Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

(This was a hard blog post to write. I thought, after almost a year, I’d be better but it’s still hard, will always be hard I think. I cried a few times, had to stop even more, but I got all the words out eventually. Maybe not as coherently as I’d like, but they’re here, and I guess that’s what matters.)

On Friday, I surprised myself by adopting a cat. But before I get into that, I have to start somewhere else.

About two months after my mom died, my dad surprised my sister and I by telling us we could adopt a cat, because our mom had told him before she died that we had wanted to adopt a cat.  I was shocked, of course, because this I never thought my mom would tell my dad this. My dad loves cats of course, our whole family does, but before then we’d had our last cat years before. We hadn’t had one in so long, and pets are a lot of work.

My dad explained that we could start looking for a kitten any time we liked, and then after added that we could each get a kitten so we’d both have one. So after some months, when kitten season (as I like to call it) was happening in the pet stores, we went and looked and found our perfect pair.

My sister found a little furry grey tabby who wandered right up to the cage and meowed at her. I took more time, because all the other kittens were sleeping so I really had no idea who I was choosing. Finally I saw a tiny pale grey thing sleeping and pointed to her. The worker said that we had chosen the siblings of the bunch, and that seemed enough of a sign that they were meant for us.

We took them home and they immediately ran out of the carrier and explored our room. They wandered around, wanted to be pet, and climbed on top of us completely comfortable with their new home and owners. My sister named her kitten Fiyero after a character from the musical Wicked, and after three days (even though her name popped into my head the moment I saw her, I wanted to make sure) I named her after a book by one of my favourite authors, Tamsin.


And Tamsin was absolutely perfect. She was a diluted tortoiseshell and as a kitten was pale grey with a hint of orange on her neck, but as she grew more patches of orange blossomed on her coat. We called her a Fall cat, and that her coat got more orange as the seasons shifted and the leaves changed colour.

She was a funny little thing with a crooked walk, a variety of meows to communicate with us dumb humans who can’t speak cat, and was overall very loving even though she pretended not to be. Having some tortoiseshell in her, she had a certain amount of “tortitude” and was all around quirky. She loved being chased around the house, flopping down the stairs, and cuddling close when she wanted to sleep.

I loved her fast and with my whole heart. I was so scared the first night I had her, so afraid I wasn’t ready to take care of this tiny living thing. But as weird as it sounds, Tamsin and I had a bond, we were meant for each other, and I was surprised that I could love her so completely.

She was always a sickly little thing though, and she always stayed small making our family think she may have been the runt of the litter. She had a number of digestive problems that I brought her into the vet for, a lip that would swell at random times, and one time after getting her vaccinations too close together got a virus and almost died. With all her health scares, I brought her to the vet and payed all I had too to keep her healthy.

About a month after her second birthday, my dad told me I should take her to the vet. All she was doing was sitting in the kitchen chair (one of her favourite places) and she wasn’t eating. I put it off for a few days. It was April and raining, and she’d never handled the rain well. Once the weather was nicer she’d be her normal self, I was sure of that. But I started noticing what my dad was talking about, how she hardly moved, how she wasn’t eating, and took her to the vet.

I can’t remember what the vet said, but it wasn’t a bad first visit. They gave me some antibiotics to give her, a steroid pill to make her hungry, and she’d be fine. I did just that, and saw Tamsin start eating and was happy that she was fine. I went down to pet her, and when I stroked her side I felt that her abdomen was swollen, and an immediate feeling of dread pierced me.

Again, I tried to rationalize it. She was just eating too much now and her stomach was too full, or she was constipated and just needed to use the litter box. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very very wrong with her. I googled the symptoms (which any person knows is a horrible thing to do and usually ends up with wrong results) and was given to a page on Feline Infectious Peritonitis, and after reading it I knew I had to take her to the vet immediately.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP for short) is a very rare and fatal disease caused by a genetic mutation in some cats. There is no known reason why it affects some cats, but there are no cures. Once a cat starts showing symptoms, it’s only a matter of days before death.

My sister took her, because I had just started a full-time job and tearfully called me at work to tell me that my suspicions were most likely correct. I cried at work, and then when I went to pick her up from the vet and had the news confirmed for me I cried again.

On May 12, a week after the diagnosis, we brought her to the vet to put her down. She had lost a lot of weight in that short time, having stopped eating because it was too difficult for her to move with her swollen abdomen. She was all bones except for the swelling, and she started going to the bathroom on the carpet because she couldn’t walk any more. The vet let me cut off a piece of her fur to keep, and I pet her and told her I loved her when she died.

