Anybody who loves books knows that loving books and loving cats go hand-in-hand (hand-in-paw?) At least, that has always been the case for me. So in 2003, when I adopted my very first, and much longed-for kitten, I knew I had found my reading buddy for life. Delightfully plump, with piercing green eyes, Squishy — or Mister Squish, to those knew him most intimately — became an unparalleled reading companion: happy to lie still for hours, melting more deeply into my lap with every page turn, purring as the world passed us by. (It was the same summer that Finding Nemo was in theaters. To paraphrase: I called him Squishy and he was mine; he was my Squishy.)
I’ve opened my home (and my lap) to over a half-dozen or so cats since then: fostering some, serving as an informal way station for others until they moved on or found their forever home, and making a couple other lifelong companions — but none with the lap-melting, book-buddying qualities of Mister Squish. So, this summer, when my 16-year-old Squishy unexpectedly went across that rainbow bridge, I knew I’d lost the kind of four-legged partner-in-reading that a book lover finds only once, maybe twice in a lifetime. He’d seen me through some of the most transformative reading of my life: from Judy Blume to Jane Austen, Sarah Dessen to Joan Didion, Nancy Drew to Hunter S. Thompson, 10th grade reading lists to graduate school syllabi, Squishy had snuggled by my side, purring faithfully. We shared hundreds of books in our 16-plus years together — and never, not even once, did he bat my TBR pile to the floor… no matter how tempting he often found it.