I wasn’t born a cat person. Felines were misunderstood in my house. It was thought that their sole purpose in life was to tease and annoy our two miniature schnauzers whose barking, I’m now sure, was a far bigger problem than any cat ever could be. I was lead to believe that cats were dirty tricksters that were not to be trusted, and that is what I thought until I ended up with one of my own.

My first cat was not mine really. He was a fat fluff ball who belonged to my ex. He was very lazy, had an odd meow and left a trail of fur every wherever he went. I named him Leon, and despite his sloth-like nature and my prejudice against cats, we became fast friends. Losing him was the hardest part of ending my relationship with my ex, but as a consolation prize, I was left with a second cat we had managed to take in a few years before.

Her name was Lily, and at first we did not see eye to eye. Lily was a stray white and grey domestic short hair that someone found in a field. She had not been spayed and was a little wild when she came into my life. She’d go into heat and meow nonstop while she held her tail high and waved her butt to and fro. Our pets had always been fixed and this was not something I had dealt with before. It disgusted me and meant that our relationship took a long time to flower.

Despite our differences, Lily and I were left to fend for ourselves when her brother was snatched away by my evil ex. It was a hard time for both of us, and we leaned on each other to get through it. Our relationship soon began to change. We were no longer standoffish toward one another. She started following me around whenever I was home. We’d play fetch with plastic water bottle caps that she would kick with her little paws. She loved music and would sit by the speakers whenever I’d play something. She even learned to chirp at the birds outside the window!

Lily was an amazing cat and then she got sick. One day I noticed a lump forming on her face and it was only a matter of weeks before she was gone. It was the first time I had ever had to put an animal down, and it was heartbreaking. We had been through so much and to lose her like that didn’t seem right. I swore to myself that I would honor her memory by not replacing her with another cat, and I held out for a couple of years until loneliness set in.

I had been living alone for some time and missed the companionship that Lily and Leon had provided. By this time, I had lost almost all interest in dogs and decided that I was getting another cat. I went to four or five pet stores and kitten giveaways before finding Axel at the SPCA.

Axel was six weeks old and gray with green eyes. In other words, he was adorable. When I first walked up to him he was jumping on his brother’s head like a maniac. I took him to a play room and he immediately charged up the kitty tree and boldly jumped off the top. I was enamored. The only real problem was his given name: Silly Cat. Obviously his name should be Axel because he was dark like axle grease and smooth like the song “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop.

We hit it off right away. As a kitten, Axel would sleep on my shoulder like a parrot when I was in bed. He’d follow me around and come when I called his name. He’d greet me when I’d come home from school or work and comfort me when I was depressed, which he continues to do today.

Axel and I have an understanding. I know that he likes me to hold my hand out so that he can pet himself, and he knows that I will leave my shoes out for him to try and put his head inside. No matter how old he is, he will always be my baby boy.

He reminded me of that just this last week when he got his foot caught in a fence. His poor leg was mangled pretty badly, but he is strong and I am hoping for a quick recovery. For now, I get to baby him like I did when he was a kitten all over again and it has brought us even closer than before.

Though Axel doesn’t always agree, our lives were further enriched with the addition of his sister, Lily (no relation), aka Squilly, who moved in along with my girlfriend two years ago. Lily is afraid of everything, but once she gets comfortable around you, she is one of the sweetest cats there is. She loves to get under the covers and snuggle up next to you and she always purrs when you hug her. Like my first Lily, Squilly even occasionally chirps at birds when she isn’t hiding from them.

What a fool I would have been to follow the path that my childhood had laid out for me. I cannot imagine how much less my life would be had it not been for these cats. They have enriched my existence by teaching me what real unconditional love means. They have made me smile when I didn’t believe I could. I owe so much to them that the least I could do is tell our stories, so that maybe you will learn of the joy that cats can bring. Don’t listen to your dog-loving parents; get a cat today!