The “Both/And” Kitty

As I type these words, Ari and my cat Nemerah is curled up on my lap. She’s been with us for a little more than a month now, and she’s quickly found her way into our hearts.

I wrote my last sermon this way, too.

We’ve loved watching her acclimate to living in our home. She was six months old when we met her at the North Shore Animal League, and the staff told us she was exceptionally nervous and that she’d take a few weeks to feel comfortable with us. At the shelter, she wouldn’t let us hold or pet her, so we were ready to go slow. But she exceeded expectations.

She loves toys with feathers.

Within a week, Nemerah’s personality emerged: in the mornings and evenings she’s extraordinarily playful and curious, and during the daytime (like right now), she’s quite calm and snuggly.

We love her very much. Even after only five weeks, we can’t imagine our home without her. But we never intended to have her.

Just over a year ago, we adopted a wonderful three-month-old kitten we named Cocoa. And had things gone according to plan, she would be the cat in our lives today.

If it was an object, Cocoa sat on it.

We loved Cocoa. She, too, was playful and cuddly. We bonded with her immediately; it was because she purred when we held her at the shelter that we brought her home. Adopting her was the fulfillment of a dream Ari and I had had from the beginning of our relationship. It was awful when she got sick.

At around eight months old, Cocoa started showing signs of feline infectious peritonitis. She developed a fever, her appetite and energy vanished, and her abdomen ballooned with fluid. FIP is caused by a virus that most cats have but pass before the antibodies from their mothers wear off. Cocoa was the one in a hundred who didn’t.

One of the last days of Cocoa’s life. She was snuggly to the end.

A few days after diagnosis, when Cocoa stopped eating entirely and was too wobbly to hop up on her favorite chair, we made the heart-rending decision to have her euthanized. This was never the plan.

We grieved and readjusted for the next six months, and almost exactly a year from when we adopted Cocoa, we adopted Nemerah.

I love Nemerah. She brings so much joy to our home. She also evokes guilt and sadness in me.

Never before have I held in my arms such a visceral symbol of how two opposites can be true at the same time. She’s our “both/and” kitty: I both wish sincerely that we’d never met and feel immense gratitude that we have.

Wouldn’t trade her for anything.

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