Adopted Cat’s Love Grounds a Free Spirit

She thought having nothing meant having it all—until she met Oscar.

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Tali + Oscar

I have no children and no spouse. I don’t own anything. I have no work underlings. And I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. My life has been free of urgent responsibilities and full of fun, trips to see friends and family, good food, books, and TV. My work lets me indulge in one of my greatest pleasures: talking with people and hearing how they live and what’s important to them. I’ve built my sense of the world by reading and listening.

"The experience of caring for another creature has set off a roar of love in me that is hard to describe."

Then came Oscar (or Oski, as I call him). I adopted him in December 2016. He’s a grey-brown tabby and, if I’m being frank, a fairly typical cat. He likes to chase string, sit on my refrigerator, and eat chicken-flavored treats. He follows me from room to room. He’s frightened when he meets new people (well, new men: he likes the ladies). He hides under the bed to recuperate from too much social interaction. A mewling mass of fur wakes me up each morning by stalking my chest and shoulders, demanding to be fed. He has upended my life.

The experience of caring for another creature has set off a roar of love in me that is hard to describe. I adore my family, and certain dear friends, but their lives don’t depend on mine. If I don’t feed Oski, he doesn’t eat. If I don’t play with him, he sleeps all day and mopes. I spend an embarrassing amount of time thinking about him. I want to know what he feels and how he sees the world. The camera roll on my phone is pretty much all Oski, with a few pretty flowers, sunsets, women standing with their arms around each other, and plates of food sprinkled in.

I talk about him, his appetite, his appearance, whether he is conscious of his existence when he looks in the mirror, to anyone who will listen to me. I know I am obsessed: I’m self-aware, people. But it is, I think, a good thing.

Having someone depend on me entirely has been a profound experience. My parents, and the way their lives and conversations revolve around me and my sisters, make more sense. My friends with young children, and their nonstop discussions of sleeping and eating patterns, make more sense. Several people close to me are doctors, and I understand better their constant updates about patients and their treatment. Adult children who give up their careers to take care of ailing parents? Bears who kill to protect their cubs? I get it.

I feel the fire beneath the clichés. Love obliterates obligation and duty, transforming those dry burdens into sources of joy. Those we take care of deepen our sense of humanity, allowing us to endow the cared-for, in turn, with compassion and love. I see it now.

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 Tali Arbel won Animal Care Centers of NYC a 2017 Holiday Wishes award.