sure I actually had a home and a job, and at least one person who would vouch for me and my sanity, but less than a week later, I brought Joe home. I’d ordered toys and treats and scratching posts and assorted items from Amazon and Petco. I created a little space for him since I read that cats in new homes can sometimes feel overwhelmed, so it was recommended that you take a cardboard box and build a little “cave” in a more private location, and gradually expand his territory.

This was completely unnecessary for Joe.

Immediately, he was up on the ottoman, on the couch, in my lap, on my shoulder, exploring the comfy chairs and nooks and corners of the apartment. His favorite things, it turned out, were a simple paper shopping bag from Trader Joe’s, a soft circular area rug from Ikea, and any part of my body that was available for perching upon. He’s taught me some valuable lessons that way: that I’m good enough as-is, that my bit of a squishy tummy isn’t a horrifying thing, that we don’t need a lot of fancy stuff, and that sleep is a wonderful, glorious, underrated thing. Cats really know how to relax.

And it remains that way to this day. He’s repositioned himself to curl up at my feet, but if he’s not sitting on me,  there’s always a paw stretched out to touch some part of my body, just to remind me he’s there, and (maybe) to remind me to relax.

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