Cats, like people, can always surprise you.
After almost three years with my first Tabby’s Place alumnae Peggy and Dottie, they still reveal little quirks of personality, or develop new habits, or decide that they now hate the food they always gobbled down with glee. They’re mercurial creatures who never go stagnant.
So it’s no surprise that one of the most wonderful parts of bringing Simba into my family last July has been watching him evolve.
The cat who used to be perpetually grumpy and was as likely to bite you as to purr if you touched him has become a cuddly, sweet, silly boy who loves to play.
The cat who started his time at home needing to be attached to me at every second is becoming more independent every day — though he does still follow me everywhere I go like a little orange shadow.
The cat who hated other cats has come to love my tabby trouble twins.
And then are the little things you’d never even think to expect, like the joy he gets from chittering at squirrels as they chase each other around outside. Or the way he very gently tries to wake me up in the mornings by head butting me in the face; patiently sleeps at my feet if he doesn’t succeed; and comes running the second I am alert.
And then are are the really unexpected things. The things that only serendipity can reveal.
A short interlude: during Simba’s time at Tabby’s Place, I wondered to myself if he would do well as a chaperone for the Kitten Room. It was an irrational thought based on watching a lot of videos of Grandpa Mason (the now-famous feral who has lived far past his prognosis from kidney disease and found late-life joy thanks to be tasked with fostering several litters of kittens). I never passed this idea along, since adding a temperamental, bitey cat to a room filled with the most fragile residents seemed more than a little insane.
But now I wonder if I was on to something. Simba has adopted himself a toy baby.
When Simba moved in with my family, a generous volunteer sent him home with a bag of his favorite catnip toys. In addition to those, we had some other toys waiting for him: a few toys meant for exercising his leonine jaws, some standard mice, and one large toy mouse made to look like Chewbacca from Star Wars that was just too darn cute to leave at the store. At first, Simba showed no interest in this mouse. We shrugged this off; if I had a nickel for every cat toy I’ve bought that lives its life unloved in the Cat Toy Box of Purgatory, I could go buy even more cat toys.
But then the Chewbacca mouse started mysteriously moving around the house. We thought, at first, that maybe Peggy or Dottie was playing with it. But then, one night, my husband watched Simba carry that mouse into the living room, where he very gently laid it down and began to give it a bath.
Now it’s pretty standard to see Simba carry his little Wookiee-mouse baby around, or bathe it, or cuddle up with it to sleep. And every time, I am amazed at how sweet this is, and how gentle my misunderstood fella has become. (The staff at our veterinary office, unfortunately, does not get to see this soft side, however many times I promise them that it exists.)
Every day, I marvel a little bit at how far my little colony has come in such a short time. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. Simba and Peggy play together constantly now, and even stubborn Dottie is experimenting with joining in. And all the while, all three of them keep growing and learning and becoming more fascinating than they were the day before.
People tell me that Simba was lucky to find me. But I think it’s the opposite, actually. Simba picked me for reasons I’ll never fully understand, and I feel very fortunate that he did. He’s taught me a lot, and added so much to our lives.
And he just keeps on surprising me.