cyndie spiegel and jake the cat

Not Sure if You’re Ready to Be a Pet Parent? Read This

06.19.2023 — Cyndie Spiegel

When you’re going through a tough time, finding happiness can sometimes feel like an impossible task. But for Cyndie Spiegel, it’s all about looking for microjoys—those little everyday moments that spark joy, hope, and healing. In her new book, Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay, her essays are alternately touching, poignant, mind-opening, and laugh-out-loud funny. (And isn’t that the way life can be?) Here, in an excerpt from Microjoys, she shares the story of unexpectedly becoming a pet parent when all she’d been looking for was a great bagel.

I was not a cat person. In fact, I was not a pet person at all. I was twenty‑seven years old and commuting back and forth to New York City for work every day while also traveling the world in my free time. I was a “mind my own business because I’m too busy” kind of woman. So, in an extraordinary act of poetic justice, a very cute kitten in a very large box showed up in my line of vision.

Each Saturday morning, I’d go to the local bagel shop for a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese, cut in four pieces. It was a simple routine:

Wait in line.
Order my bagel.
Add half‑and‑half to a cup of subpar deli coffee.
Pick up my bagel.
Go home.

This was the way it always was.

Until one Saturday morning, when the shop owner proudly unveiled something in a box out front. A small crowd gathered.

Bagel in hand, I walked out to see what was happening: inside the box were seven of the cutest kittens I’d ever laid eyes on. And in something akin to a feeding frenzy, people started grabbing them. And . . . taking them! To where? For what? Were all these people looking for kittens before this moment? Or did this box just appear and then they decided they wanted one? What the hell was happening?

Within seconds, only one short‑haired and one long‑haired, blue‑eyed kitten remained.

Around the same time, a little girl exclaimed to her mom that they had to get a kitten. Her mom, ever practical, accepted the challenge but said that they would have to take two because “kittens are best in pairs.”

My brain spiraled quickly from a “mind my own business because I’m too busy” mode of existence into that of an eccentric cat lady.

My brain spiraled quickly from a “mind my own business because I’m too busy” mode of existence into that of an eccentric cat lady. The words that flashed across my mind were “I know they’re going to take the long‑haired kitten; I know it! . . . I MUST TAKE THIS CAT NOW BEFORE THE CHILD DOES!”

Without thinking, I scooped up the long‑haired kitten and yelled, “Thanks, Sharon!” (the kitten purveyor/bagel shop owner) and ran to my car without looking back. I could feel the steely‑eyed judgment from the remaining people behind me, including the child and her mother. I moved even faster toward my car: a judgment‑free oasis.

Why did I grab that cat?!

In a (not at all) surprising turn of events, I spent the entire afternoon trying to give away the kitten. I called every responsible adult I could think of and no one, including my own mother, would take him. To sweeten the deal, I went to the pet store and purchased all kinds of fancy cat paraphernalia. Still, no takers.

I was now officially the owner of owned by a temperamental long‑haired, blue‑eyed cat. One who is sitting across from me as I type these words. He now has green eyes.

It’s been fifteen years since that Saturday and Jake, my most loyal and affectionate comrade, still requires all kinds of fancy cat paraphernalia.

And as with so many microjoys, some seemingly clairvoyant being knew something that I didn’t: there is no such thing as being ready. For pets. For partners. For children. For opportunities. For challenges. For sorrow. For grief. For love.

There is no such thing as being ready, but when we must, we will become so.

As was the case when someone or something beyond me had the foresight to know that Jake and I would spend a lifetime happily antagonizing one another.

Consider this:

The world is too fickle for readiness. Instead of striving or waiting for readiness, consider this: when that kitten, person, or opportunity shows up in your line of vision, you are already enough to accept whatever microjoys await.

From Microjoys: Finding Hope (Especially) When Life Is Not Okay by Cyndie Spiegel, published by Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023 by Cyndie Spiegel.

Cyndie Spiegel