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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

CW: mention of feline loss of a limb, stillborn cats

For as long as I can remember, my family was never one to have pets. Neither of my parents worked from home and, other than school, my brother and I were busy with extracurriculars. Sure, we had the odd beta fish here and there, but never anything that required a lot of attention. My brother and I pleaded for the longest time to get a dog (or a guinea pig, as I did on one occasion). Our parents, however, refused, stating that something which required that much care would ultimately be neglected because of how little time we spent at home. My brother and I relented eventually… until Dad found a tiny turtle in the garage. 

We wound up naming him Donatello and bringing him along with us back when we moved in the summer before I started seventh grade. We finally had a pet! For two years, we cared for the little reptile, joyfully feeding him stinky, dried mini-shrimp. After he passed on, my family didn’t bring any other animals into our household. 

Life went on and on until the pandemic hit. As you might think, things came to a standstill around the world and everyone was stuck inside their houses, afraid of catching Covid. Days melted into each other, and we were figuring out ways of keeping ourselves entertained. At a certain point, I noticed a lovely Siamese cat stopping by our backyard to lie down and take advantage of the shade. Carefully, I began to approach her and she came to trust me. I called her Topacio, because of her beautiful, bright blue eyes. For a while, we fed her and gave her water. She was even so familiar with me that she crawled into my lap and napped once as I sang to her. To say I got attached was an understatement. She made my days brighter until she randomly stopped coming over. I was crushed, and then my father told me that it turns out she had been pregnant the whole time and that she and her kittens were taken to a home. Was I surprised? Sure, but I was happy that the new family had a safe place to live.

As we all know, we continued academics online, turning to Zoom and Google Meets and e-mails to get everything done. The days were dull since Topacio had gone. And then, at the end of April 2021, my dad showed up with a pet carrier in hand.

With a nervous, meowing cat inside of it. 

The anxious boy inside of the carrier was a beautiful, green-eyed, brown tabby we call Keanu. My dad had seen him while visiting one of his clients’ shops in Utuado and was completely charmed. What really caught his eye, though, was that Keanu had three of his feet. The then-5-month-old kitty had apparently been in an accident. The shop owners had hired someone to clear out the area surrounding it because the grass had grown to an unruly height. The guy hired was using a machete and must not have noticed the kitten playing in the tall grass when he sliced at some point.

The impromptu amputation was not clean (it broke the bone) and we had to take Keanu to the vet several times to have the nub treated and bandaged. But the absence of his left hind paw has done nothing to hinder him. On the first night he spent here, we put some cardboard to block the exit of the laundry room, where we had tentatively placed some things for him (keep in mind that this was on the second floor). In the morning, we found him hiding behind a desk on the first floor. He’s always been antsy and he doesn’t really like to socialize much whenever we have guests over, but he’s still pretty active. He likes to seek out my Mom specifically, because he knows he can manipulate her into giving him quite a few treats by meowing like the baby he is.

As for Ginger, my brother was the one who found her. He frequents the communal gym by our house and noticed her in the area. After a while, they became friendly, much like I had with Topacio. He would go to work out and she would be around, seeking his attention whenever she could. However, my brother thought she was male and called him Sheamus for a while. He stopped when he realized that she was a single mother whose 3 babies lived in a bush by the gym. My brother pleaded with our parents to let them live with us. As you can imagine, it was an immediate no. At that point, we’d had Keanu for about five months and were still getting the hang of being cat owners. But that wasn’t the end of things, as our cousins managed to convince their mom to take in two of Ginger’s babies, a pair of blondes they called Ziggy and Bob.

As you may guess from her inclusion in this article, we did eventually bring Ginger into our home in early September of 2021. We hypothesized that she might be pregnant, seeing as her kittens didn’t look that young, but her thin appearance also made us doubt said hypothesis.

Ginger was, in fact, pregnant! Up until October, she proceeded to swell up like a fluffy, blonde balloon. We often talked about how many kittens we thought she would have, while also noticeably avoiding the subject of what would be done with the kittens. Suddenly, Ginger went into labor in my mom’s closet one night. My mom and her sister, my aunt, tended to her for a few hours. In that time, Ginger gave birth to Kai first, and then three stillborn kittens. Early in the morning, she was taken to the vet, where we learned that there was still another baby inside her. Out of the five she had been carrying, only Kai survived. He was our little miracle.

For a while, we kept Ginger and Kai in my mom’s closet, as Mom was scared that Keanu would do something to the newborn. What separated him from the mother-son duo was a baby gate, and Keanu would visit often during the day, curious as to what was on the other side. In his time in the closet, Kai managed to climb the shoe rack and ruin a purse or two. He was a terror and ready to take on the world!

As of now, Keanu, Kai, and Ginger are fully adult cats. While Keanu has stayed pretty small, weighing in at about 8 pounds, and Ginger has kept the pregnancy weight, at 10-ish pounds, Kai has grown to be the biggest of them, at a whopping 12 pounds the last time we weighed him. And, though he’s physically the biggest, he still lets himself be carried like a baby. Fun fact: out of the three of them, Kai is the only one who will let you rub his belly. For Keanu and Ginger, any attempt to do so will end in bloodshed.

Keanu and Kai have a pretty good bond. They roughhouse a bit, but it never devolves into serious violence. Most of their time together is spent just lying about the house or eating together. Kai and Ginger are pretty chill with each other, and Ginger occasionally goes back into Mama Cat mode and grooms Kai lovingly (Keanu sometimes does the same). As for Ginger and Keanu, their relationship has been strained from the start. He watched her like a hawk since she stepped into the house, and they sometimes fought. For some time, that all seemed to calm down until more recently. Ginger has picked up a mean habit of terrorizing Keanu; chasing him around, following him, pushing him to the point of an aggressive physical conflict. We’re still working on establishing a peace between the two.

Seeing the three of them grow around each other and us has certainly been an experience for my family and I. We’ve become the stereotypical pet owners, with camera rolls full of the fur babies and Instagram Reels with all sorts of cats up the wazoo. These cats have made us more attentive to details and have simply brought more joy into our home. We chronicle their daily adventures and wonder about what they’re up to when we’re not around. Of course, the learning curve was a bit uphill, but it’s only made me appreciate our kitties all the more. We honestly couldn’t ask for more.

Carola Ríos Pérez is a writer for the Her Campus at UPR chapter. She focuses on writing reviews and analyses about films, series, and books, as well as sharing some of her life experiences through personal essays. In 2021, she graduated with honors from Colegio Nuestra Señora de Belén. Initially, she began her career as a university undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus as a Communications student, with a major in Public Relations and Publicity. Currently, she is a junior in Humanities, majoring in Modern Languages, with a focus on Portuguese and German. Other than academics and Her Campus, Carola enjoys kickboxing and spending some quality time with her three cats, Keanu, Ginger, and Kai. Her passion for languages is reflected in her music tastes, and there’s no song she won’t listen to at least once. Occasionally, inspiration will strike, and Carola will focus on writing her own stories, heavily inspired by the Young Adult novels that shaped her teenage years. Every once in a blue moon, though, she will either go into a minor baking frenzy to procrastinate or pick up her guitar and “jam” her worries away.