I have an 18lb half-Siamese cat named Cairo. I adopted him in February of 2006, and he was 7 months old when I brought him home.
At the time, he was a tiny little thing. And female.
There was a litter of black kittens at Dream Power Animal Rescue in Colorado Springs. They had been born at the shelter. Their mother was full-blood Siamese but the father was unknown. I picked out one of the girls -- a sweet, snugly little thing. I filled out the paperwork, paid the money, and took my kitten home.
Three years went by, and my little kitten grew bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And then she got sick. Weeks of vet appointments, and the vet could not figure out what was wrong. The symptoms all fit a UTI, but none of the antibiotics were working. Finally, during the last appointment, Jeremy and I were standing in the room with the vet and my miserable (and huge) cat, and the vet said "You know what? Let me check one thing." He lifted Cairo's tail, put it back down, and looked right at me.
"This may come as a surprise to you," he said. "It's not a surprise to Cairo. But it's probably a surprise to you. This cat is a boy. Which means it's not a UTI, but a male-specific infection that we can treat with a different drug."
I kid you not, I burst into tears. And then laughed hysterically. And then cried more. Meanwhile, Jeremy was doubled over, watching me and laughing his butt off.
For three years I thought Cairo was a girl. This cat was my little princess. It was us girls. And suddenly it was a boy!
It took me weeks to get my head around the fact that Cairo was a boy. WEEKS. I'd sit there and stare at him, repeating "boy boy boy boy," trying to drill it into my head. I was so mad that Dream Power had been wrong about his sex -- or at least given me the wrong paperwork (spayed female my rear!).
Over time it all sank in. And really, it made sense. He was 15lbs when he was 3 years old -- and he's 18lbs now. How many female cats get that big? But it's amazing how different you look at someone of one sex versus another.
Cairo is more like a dog than a feline. He's aggressively affectionate -- if you sit down in my house, you will have a huge cat in your lap in seconds. He's extremely attached to my presence. He follows me or precedes me wherever I go, spending most of his day in my office with me. Jeremy says he knows when I'm coming downstairs because he can hear Cairo's collar jingling. And Cairo has the most raucous (and prolific) meow -- definitely from his mother's side.
Most of the time, Cairo's presence is just a given. He's always at my heels. He's always "talking" to me. Shoving him off my lap so I can stand up is an unconscious act.
But every so often, it hits me how lucky I am. Sure, Cairo is obnoxious a lot of the time. But he's mine. And he loves me. And I won't have him forever.
We have that understanding about animals. We know they're not going to be around forever. But what if we looked at our humans that way, too? What if we looked at our spouse as a precious and possibly fleeting companion? What if we looked at our kids like every breath they took was a miracle? What if we saw every text message from a friend as a message from an angel?
I have to reach over a mound of black fur to type all this on my keyboard. Cairo's warmth and purring is like white noise, ever present and only really noticed when it's gone.