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Meet Ryan (the Lion)

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You may have caught glimpses of him on my Instagram. Maybe you’ve heard me mention Ryan before. But now I think it’s time to formally introduce you all to Ryan.

No, Ryan is not a boyfriend. He’s not a brother. But he is a friend, a roommate, and a great snuggler. Ryan is my cat!

I know, I know. What an unusually “human” name for a cat! What in the world? Well, that’s his name. He actually was named Ryan by the people who loved him back when he was still at the shelter. And when our family adopted him, my mom gave me the option of changing his name. But I just thought it was so funny and unique, much like he was, that we just HAD to keep it the same.

We adopted Ryan when I was around 9 years old. I grew up with cats my whole life. When I was really little, our family had an old, charcoal grey, girl cat named Missy. Missy was mellow and I don’t remember much of her before she passed, other than she could almost always be found sleeping on top or underneath my mom and dad’s bed.

When Missy passed on, I begged my parents for a cat. I remember asking over and over if we could get one just for me. I was still really young, but I remember one conversation when my mom asked me, “If you had a cat, what color would you want him to be?” I remember thinking of all the possibilities, wondering if “they made” pink cats… but even as a child I figured out I’d never seen one. So I randomly said, “ORANGE!”

So my parents soon after surprised me with a brand new “orange” kitten. I know what you’re thinking… is this how Ryan came into our family? No, actually… this is how Sassy came into our family. In order to help you fully understand Ryan and our bond, I have to tell you the story of Sassy… a sleek, orange tabby kitten. I named him Sassy after a cat my grandma had that had got loose from the house and never was found again. I felt it was an appropriate tribute.

Sassy was sweet. He would greet me at the door every time I came home from school (I think I was still in Kindergarten when we got him). He slept at the foot of my bed every night. But he also had an adventurous spirit.

Sassy loved watching what was happening outside, through windows or the glass kitchen slider. He sat on our stone windowsills in our living room all the time, watching birds. But anytime the door was cracked open, he would escape and we would chase him to get him back inside.

One day, Sassy escaped again. And this time mom couldn’t find him. This wasn’t uncommon. We would often try for a while to find and catch him, but if we couldn’t, we knew he’d return home in time for dinner. But this time when he returned, he was very sick. He wasn’t eating, and slept much of the day.

Mom took him to the vet. I don’t remember what the diagnosis was, because I was too young to fully understand. But Sassy didn’t come home from the vet. I remember my mom picking me up from school and saying in the car, “Emily, I need to talk to you when we get home.” I thought I was in trouble for something. So immediately when we got home, I hoped to find Sassy greeting me like he always did so I could hug him like a security blanket while my mom gave me whatever bad news I knew was coming.

But I called for him and he didn’t come. I asked my mom where he was, frantic to find him before the bad news came. That’s when mom pulled me aside to her bedroom to tell me he got sick and had to be put down. I still remember that day so vividly. I think mom and I cried together on her bed for hours.

Fast forward a couple years, and I began to want another cat around. I still wanted an orange cat, even though I knew it’d remind me of Sassy for a while. Eventually, just like Sassy came along, Ryan entered our lives as a surprise from mom and dad. I was instantly in love.

Ryan was a little frisky when we first got him. He wasn’t quite so cuddly, and he was definitely very timid in the beginning. The lady at the shelter we got him from even warned my mom, “Mrs. Schneider, you don’t want this one for your daughter. He will never be the snuggly cat she is looking for. We have so many other cats that would be better suited!” But none of the other cats were orange. Mom knew… I had to have an orange cat.

I struggled a lot, because I missed the bond I instantly had with Sassy. I hoped so much that Ryan would warm up to us, and especially to me, so I could experience that again. But as we know, some cats just aren’t snuggly. They often prefer to love you from a distance with squinted eyes and stiff attitudes.

We worked hard to introduce Ryan to more touch, and my mom spent so many days locked in the bathroom with him until he became comfortable around humans. She incurred plenty of claw marks and warning bites from those days. For a long time, we thought the shelter lady must be right.

But after tirelessly showing him gentleness and attention, he warmed up to us. He even began responding to his name. Before we knew it, he was looking for more ways to be petted and held.

And quickly… that cat began wanting to be held so much that it became pathetic! He became legitimately worse than a clingy toddler! As the years passed, he became absolutely attached to my hip. I carried him around from the moment I’d get home from school until I went to bed. When I went to bed, he wouldn’t sleep at the foot of my bed like Sassy did… oh no. He slept ON MY PILLOW! Often times he slept with his head on the pillow and tucked under the covers like a baby, right next to me.

Ryan is now 15 years old, and he is the most affectionate, puppy-like cat we have ever seen. He has turned many cat-haters who enter our home into cat-lovers after meeting him. He doesn’t know any strangers, always greeting guests at the door expecting that more sets of hands in the house means more opportunities to be held and petted.

He has no concept of personal space or alone time. If I even close the bathroom door, he will sit and meow until I open it again. When I cook dinner, he stands up on his hind legs and pulls at me. If I’m on my computer, he sits in front of or on top of it so I pay attention to him instead.

Ryan has been there through it all… the awful nights of homework, the nights I cried after a breakup, all of our family road trips and vacations, every day I came home from work, days when I was bed-ridden with awful colds or fevers, and he even moved to D.C. with me just months after I moved into my own apartment.

Anytime I return home for a holiday weekend, Ryan is in my passenger seat to visit Mom and Dad too. When friends come over, he is a very social member of the party.

He makes my job cleaning my apartment very difficult with all of his shedding, and my clothes will never be the same again. But he is so worth it. The amount of love and comfort I get from him is unbeatable. Even early into our life with him, somehow he started learning how to hug me.

No, really… Whenever I pick him up, he rests his chin on my left shoulder, his head pressed against my neck, and his paw wrapped around my arm, and he purrs and hugs me while I stroke his ear or his cheek. It’s his favorite thing. He doesn’t hug everyone; he mostly does this for me and my mom. But he is definitely a hugger.

I have so many stories about Ryan to share, which is why there’s an entire category dedicated to him on this blog. There will be more to come, trust me. But first you had to “meet” him. Because none of the stories, or my [some call] obsession with him will make sense without this introductory context.

I hope you all come to love him like I do, because you’ll see a lot of him on my feed, and you’ll hear lots about him when we chat. Besides, how can I forget to mention him? He’s always RIGHT near by whenever I try to get any work done, keeping me accountable to regular snuggle breaks.

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