Squinty had always been a cuddly cat, so it didn’t surprise Elly Zupko when he started snuggling against her pregnant belly.
“I think he enjoyed the warmth I was putting off, and my big cuddly belly,” Zupko told The Dodo. “He must have known something was changing because we turned our home office into a nursery, but I don’t think he knew what to expect.”
Zupko had rеscuеd Squinty back in 2003 after his former owners surrendered him.
“His family had surrendered him to be put down at a vet hospital where my then-boyfriend worked because they couldn’t afford surgery he needed on his hip,” Zupko said. “My boyfriend said ‘Mango’ was the coolest cat he’d ever met, and that was something coming from a professional veterinary technician who interacted with cats every day.
We agreed to pay for the surgery in installments taken out of my [boyfriend’s] paycheck to savе Mango from being put down, and he moved in with me.”
The cat improved — his hip mended wonderfully, and he began to move around normally for a cat of his age.
“He’s perfectly mobile,” Zupko remarked, “but he needs to walk the stairs one at a time.” “You’d never guess he’s had a problem.” We also discovered he is deaf a few years ago. It’s not easy to tell if a cat is deaf! We assumed he was aloof and a deep sleeper for a long period. He couldn’t hear us, it turns out.”
Mango’s name was initially changed to Steve by Zupko. Then she began to refer to him as Squinty, after the way he squinted at people, which Zupko considered being his distinctive look.
Squinty became a constant feature in Zupko’s life when the moniker stayed.
“I’ve known Squinty for over 15 years,” Zupko stated. “He’s accompanied me on six movements.” He’s sharеd space with seven different people, five cats, and two dogs during the course of that period. My husband and I, as well as our other cat Trova and our dog Fibber, now live with him.”
When Zupko’s daughter, Willow, was born, many people warned him not to allow Squinty or Trova near her.
“A lot of superstitious family friends and relatives cautioned me not to allow the cats near the baby because they’d steal her breath,’” Zupko explained. “I never worried about that myth, but I did have usual new-mom concerns about the cats getting into the baby’s cradle and disturbing her sleep or scratching her accidentally.”
After all, a bassinet is just a large softbox, and we all know how cats handle boxes. Squinty enjoyed getting into the crib because he could look out between the slats and keep an eye on the dog while remaining safe.”
But when Squinty did meet Willow, Zupko realized she had nothing to worry about.
“I held Willow and let the cats come up and sniff her at their own pace,” Zupko said. “My other cat Trova had no interest in her whatsoever, and still doesn’t. I think he’s jealous because he used to be the ‘baby’ of the family. Squinty immediately wanted to be near her.”
This surprised Zupko. She’d expected him to be jealous likе Trova.
“He’s actually kind of a bully to our other cat and our dog,” Zupko said. “I assumed he would see a baby as another ‘pet’ because she is small. I assumed he would probably be aloof or indifferent toward her. But he seems to have recognized her as a human.”
Squinty cuddles up against Willow whenever he gets the chance.
“From the first time I lay Willow next to me on my bed, Squinty started lying next to Willow,” Zupko explained. “But when I started nursing her at night in a side-lying position in bed when she was around 10 days old, he really started spooning with her.” Squinty slept at the foot of my bed most of the time, but when he learned I’d brought Willow into bed with me, he’d rush up and spoon her as she fed. It melted my heart completely.”
Squinty is no longer able to go a day without cuddling with Willow.
“I normally transfer Willow into bed with me when she wakes up in the mornings so we can have some cuddling time before we start our day,” Zupko said. “Almost every time we get together, Squinty shows up. Squinty nearly always comes and spoons her when I breastfeed her at night during growth spurts when she drops most of her night feedings.”
Sometimes, Squinty even mirrors Willow’s sleeping position. “It happens once in a while, but mostly he likеs to be right up against her, often with his head laying on her,” Zupko said.
Zupko was concerned that Willow’s clutching at Squinty might spell the end of their romance. Nothing could be farther from the truth, though.
“Squinty is so patient with her,” Zupko said. “She’s accidentally hit him when flailing her arms about, but he just quietly accepts it. He continues to sit calmly with her, whether he’s being bumреd or grabbed. If she grabs too hard, sometimes he will use his paw to gently push her hand away. But I’ve never ever seen him get upset with her.”
Zupko expects that Squinty and Willow will continue to be best friends. But at the same time, Zupko is painfully aware that Squinty is an older cat.
“One of my first pets as an adult was Squinty, and he will always be one of my greatest animal loves,” she continued. “It’s wonderful that Willow can be a part of his life.”