Almost every book I have ever written has had a cat character in it. Once I tried to write a mystery series without a cat, it didn’t go well. Even though the cats in my novels don’t talk or solve the mysteries, they are necessary for me to write a successful book. Cats are such an important part of my life; it’s hard for me to imagine a protagonist who doesn’t have one.
Last May at the advanced age of seventeen, my beloved Maine Coon rescue () passed away. had been a member of the family since I was fifteen. It was a devastating loss, but no one felt the loss more than my three-year-old Russian blue mix (Cheeps). Since was so much older than Cheeps, he had been adoptive dad and a chief comforter in times of stress. Cheeps was lost without his friend and was traumatized every time I traveled. I knew he needed a new brother.
Cheeps survived a rough , and because of that, he is particularly sensitive. I rescued him from that bad situation as a tiny kitten and nursed him back to health. However, some minor issues still linger. He’s afraid of loud noises, men, and sometimes even area rugs. I knew I needed to adopt a kitten because I wanted Cheeps to feel secure as the senior cat in the home, and I hoped a kitten wouldn’t frighten him as much as a grown cat would.
Over the summer, I visited several shelters, looking for a kitten and met so many cats and kittens that needed homes. I wished I could save all of them, but none of them felt like they would be a good match for skittish Cheeps. I knew when I adopted it would be forever, so I had to find the right kitten.
On a Sunday afternoon in August, I was driving around town and realized I was near One of a Kind Pets, another shelter I wanted to visit. I told my mom, who was with me, we would stop by the shelter for a peek. I wasn’t ready to decide on a kitten or so I thought.
The nice volunteer led me into the kitten room, which is exactly what you expect it to be, a room of full of kittens that needed homes. I swear I thought I entered heaven. Each kitten was more adorable than the last and clamored for my attention, but I had eyes for only one. In the back of the room, there was a small Tuxedo kitten curled up in a cat bed. I went to him right away. Even with the other adorable kittens mewing for my attention. I carefully scooped him up, perched on a chair, and set him on my lap. He curled up on my lap and gazed up at me. Done. I knew he was the one. I told the volunteer, I had decided. She was surprised I made a decision so quickly, but when you know you know. I knew. On the spot, I named him Mister and declared we’d call him Tummy for short. If you are a C.S. Lewis or Chronicles of Narnia fan, you will recognize where I got all my cat names from.
I left the kitten room to apply for his adoption, and my mom stayed with the kittens and my purse. When I returned to the kitten room elated the adoption was approved immediately, I found Tummy curled up inside my purse. My mom told me he climbed in there all by himself. Then, I knew he picked me as much as I picked him.
When we got home, I introduced Cheeps and Tummy slowly. Cheeps was not amused by this new interloper and hissed often to make it known. This went on for a week, and I was afraid that Cheeps would never accept his new little brother. Thankfully, Tummy, who turned out to be quite a goofball—you can see many of his hijinks on my Facebook page—won Cheeps over with his charms. Today, the two are best buds, who still occasionally argue as all siblings will but more often than not I find them sleeping side by side. Now when I travel I worry less because I know Cheeps has a friend to comfort him when he is afraid.
May 20th is Tummy’s first birthday! To celebrate, I will be giving away a signed copy of Murder in a Basket, which is the second novel in the India Hayes Mystery Series. I promise it has some excellent cat characters.
Amanda Flower is the author of the Appleseed Creek Mystery Series, which are set in Ohio’s Amish Country. Her newest novel is A Plain Scandal and fictionalizes the 2011 true crime Amish haircutting scandal. She also writes mysteries as Isabella Alan for NAL/Penguin and children’s mysteries under her own name for Zondervan/HarperCollins. Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland.