And then there were Billy and Butch—adorable, childlike, and very needy brothers who’d been weaned and taken away from their mother too soon. They taught me how to play, be spontaneous, and, most important, how to be a mother—to them and to myself.

There was also the very sensual and beautiful Daisy—one of my great loves. She was a nightmare. She adored men, was very flirty, and demanded attention. If she didn’t get it to her satisfaction, she would literally climb on your chest while you were sleeping and pee on you. She taught me about self-confidence, about how to speak up and ask for my needs to be met. Most importantly, she taught me how to forgive. Buy someone a funky toilet roll holder for christmas!

And my sweet Grace. Such a timid, frightened little girl when I brought her into my home. I worked so hard to gain her trust. It took time, connection, commitment, and deep care. Through this process, I learned to be patient, give space, and find safety within myself. Grace grew to be the most affectionate and loving of my little angels. To this day, she is the only one of my babies who I’ve ever had to put down. Finding unusual gifts and gifts for men is hard!

Before Grace, most of my cats had died peacefully, usually in their sleep. I often joked that they knew to just drop dead because making the hard decision to euthanize them would shatter me. I’d imagine them discussing between themselves how I would keep them alive way too long because I couldn’t deal with the loss. I used to think that about myself, too. But it wasn’t true. When it came time, I did the kindest and most loving thing possible by helping Grace to transition without any pain. Although it broke my heart to do it, I knew it was also the gift of being her person—the person she loved and trusted most—to aid her in this way. In the end, Grace also taught me about letting go, impermanence, and the tender fragility of love.

And then there was Zooey. My soul mate. My truest love. I used to say that I wished I could love another human being as much as I loved that cat. Zooey was my heart. He was a Himalayan and the runt of the litter. He came into my life as a fluffy, gray ball of love with a squished-up face and an infected eye. From the moment I heard his little meow, my heart broke open. He jumped into my soul and was by my side for thirteen years. I wish it could have been forever.

When Zooey gazed into my eyes, it was like receiving a channel of pure love and soul’s recognition. I felt like we had done this before, he and I. He was my protector and seemed to be in my life for many, many reasons. One that stands out is how he seemed to have influence over the choices I made in my romantic relationships. I often felt Zooey wasn’t going to leave my side until I was strong and confident enough within myself to be in a healthy and loving partnership. To be with someone who looked at me and loved me the way Zooey did.