This is the story of how two rescue kittens named Milo and Oliver became the newest members of our family.
For a moment, I considered forgoing the trip to the El Paso Zoo on the fateful day I met Milo. I was 102 degrees of full desert sun, and I would have had an air-conditioned home to myself for the afternoon. I’m not really a zoo person, I told myself convincingly.
“Maybe I shouldn’t go to the zoo,” I said aloud. But when I did, the hairs on my arms lifted and a chill pierced through the sunbeams on the terrace.
“Why wouldn’t you go?” Daniel asked, sounding wounded like a child whose ice cream had fallen to the pavement.
There was no avoiding this trip. I inhaled sharply and entered the car.
Between the African safari exhibit, the sea spray display, and the carousel, Eira had long forgotten her afternoon nap.
Seated at the picnic table parched and salty from the sun, Daniel offered her a spoonful of Dippin’ Dots which she accepted with glee. I bit my tongue to stop myself from reminding him she had yet to turn one.
“Just a taste,” he said, sensing my eyes on Eira’s mouth.
Daniel directed my gaze to a sign next to the picnic table: “Free Kittens!”
“Want one?” he asked. Daniel had bought several schools of fish and an entire jungle of houseplants during the pandemic, so I no longer knew when he was joking when it came to acquiring live creatures.
I’m not really a cat person, I reminded myself. “Snowpea, what do you think?” I asked aloud.
The corners of her lips turned upward with joy when she saw the skinny orange tabby cat crawling up the arms of the worker from the animal shelter. Eira giggled at his tenacious nature, and I felt as though I could breathe out for the first time in weeks. I don’t know if love at first sight is real, but I have no other way of describing the scraggly kitten's entrance into our lives.
I saw something of myself in Milo – in the way he startled at anything at all and in the way his heart raced when I held his tiny three-month body in my hands. Milo observed me closely with fear and amusement, knowing that I alone was the first one to see the triumphant tiger this stray tabby kitten could one day become.
“We gave away most of our kittens already. There are two more in the other room, but they’re a little vicious,” the shelter worker explained apologetically. ”This one’s a nervous fella. I’m not sure if you want to check out others at the shelter…”
“He’s perfect,” I cooed as Milo’s heart rate began to stabilize. Suddenly, he darted with all his might, attempting to free himself from my fingers. I handed him back to the worker, and Milo fled to a dark corner of his cage.
“What do you think?” I asked Daniel dazedly. But my head was too far off in the clouds to register his answer.
All night, I could think of nothing but Milo. Daniel says I awoke from a dream singing his name. I brought the kitten up during breakfast. And as we made coffee. And when Daniel passed me our Snowpea for her morning nap. And after Eira’s eyelids fluttered shut, in a whisper, I dialed the shelter.
“Yesterday, we saw a kitten at the zoo named Milo. Do you know if he’s still available to adopt?” I inquired and held my breath.
Later that day, we found ourselves at the shelter.
“This is the cat you’re looking for,” chirped a worker with dark eyes and pigtail braids.
I kneeled down to the crate and felt a smile beginning to beam. Tucked away tight behind a grey furry tabby kitten with a piercing gaze, there was Milo.
“But you should know…” the worker said after giving me a moment to bask in my little boy’s presence. “He has a brother.”
The worker pointed toward the grey furry cat who lay heavy like a rock to Milo's right and continued, “Those kittens are bonded together, so we don’t recommend adopting Milo unless you are willing to take them both in.”
“Oh!” I uttered, feeling as though I had just been told I was pregnant with twins. “We’ll take them!”
The words landed from my lips before my mind could catch up to their meaning. Daniel stopped them in their tracks. “Uh… do you have any poodles we could look at first?”
“Poodles?” the worker furrowed her brow. “Um, no.”
I sat cross-legged at the foot of the cage, marveling at the beauty of my new baby boys.
“Snowpea, what do you think?” I asked, holding her in place as she squirmed toward the cats, pointing at her new brothers in response to my question. These kittens were unquestionably ours.
In the month that Milo Davis and Oliver Twist have been part of the Ramirez family, they have survived a heatwave in El Paso, crossed the country to the Midwest, and made a happy nest in their grandparents’ laundry room. Our two-year-old Blue has come to believe she is their mother, generously bathing their fur with kisses by day and diligently guarding their cage by night.
Our kittens have become a part of our lives and will soon join us on the trek back West to begin our new lives in California. Perhaps more importantly, I have happily embraced my identity as a cat lady and learned never to doubt the meaning of love at first sight.