Chloe was a shy, scrawny, sneezy little thing when we first spotted her at the Detroit Humane Society in the summer of 2007.
I’d been lobbying my parents to adopt a kitten after our long-time family cat passed away earlier in the year. Lucky for Chloe, she was flanked by her outgoing brother Nigel who rattled their cage and meowed incessantly for freedom. It also didn’t hurt that their brown-and-black tabby stripes and markings looked strangely familiar to our previous cat, and Chloe was strikingly cute with big, smoky eyes and a tiny figure. After a bit of playtime and some pleading, I convinced my family to bring home a pair of cats when we were only looking for one.
We were enamored with the two siblings but less enamored with their condiment-themed foster names: Heinz and Farina. My brother and I named the boy Nigel after Nigel Tufnel – we were really into the movie This Is Spinal Tap at the time. My mom thought the girl looked like a “Chloe” – so Chloe she was. Both cats were affectionate, playful and good-natured, though Chloe struggled with respiratory issues from an early age and was much more timid and self-interested compared to Nigel’s inquisitive, in-your-face demeanor. One year after their adoption, I went off to college for a few years but after my girlfriend Ari and I graduated and moved to Ferndale, we took the pair of kitties with us.
Chloe was a diva, but she was also incredibly loving. She was your stereotypical sassy cat – she’d howl for attention only to walk away once you committed to petting her. She’d meow to be petted while she was at her food dish and demand human contact while she chomped down her kibble. She’d interrupt every meal or dinner party with pleas for a taste of human food, only to turn her nose up at it once you finally gave her a piece. She’d growl and snarl and hiss at her brother for attempting to bathe her, only to realize she liked it after Nigel continued on.
Chloe’s flair for the dramatic didn’t nearly match her loving side though. She was the first cat to let me hold her. She was the first cat to lay on me. She would sync with our sleep schedules and lay alongside me almost every night and morning, making biscuits on my ribcage and armpit. She loved lounging on my lap, ear and chin scritches, belly rubs, and would make half-chirp-half-purr meows when she was happy. Her and Nigel would cuddle often and chirp and mewl and groan at each other.
I saw a lot of my own traits in Chloe and it made me love her, and cats in general, even more. I can be introverted and timid at times and demand attention at others. I can act selfishly or disinterested. I often want to love and be loved on my own terms. I’m a fussy eater… and who doesn’t like getting butt pets while they eat?
Chloe started getting sick in 2018 – she had dropped to under 6 pounds when she was over 10 a few years earlier. It was a goofy juxtaposition seeing her cuddling next to her chonky 17-pound brother – you wouldn’t tell they’re from the same litter if their markings weren’t so similar. We were in for a tough couple of years – she’d vomit frequently, started eliminating outside of her litter box more often than in it, and got increasingly fussy with food.
It got tougher as time went on – we’d come to find she had lymphoma and treatment options were limited without spending thousands of dollars with no guaranteed improvement. I can’t count the number of times I woke up to Ari yelling, “Chloe pooped on the floor again!” We laid puppy pads for her to go on in her preferred spots and routinely shelled out hundreds of dollars on tests and medications to make her comfortable. But despite her waning health, she still loved ear scritches and belly rubs, still made her biscuits, and would still make chirpy purr noises and long to lay on us or by our sides.
It was tough to watch Chloe’s health decline, but we were tough on ourselves too. We’d wonder, “Are we not doing enough?” “Should we pay for more treatments?” “Should we move the litter boxes?” “Should we switch her food again?” “Are we switching her food too much?” “Does she still have quality of life?” I still don’t know the answers to those questions, but we did the best we could.
Even through all of the ups and downs of Chloe’s life, she was the perfect companion. She was meant to find a family with an affinity for black-and-brown tabby cats and left when it was her time to go. She was meant to have an outgoing brother that lobbied for their adoption, pestered her, pushed her outside of her comfort zone, bathed her, and cuddled with her. She gave me, Ari, and my family nearly 13 years of highly entertaining sass, biscuits, love, and affection.
Chloe was my motivation to get more involved with the Ferndale Cat Shelter and animal welfare causes (so was Nigel, but he’s still here and pawing at me for attention while I write this). There’s nothing quite like the companionship of a cat. They test your patience, demand care, and can be sassy little demons at times. But they also teach you patience, teach you how to care for something or someone else, help you cope with sadness and avoid loneliness, and can be outwardly affectionate and incredibly loving.
Cats operate on their own terms, so when they decide to nudge or paw at you, lay with you, let you pick them up, or even just let you pet them, it feels like you’re at the center of their world. I think I was at the center of Chloe’s quite often. I’d also say cats never judge you, but Chloe totally judged the hell out of me.
The hardest part about having pets is we outlive them. You can be taught how to care for them, but no one can prepare you to say goodbye.
I love you Chlo Chlo. Rest in peace.
David Oltean has served on the Ferndale Cat Shelter’s Board of Directors since 2018 and started volunteering with the organization in 2016.