By Emmy Serviss / Boston
That hot dog costume was the best $10 I've ever spent on the Chewy website
In 2009, I went to go “look at some kittens.”
My (ex) boyfriend scoffed at me, because no one goes to just “look” at kittens. I scoffed back at him, because I was very capable of going to look at kittens without taking one home, thankyouverymuch.
He was right, of course.
A few weeks later, I took home Pippin and Theo, and they’ve been the one constant thing in my life for the last 13 years.
Pippin (left) and Theo (right) on their first day at home with me in 2009
We had plenty of pets during my childhood, with varying success. My brother and I never quite got the hang of caring for hamsters (RIP to Baby, Spot, Peachy and Nosey), but we did have better luck with dogs. (Maxie and Maggie will always have a place in my heart) However, my childhood experiences with cats were a bit more tumultuous.
Harry (a luxurious Maine coon) and Abbie Hoffman (a striking Japanese bobtail) were beautiful cats, but undeniable assholes. The only memories I have of Harry, are of him scratching and/or biting me. A few years after Harry’s departure (I’m not actually sure if he passed away or ran away) we brought home Abbie. He joined the family a very skittish kitten and eventually became a basement-dwelling gremlin. I do have some memories of cuddling and petting Abbie, but I also have very distinct memories of him BITING MY CHIN WITH NO WARNING.
After I graduated from college and moved to the west coast in 2004, I lived in Los Angeles for four years and Portland, Ore. for two years before realizing that I was now an adult, and I could adopt a pet by myself. This brings us back to 2009, when I naively thought I could “look” at kittens without falling in love immediately.
I had seen a post in a local community group on LiveJournal (remember that?!) about how a woman (Teresa) had found a litter of kittens in her backyard and was trying to find them homes. I reached out to her and we arranged a day for me to come by for a visit.
When my ex and I pulled up to her house, Teresa was sitting on the front stoop holding a tiny little gray ball of fur. I didn’t know it yet, but that was Pippin. She brought us to the house and into a room that had been converted to a kitten playpen. Pippin was the only all-gray cat, and the rest of the litter were either black or a mixture of gray and white.
I had never adopted pets by myself before, so I didn’t exactly know what the protocol was. I held a couple of the kittens and they were very cute, but I didn’t know how to pick.
Then I picked up Theo.
He scampered up my shoulder and nestled into my hair and hid there. And that was that. I smiled at Teresa and said, “So I guess this one is coming with me.” After interacting with the rest of the kittens, Pippin was definitely the most playful, so I picked him as well. I knew that if I was going to adopt a kitten, I wanted two kittens. I have a theory that a cat has a higher likelihood of becoming an asshole if it doesn’t have a buddy. (Harry and Abbie are my supporting evidence)
Theo nestled in the author’s hair, while Pippin played with string on the floor
A week later, I went back to pick up my new babies, and brought them home.
Pippin was always Pippin. As an avid Lord of the Rings fan, I knew that this little ball of energy was going to be the lovable, mischievous rascal of the pair. But it wasn’t as easy finding Theo’s name. My ex had many unhelpful suggestions.
''Call him Merry!"
"Just because Pippin is Pippin, doesn’t make this one Merry. That’s not him."
"Okay, then Gollum."
“Stop naming Lord of the Rings characters.”
It took a while to find his name. Ironically, I found his name due to the fact that I’m a huge musical theater fan, and every time I told someone that I had named the gray kitten Pippin, they IMMEDIATELY assumed it was because of Pippin the musical. A very fair assumption, but incorrect.
Pippin allowed a selfie with the author on Day 3, while Theo waited until Day 37
After the third or fourth time someone made this mistake, I decided to look at the cast of characters, on a whim. I scrolled past The Leading Player, Charles, Lewis, Fastrada, Berthe, Catherine and then at the bottom of the list…Theo.
And there he was. He was Theo. He had always been Theo.
It always makes me smile when I get to explain to someone that I named Pippin from Lord of the Rings, but I named Theo from Pippin. These two fluffbutts (one of their many nicknames) have been with me through so much over the last 13 years. Three states, one cross-country flight, six apartments, seven human roommates, 10 furry roommates, two career changes and four boyfriends.
The move to Boston was disorienting at first, but eventually we learned to love that Dirty Water
If Pippin and Theo were my human children,, Pippin would be my eye-rolling tween who is too cool to hang out with his mom, while Theo would be my doting kindergartener who always needs mom’s attention. Pippin will yell (meow) at me from across the apartment in a loud whiny voice, and yet when I try to go over to pet him, he walks away. And then when I go back to minding my business, he gets offended. Theo will quietly enter a room and politely stand on his back legs to paw gently at me, and then let out a little chirp.
Theo will cuddle with me all day every day, and doesn’t mind if Pippin joins in.
Pippin will only cuddle with me if we are alone, and he has my undivided attention.
Theo loves to burrow under the covers.
Pippin drools when he’s happy.
Theo is my lovebug.
Pippin is my grumpy old man.
Boundaries? What are those?
Through all the ups and downs, it was the three of us for 12 solid years. And then last summer, we had an unexpected addition to our family. Well…two additions.
My friend Scott was fostering kittens in New Jersey, and I jokingly said I would adopt them, since they were named Chucky and Annabelle, and I’m a HUGE horror movie fan. Scott said they would be willing to let someone from out of state adopt the kittens, and I said I would check with my roommate and landlord.
Full disclosure. I 100% expected either my roommate or my landlord to politely decline my request to have four cats in the apartment. To my absolutely surprise, they both gave their approval. When I was talking with Scott about logistics for picking up the kittens in Jersey (hypothetically, of course), I realized that the day I would be bringing them home would be July 10th 2021.
July 10th 2009 was the day that I brought Pippin and Theo home.
All four of my cats have the same Gotcha Day, 12 years apart. I couldn’t deny that it was fate that these horror kittens were always meant to be mine. And even though I changed Chucky’s name to August, he’s still a horror kitten at heart.
And now here we are. My roommate moved into a place of her own, and now it’s just me and my feline family. I joke that because I broke up with my ex during quarantine, I decided to lean real hard into the crazy cat lady trope. But honestly? Being a cat lady is pretty great!
The cats don’t make me watch bad action movies, or take hour long baths every day, or criticize my matzoh ball soup. (Seriously, how very dare you criticize my matzoh ball soup?) And yes, the kittens are still in kitten mode, so there have been more annoying shenanigans than usual since the summer. But there was a time where the mischief kitten running around causing mayhem was Pippin, not August. So I know that there will be a time when I’ll miss these annoying antics.
August and Annabelle will turn one-year-old on April 9th, and Pippin and Theo will be 13 on May 15th. I know that Pippin and Theo are now considered “senior cats,” but I’ve informed them that they’re never ever allowed to leave me.
I feel confident that they’ll keep up their end of the bargain.
At least for meow.
Emmy Serviss is a Boston-based writer, actor and video editor. Once it is safe to return to live theater, you can find her performing with ComedySportz Boston and the sketch group SUZZY. When not on the stage, Emmy enjoys indulging in her new pandemic hobbies, laughing way too loudly and counting the days until Halloween.