My life is littered with cats, in the best way. The milking parlor of my grandpa’s Jersey farm was kitchen to big gray tigers that topped of their haymow catches with pans of creamy dairy, fresh from the cow.

My cousins and I could get close to a few, especially when the tigresses bore kittens in the straw. We learned to leave the little ones alone while their eyes were still blue and to carry them loosely so as not to be scratched. My aunts and uncles swear that one tom had an excessively long neck because two-year-old me carried it around by the throat, but I have no recollection of this.

Other than the somewhat aloof barn cats of my childhood, I grew up with dogs. I bought into the cat stereotype, the belief that cats disdain human attention. Then I met My Steven and we adopted a cat, and all my preconceived notions of cat-dom went into the litterbox.

Mrrp was a big-boned scrapper who was abandoned on the streets of Toledo. He yowled the entire width of Ohio whenever we traveled from one side to the other and claimed the destination as his own. We had him neutered, but he still tore a hole in a screen door to fight a cat who dared to sit on his porch, even though Mrrp himself was never intentionally allowed outside.

Before the showdown, the two cats would sit on either side of the screen and growl-scream at each other. This is kind of like prefacing a question with, “Let me ask you this.” The person you are talking with knows that they are either in for a verbal battle sprinkled with lots of big words or one punctuated with short, foul ones.

Finally, the stray sprayed the door. This was the last straw for Mrrp. We panicked when we saw the hole in the screen, but found our cat grooming his paws in the living room window. Steve saw the other guy the next day, two doors down and missing an ear.

Overall, Mrrp was a lover. He cared for our second cat, a kitten who was shut in a mailbox on my running route. He ended any human arguments by curling up on the lap of whomever he deemed the most reasonable. He could spot the biggest cat-hater in any room, climb onto their chest, “mrrrrrp” softly and sway their opinion, at least a little bit.

This week, we said goodbye to another cat, the most Mrrp-like feline we’ve known since Mrrp himself. Discarded cats walk the fields, streets and alleys of this county, reviled for doing what they do to survive in a place where they shouldn’t be. Please spay/neuter your cats and keep them indoors, alive with personalites that will soften the harshest word.