I lost a best friend today. It feels weird to say that about a cat - maybe it is weird - but I've known her for, genuinely, over half my life so far.
My family and I found Sammy while on vacation in Cape Cod. We were eating at a restaurant called Seafood Sam's - you see where this is going - when we heard weird noises coming from under the outside deck of the restaurant. Lo and behold, there was an entire litter of kittens there (this whole scenario was really a complete dream for a 10 year old), seemingly abandoned. Sammy had wedged herself firmly in a fallen-off section of the restaurant's gutter, only her bushy tail peeking out one side. Once we coaxed her out of the pipe, we could tell immediately that something wasn't right with her - she kept continually falling over and seemed wobbly on her feet. With the help of the restaurant staff, we gathered the kittens up and took them to the vet office where my mother worked.
Once we'd checked to see if they were all in good health, given them the necessary shots, etc, they went up for adoption. And all but one was scooped up very quickly - that one being Sammy, who at the time didn't have a name yet because of course we can't adopt another cat.
We adopted another cat, obviously.
Sammy has (had? ah, there's another bout of tears) cerebellar hypoplasia, which is a much scarier-sounding term than it needs to be, probably. Basically, she walked like she was coming off an all-night pub crawl all the time. Or like she should have been born with a different amount of legs than four. She wasn't in any pain or discomfort, she was just clumsy in the most unbelievably endearing way possible. Also, sometimes when she was trying her hardest to sit perfectly still she would kind of vibrate or wiggle her head. We kept trying to explain this to potential adopters at the shelter, but no one wanted her. They were afraid she would become a hassle to care for.
It's probably immediately clear why I had such a strong connection to this cat.
She really never had any difficulties in day to day life. She was shitty at jumping, so sometimes I had to pick her up to put her on my bed, but she got better at it as she got older. Mostly she just swaggered around all over the house doing her weird pseudo-runway walk, loudly meowing and purring at anyone nearby. Since she didn't quite have the complex motor skills needed to elegantly rub against your leg in the casually disinterested way most cats do, Sammy would just sort of flop down in front of you and stare, which got the message across pretty well. Instead of staying still to lick your hand, she'd very gently bite it. She did this to my nose a lot - before bed, I'd kiss her on the nose, and she would reciprocate by biting mine in a way that felt more like a weird mouth-based hand-hold than an actual bite.
Without going into too much gruesome detail, I had a very Bad Time in middle school and high school. There were times when it felt like Sammy was the only other living thing in the world who was on my side. It never mattered to her how much of a fuck-up I was. I could get into bed and feel completely broken and empty inside, like there was nothing good about me at all, but every night without fail she would still curl up right next to me, purring so loudly you could hear her across the room. Her energetic, wiggly walk could make me laugh no matter what I had to put up with. She was beautiful and silly and so affectionate, and she literally kept me alive for a long time.
Anyway - Sammy was the best cat I've ever known. So many cats with cerebellar hypoplasia are needlessly euthanized because people don't want to adopt them or they don't understand how the condition works. It's a spectrum condition (see why she and I were soulmates?) and some cats may need more assistance and care than others, but it doesn't get worse and may in fact improve with age as the cat learns how to adjust. If you're looking to adopt a cat, please consider one with some sort of special condition that other people may pass up or overlook. I never felt like caring for her was more than I could handle, or a bother, or anything, and even if it was, she was worth every single second. I don't know if I believe in fate or anything like that, but I am so grateful I was the one who found her that day and that I got to spend as much time with her as I did.
Goodbye, my sweet little friend. You helped me more than you could ever know.