Life lessons from my 19-year-old cat

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We brought home Phoebe from the SPCA when I was 16 and my brother Chandler was 13. She was intended as a birthday gift for our mom, but selfishly we just wanted a new kitten! I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on Phoebe. She was malnourished, sneezing and she had be in her small SPCA cage for a significant amount of time. Her days were numbered, but I like to think it’s because she hadn’t met the right family…until we arrived.

When we first gave Phoebe to our mom her reaction was not what we expected. She’s a HUGE cat lover, but was concerned because of this tiny cat’s poor health. My mom even went as far as to call the SPCA to return Phoebe. They told her no, so she became our pet.

It didn’t take long before my mom’s heart opened to the skinny, sneezy fur ball. Phoebe has an energy and personality that pulls you in and makes you look past all her shortcomings. She radiates love in a way that’s hard to resist.

Over the years Phoebe made up for her scrawny beginnings and became fat! As a family, we tried everything to control her ravenous appetite and keep her slim. But none of our efforts worked, and Phoebe became a chunky purr machine. More to love I guess you could say.

About 6 years ago my parent’s became official snowbirds, which means they spend the winters in Phoenix and the summers in Edmonton. This also means that Phoebe has become a dual citizen. She road trips with them twice a year, and also makes a yearly trip to Vancouver to visit us.

Phoebe is now 19 years young and was in town last week. She stayed in my condo which gave me a chance to really observe her closely. It’s phenomenal that this creature has lived to be so old despite her humble beginning and current obesity.

But when I thought about it more, there are certain characteristics that Phoebe possesses that I think are the keys to her longevity. I’m also pretty sure these apply equally well to less furry animals like humans.

Lessons from Phoebe for a long, happy and successful life:

1. She’s selective in who she keeps around. Phoebe can take a little while before she opens up to you, but when she does she’s all in. She’s sensitive but loyal, and knows that importance of surrounding herself with quality company.

2. She has boundaries. Phoebe loves to be petted more than anything, but if you do something she doesn’t like, or cross a line she’s quick to give you a little bite as a reminder.

3. She spends as much time as possible relaxing. Phoebe is super lazy, but you can see it in her eyes how much she revels in the pleasure of deep relaxation. She doesn’t feel guilty for a second for being truly content.

4. She’s not self conscious or apologetic about who she is or what she looks like. Phoebe is a cat, but if she was a human I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t give a fuck what people thought of her.

5. She is overflowing with love. Phoebe has such an abundance of love, joy and affection in her heart it overflows to everyone around her. She gives from a place that’s genuine and authentic. She doesn’t expect anything in return (except kibble) because she trusts it’s going to be there. And so it is.

6. She is sassy, funny and always keeps us guessing. Phoebe is a character and her personality is vibrant and alive. Even though she’s super old, she will do little things like tap your arm when you stop petting her. When you look at her, you’ll always see a kitten like sparkle in her eyes.

7. She just don’t give a shit about things that aren’t important!

We figured out that Phoebe is 92 years old in cat years. I know she’s not going to live forever, but I know the positive impact she’s made in our hearts will. Pets are so much more than animals that live in our homes. They are our friends, family and teachers. I’m grateful that Phoebe chose to be our cat, and that my mom was unsuccessful in returning her to the SPCA.

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