Adopted Cat is the Companion One Busy M.D. Needed Most

For Zehui, Bechamel the cat was just what the doctor ordered.

Zehui + Bechamel

A New York City doctor finds connection and companionship by adopting a cat named Bechamel.

"At the end of the day, we all need a small purring furball to warm our hearts in a sometimes very challenging world."

Adopted Cat Bechamel

During the summer of 2018, I was buoyed by the excitement of graduating from medical school and moved to New York City to start residency. I moved into my first apartment, bought my first set of IKEA furniture, and had no idea what the future would bring.

While learning to take care of real patients, I learned that living in a city of eight million people can still feel lonely. When I came home at night, exhausted from the frantic hospital pace, the apartment felt overwhelming empty and quiet. My family never had pets growing up, but I have always wanted a cat. I searched for local shelters, and Anjellicle Cat Rescue caught my eye for being an all-volunteer run cat rescue, hosting adoption evens at a nearby Petco. I had previously volunteered at a Petco-based cat shelter, but couldn’t adopt at the time. This felt like coming full circle.

Adopted Cat Bechamel

I found Bechamel, a young cat-mom of five, who had been found wandering the streets of Queens. All her kittens had been adopted, and she was the last one at the rescue. She found her way home with me.

Adopted Cat Bechamel

Of course, Bechamel hid in the bathtub for the first three days at home. But the little cat quickly took up her spot at the foot of my bed and hasn’t budged since. On my never-ending weeks of night shifts during the winter months, Bechamel would switch her sleep schedule to coordinate with mine, curled behind my legs. We slept with the sun and rose with moon. After rough days at the hospital, I would bury my face in her soft fur and listen to the beat of her heart, so very glad that life is still around me.

Adopted Cat Bechamel

Illness corrupts the veneer of normalcy in human lives and reveals the vulnerable bodies underneath. Families are often vigilant at patient’s bedside, displaying photos and mementos to remind us all of lives outside the hospital. Since Bechamel’s arrival, I begin to ask questions about people’s pets, their furry faces proudly displayed at the bedside and phone backgrounds. People’s eyes brightened as I mention that I also have a cat, and they share their own pets’ quirks and mischiefs for a quick laugh. In that moment, it’s a privilege to have a normal conversation. Patients are more than their diseases, and doctors are more than their white coats and cold fingers (sorry). At the end of the day, we all need a small purring furball to warm our hearts in a sometimes very challenging world.

Our pets show us with their actions what pure goodness, support, companionship and joy look like at home. I will never forget when I first adopted Bechamel, the foster volunteer told me, “be very careful, you will become her whole world.” It felt like an enormous and heavy responsibility. I didn’t know if I could take care of this little cat. Now I know.

Thank you for coming into my life.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Zehui won Anjellicle Cats Rescue in New York, New York a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.