There are many quotes about love and loss, all of them encapsulating the same feeling, but it never made losing Tamsin any easier. Logically, I knew that if I hadn’t loved her so much that it wouldn’t have hurt to have lost her, but I could never imagine not loving Tamsin, or any animal, with my whole heart. In the end, the pain of losing her was worth it knowing I had loved her so much.

I was heartbroken, and I think a part of me will always be heartbroken about losing Tamsin. I thought she’d be in my life so much longer, and two years was not enough time, but it’s still time I’m happy to have had with her.

I knew I wanted another cat someday in the future, and imagined getting a kitten again. I didn’t want one right away because I kept thinking of Tamsin, and didn’t want to compare any future kitten to her. It wouldn’t be fair to the cat I adopted or to me, and I had to accept that whatever cat I adopted would not be like Tamsin.

A couple months ago, I decided I was ready to start looking to adopt. I talked to one of my friends who works in a pet store, and she was keeping me updated on any new kittens that came in. It isn’t kitten season (I consider kitten season to be in the spring, when a lot of animals have their babies and pet stores are crowded with kittens) but a few popped up here and there, and I would check just in case I saw a cat I liked.

Which brings us back to the start of this post. On Friday afternoon, I went to a new pet store my friend works at, and I adopted a cat.

This was shocking for a few reasons. One being that I went in just to check out the new store and see what kind of cats they had, since I had still convinced myself I was going to adopt a kitten, and two because the cat I adopted isn’t a kitten, she’s one and a half.

Now, that’s still basically a kitten, but I had no plans on buying a cat older than one. But when I walked to her holding area she jumped right down from her perch and rubbed against the glass to look at me, and I fell in love with her completely. I just felt this connection that I wasn’t expecting. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out, and I walked around the store for a good half hour to make sure I wasn’t making an rash decisions, to make sure I actually wanted her and wasn’t just missing having a cat.

I asked my mom for help too, because maybe I’m stupid or maybe I’m crazy or all of the above. I don’t know if I’d call it praying, but I asked her if this calico was the cat I was meant to adopt, if I was making the right decision. And after walking for a while and coming back to the adoption area, to seeing her in the adoption room and her being so comfortable with me petting her, I knew I was making the right decision.

Then there was some fun adventure with how the adoption agency only takes cash and I didn’t have enough money and a lot of driving around before finally coming back to the pet store, filling out the paperwork, and bringing Cordelia home.

Her name wasn’t originally Cordelia, it was Maggie, but as soon as I saw her the name Cordelia popped into my head. I like naming pets after literary characters, places, authors, etc., so chose Cordelia because of King Lear. I still let the name sit for a day just to make sure, but I didn’t keep her nameless for long.


Cordelia is not Tamsin, and no cat will ever be Tamsin. And it is very different adopting a cat that isn’t a kitten. Cordelia and I are getting to know each other, and luckily she’s adapting very well with the humans of the household, though it’s going to take some time for her and Fiyero to get along. She’s a sweet skinny calico (who I need to make fat!) who is shy, active, and loves being pet. She’s active, an amazing jumped who loves walking all over you (literally) and she especially loves sharing your pillow. She’s so incredibly sweet, with a funny bark of a meow, and I love her so much. It’s a different love than with Tamsin, not less by any means, but different, and I don’t really know how to describe it. How can you describe loving something so fully and differently at the same time?

It was very hard to open myself up again to letting another animal in, and to try and kill those fears that surfaced when Tamsin died. They’re still there, nagging me of course, but I try to stop them. They whisper every time I pet Cordelia, looking to see if her sides are swollen, when I see she isn’t eating as much as I’d like her too, when she and Fiyero hiss and growl at one another. Because I am terrified that I will lose her, like Tamsin, much sooner than I’d like, and I have no control over knowing if that will happen or not. All I can do is care for her with all my heart, bring her to the vet when she’s sick, love her completely and hope that she stays with me for a long, long time.

But I’m ready to be open with this beautiful cat, ready to love her completely. Cordelia and I are still getting to know each other, and it’s a fun and strange thing to introducing yourself to a cat that’s already been a part of some people’s lives. We’re both learning who the other is, both adjusting to living with each other, and both learning to love and trust one another completely. I am already so happy and blessed to have her in my life; I think we needed each other.


3 thoughts on “Tamsin and Cordelia

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