She stood there watching the cat, curious and confused. It was such a strange behavior and she’d never seen a cat act like that. She thought there had to be another explanation for why the cat was doing what she was doing. But when she set out to test other theories, the truth soon made itself perfectly clear. And it revealed to her something about her black rescue cat that she never thought would be possible when she first adopted her.
It had actually been her son Max’s idea to adopt a cat. He was about to finish high school, and he’d decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy. It was not an easy decision, especially because it would mean leaving his single mother behind. It had been just the two of them for such a long time, and now things were about to change. That’s when Max came up with the idea of a pet.
Facebook/Erin's Hair Show
When Max first told her about the idea of adopting a cat, Erin Nimrichter was a little taken aback. She had never thought about it, but now she was warming up to it. Max said the cat would help keep her company when he went off to boot camp and his deployments. Erin had a boyfriend, but they didn’t live together and she wasn’t ready for it anyway. So she agreed to go to the shelter with Max to find a feline companion.
Facebook/Cleveland Animal Protective League
Max and Erin wound up at the Cleveland Animal Protective League. The humane society, which has been around since 1913, is committed to provide shelter and find caring homes for homeless, abused, and neglected animals. The mother and son duo visited their shelter in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, where they house animals that haven’t been placed in foster homes. That’s where they met Yuuki.
Yuuki was a female kitten with shiny black fur. She’d been picked up from the streets and taken to the APL, where she waited to get adopted. One of the first things that Max and Erin noticed was how lonely she looked, all isolated in her crate. Max felt that this was the right cat for them, and Erin agreed. So they signed the paperwork and took Yuuki home. It didn’t take long for her to become a full-fledged member of their family.
Even though the original idea when adopting Yuuki had been to provide a companion for Erin, the kitten quickly fell in love with Max. She would snuggle with him every chance she got, and always followed him around the house. Max was smitten with her, too. "Max has always felt connections to any animals he was around," said Erin. The two shared a bond and it was adorable to watch. But heartbreak was on the horizon.
Six months after adopting Yuuki, it was time for Max to ship off to boot camp out of state. When he was packing his things and getting ready for his journey, it didn’t really occur to Max or Erin how his departure would affect the young cat. Of course, just like his mom, Yuuki would feel his absence. But they never thought she would miss him so much that it would cause her to act in unexpected ways.
After Max left for boot camp, Erin put a picture of him from his graduation day on the top of her dresser. A few weeks later, when Yuuki seemed to realize Max wasn’t going to walk in the door any moment soon, Erin started noticing something strange. Every so often, she’d walk into her room to find Yuuki sitting on her dresser, staring at the picture of Max. Erin was stunned.
"She just sits there, stares and meows and then lays down next to the picture to nap," said Erin. Although she’d never seen Yuuki on her dresser before, she also couldn’t believe that a cat could recognize a person from a picture. She thought there might be some other explanation - like perhaps Yuuki liked the vantage point of that location or it was a nice warm spot perfect for a nap. So Erin decided to try a little experiment.
Erin decided to move the picture around, placing it on different pieces of furniture in different parts of the house. But, every time, Yuuki found it. This confirmed it: "I know for sure she misses him,” Erin said. She felt a little sad for the cat, knowing that her son wouldn’t return for quite a while. But soon she found a way to reunite them, even if for a short period of time.
It has been a few months since Max left for boot camp, and Erin is scheduled to visit him at his base. She made some calls, asked some favors, and was able to get the green light to bring Yuuki along. Max was ecstatic as well because he also missed his young cat. But, at the same time, he was worried.
"My son worries that she won’t remember him," said Erin. After all, it has been quite a few months - almost as long as he had Yuuki before he left. A young cat like her could easily forget. But Erin knows better. "It gives me comfort knowing she does,” she said. “And it’s nice to have proof to show him." Both Erin and Max anxiously await the moment the three of them are reunited. But in the meantime, she’s keeping the cat busy.
Aside from spending time next to Max’s picture, Yuuki likes to look out the window of Erin’s apartment and watch all that goes on outside. So Erin had an idea. She bought Yuuki an “adventure backpack” - a sort of cat carrier with a domed window that people can wear on their backs. “Yesterday was her 1st walk to the market and today she went on her 1st bike ride,” said Erin. And the fun didn’t stop there.
July 13 was a Friday, which made it the infamous Friday the 13th - a special day for lovers of scary movies and superstitions. Erin decided to spend it with Yuuki. "Honoring Friday the 13th with this spooky gal,” she wrote on Facebook. “Black cats are so creepy with their golden eyes looking all suspicious.” It’s clear that, though they both miss Max, they’re helping each other through his absence.
After Max finishes boot camp, he’ll serve with the Navy for another six years. That means Erin and Yuuki will be on their own for quite a while. Thankfully, the pair has bonded in their love of Max and will be able to keep each other company when they miss him.