About a year ago, I adopted my cat Bingley. After my cat Cleo died in January, I didn’t think I’d get another cat for a while. Cleo was 2o-years-old when she died, and she was in great shape almost till the end. It was the last two weeks of her life that were rough. I was very sad, but dealt with it, but realized that once she was gone, the energy in the house was off. So a week after she died, we adopted Bingley.
At the pound, we looked a lot of different cats. They all had different personalities. We saw a gorgeous black cat named Lucy, who seemed friendly in the cage, until she was pulled out and handed over to us. The minute she saw other cats wandering around, she started growling and hissing. We put Lucy back into the cage looked around some more. I saw an older calico that was very friendly and was about to ask to see him when my partner called me over.
My partner was sitting on the floor, peering into the cage on the floor, and I looked inside and saw a tiny, little, tan kitty bundled into the corner of the cage. He was a Siamese with patches and a mask so light gray, they looked pink. I reached in and started to pet him, and was rewarded with a huge loud purr, but he stayed firmly implanted in the corner of the cage.
We immediately fell in love and took him (we beat a leather-clad couple who were interested too). We learned from the kind pound workers that the cat’s name was Marshmallow Fluff. Of course, we couldn’t have a cat with a name like Marshmallow Fluff. We knew we wanted to name him after a literary character, and we narrowed it down to Darcy, Bingley, Scout, and Thackeray. We settled on Bingley because he was cute and goofy, like Mr. Bingley from Pride and Prejudice.
Bringing Bingley home was interesting. I opened the carrier, looked away for a second and it was empty. “Where is he?” I asked, peering inside – maybe I left him back at the pound.
“He slithered underneath the radiator,” my partner said, pointing to a furry mound that was moving quick, like a fuzzy roach. Worried that he’d burn himself, we yanked him out of the space and put him back in the carrier and left him alone in the restroom. We set a bowl of food and some water and watched him for a little bit. He wouldn’t leave the carrier – he just sat there, looking tiny and pathetic. We pet him for a little bit, and he started to purr again, but he was very wary and looked sad and confused.
We decided it’s best if we just let him do his own thing, so we walked back into the living room, and watched some TV. After about a couple of hours, we suddenly heard a loud mewl and turned to see Bingley carefully mince into the living room. His gray tail stuck up and twitched like an antennae, and he seemed to look bigger. He was stout and barrel-shaped, and his face was round and fuzzy like a dandelion head.
He walked over to us and leaped onto the couch and immediately started to pick at the couch with his claws. We pet him carefully, and he responded by headbutting us and purring loudly. He also started to lick our hands, his little pink tongue, hard and raspy like sandpaper.
And he was never shy and quiet again.
The first year with Bingley was a challenge. He was very different than Cleo. Unlike she, Bingley is very needy and aggressive with his affection. While Cleo was content to just sit in the same room, with her back turned to us, Bingley was interested in climbing furniture, grabbing things in his mouth and scratching anything he could set his claws into.
We kept trying to keep him from scratching our couch – we put up obstacles and barriers, but he manages to climb and soar over these roadblocks very easily. Despite his portly demeanor, he can soar like a hang glider.
Bingley is also very vocal. All of his meows, yowls, and cries are different. My favorite is when he’s waking up, his throat still tight, and he tries to eek out a noise, and all that comes out is a strained squeak.
As Bingley grows, his coat darkens. He’s no longer lilac, but gray. He still looks like a kitten – fuzzy, with large, slightly-clumsy paws. He also is becoming more affectionate – and more demanding for affection. It isn’t enough that I pet him, he will sometimes grab my arm and nip gently. Stranger yet, if I’m close enough, he’ll grab my face in both his paws and draw it nearer to him, so that he could lick my face (a practice I find disgusting).
During the holidays, my partner went to Washington and to Arizona. His best friend lives outside Seattle and his family lives in Mesa. I stayed behind, alone with Bingley. He was confused at how suddenly one of the two big, strange animals is gone, and now it’s just he and I. When reading on the couch, Bingley asserts his presence by squeezing his considerable girth on the couch beside me. Or sometimes he’ll just drape his hanging, droopy belly over one of my arms.
I can’t believe it’s going to be a year that I had him. I still can’t believe Cleo’s gone. I also can’t believe how different the two are from each other. I loved Cleo for her cussedness and her ability to just shine on someone if she didn’t have the time. She was very independent, and she was remarkably smart. She wasn’t the friendliest of cats, and would shy away from too much affection. And I found her ornery behavior endearing.
Bingley, on the other hand, is a great big baby, always looking for attention. And even though I miss Cleo’s reserved dignity, there’s something neat about having a cat who is a bottomless pit of need.
The other day I went to the vet to make an appointment for a wellness check. The pound suggested that I do one for Bingley after a year. While waiting in line, I remembered he awful time we had with Cleo there. I remembered how we brought her in for one last time. In front of me, a gentleman was checking in his two cats for boarding. They were huge. I was a bit shocked at just how fat these cats were. The interesting thing with cats is that even if they get fat, their heads stay the same size, so these cats looked like their heads were plunged into large, furry beanbags. They were so sedentary that they barely registered the yipping dog that circled their carrier case. He was barking up a storm, obviously perturbed by these two majestically fat beasts. But both cats remained composed and regarded their nosy neighbor with the kind of heightened indifference that only a cat can muster.
When it was my turn to chat with the receptionist, I remembered it was the same woman who offered a kind hug when we put Cleo down last year. She probably offered a similar hug to thousands of people during the past year. When she pulled up my record she cautiously asked if my inquiry was for a new pet. When I confirmed that yes, I have a new pet, she was visibly relieved and offered a chipper “awesome.”
You know, there were moments when I wasn’t sure if Bingley would work out. He’s fond of clawing the furniture, and he has a propensity for knocking things down. But I can’t imagine this year without him. I’m not an “animal person” in that I don’t look at animals as an extended member of my family, nor do I consider Bingley a “child.” I never even thought I’d write about him, but he made a huge mark on the house and my life this year.