We weren’t looking for a cat. It was too soon, our little group of booksellers agreed, after having lost our beloved Amelia, who had been a staple of the shop since nearly its inception. We would deal with the too-quiet shop, the chilly evenings devoid of soft fur & gentle purrs, the sad expressions of customers when they realized there was no longer a kitty hoping to curl in their lap as they read. We felt like we had to, because the idea of a bookstore cat who wasn’t Amelia just didn’t seem right. So, we decided, we were not looking for a cat.
But then, as these things tend to go, it turned out a cat was looking for us. To celebrate Amelia’s life and share stories with all those who loved her, we hosted a party full of goodies, hugs and, of course, cats. We invited Brenda’s Cat Rescue to bring some adoptable kitties down to the shop during the event in hopes of giving another feline a life as wonderful as Amelia’s own. But we definitely weren’t considering cats, we agreed. It was too soon. It would be nice to have them in the shop and give them loves, but they weren’t staying.
It seemed, however, that one of the cats had other plans. She was the only one whose carrier was placed in the back room of the bookstore, where Amelia’s throne—otherwise known as a golden velvet armchair—still resided. It only took a few moments for her to lock her green eyes—the kind of green you only see when the leaves first unfurl in spring—with our shop owner Ann’s gaze, and that seemed to be that. We all spent some time with the adorable tortoiseshell cat, who was already showing off her cute white belly and begging for love. She grabbed our hands with her white-tipped paws and butted her pink nose into our fingers. She stretched out in her carrier among the books, as if to say, “I think I’ll stay right here.”
Calliope isn’t just a bookstore cat—she’s your cat, for however long you choose to stay within the warm and safe confines of our little bookshop.
Which is exactly what happened. She just fit, somehow. Her name was Muffin, we found out, and she had spent the last year completely alone in an abandoned North Philly boarding house. She was aching for love, but too shy to accept. We would have to be patient with her, the rescue advised, but they thought she could do well as a bookstore cat. So we filed the foster application that day.
For those of you who visited the shop upon hearing we were fostering a cat, you know Muffin—now Calliope—favored hiding behind the folding chairs in the back corner, only coming out when the shop was quiet or she was coaxed out by a voice she trusted. But then, slowly but surely, you all showed her so much love and patience that she started poking her head out more. Calliope began sleeping beneath Amelia’s chair, not all the way in the corner, and saying hello. Today, she tends to greet customers in the way Amelia once did: running to the front of the store and meowing (read: screaming) until she is properly acknowledged and loved on. She’s different from Amelia—she’s a bit pickier with her affection, a little prouder, a lot weirder, and though we’re working on getting her to sit in people’s laps, we’ll all be shocked if she ever chooses a shoulder to perch on.
But that’s ok. We don’t need her to be Amelia. We need her to be that furry ball of happiness you can come to when you’re feeling down. We need her to be your cat-away-from-home, for all you college students and transplants who miss their kitty snuggles. We need her to be Calliope, who only likes to play with toys when no one is watching; who likes to “Venus fly trap” us into thinking she’s holding our hand in a sweet embrace before indulging in mischief; who does “the zoomies” almost every single night at 7:15 sharp; whose meow is somehow both squeaky and musical; who loves to snuggle up to whoever is loving on her and curl her tail around their arm. We need her to make her own tales, and we want you to know those stories by heart because they belong to you, too. Calliope isn’t just a bookstore cat—she’s your cat, for however long you choose to stay within the warm and safe confines of our little bookshop. And even when you have to leave, she’ll always be here when you get back, as if nothing changed at all.