Dedicated cat lovers are proud of the relationship they have with their cats, so much so they embrace the term "crazy cat owner" with open arms. For Tara Wilkins of Sycamore, Illinois– self-proclaimed "crazy cat lady"–it's a way of life.
"I'm kind of a quirky person anyway," says Wilkins, cat mom to Simone and Lola, both of whom she adopted in 2011. "I'm not offended at all by it."
Although friends tease her about her extreme devotion to her feline family, it didn't stop them from attending the party Wilkins threw for Lola's first birthday. Although cats' preference to play with a stuffed mouse toy or sunbathe all day may make them terrible partygoers, Animal Planet suggests they'll still enjoy the event you've put on for them–as Wilkins discovered during her party. "Lola was hiding the entire party," she explains, "but it touched my heart that my friends supported me."
She decked out her home with décor typically meant for a child's party and required attendees to wear cat-themed attire.
A lifelong pet parent, Wilkins comes from a family of cat lovers; her mom even sends money to the cats for holidays so they can buy "something special." Sometimes she feels that, "if I were born an animal, I'd be a cat." Such a strong emotional connection coupled with her relationship with Simone and Lola exemplifies this devotion, which Wilkins nurtures through "prescription cuddle time" with each cat every day.
Lola, in particular, seeks out snuggle sessions and has a daily ritual of curling around her pet parent's neck–even blocking Wilkins's view of the TV. As the only survivor from Simone's litter of five kittens, she demonstrates her appreciation for Wilkins's love in a very special way: performing tricks on command. She responds to "Show me your belly" and "Can you roll over?" by plopping down on the floor and doing just that.
Wilkins works full-time outside of the house as a high school librarian, but she makes an effort not to be apart from the cats too much. When she does have to be away, her fellow cat-loving friends babysit, regularly sending photos and updates. She also pays close attention to their cat food, taking into consideration their specific nutritional needs.
What really sets Wilkins apart from many cat lovers, however, is the incorporation of her furbabies into her own routine, such as walking around town. She tried walking them on leashes, but that wasn't so successful ("Simone played dead," she recalls–a common response cats have to harnesses). Then she purchased an animal stroller after getting the idea from a friend (who also belongs to the crazy cat owners club), and quickly realized the benefits. Practically speaking, it's easier to transport the cats to the vet in the stroller than in the carrier. Socially, she says, they all get to enjoy the great outdoors together, albeit in ten- to fifteen-minute increments.
"They fight a bit at first" when she attempts to put them in the stroller, admits Wilkins, "but then they're OK." During "Kitties' Day Out," the little family strolls to the local farmers' market, which puts a smile on the faces of people who see them. They even stop at a bar from time to time to say hi to friends.
Another way that Wilkins shares her hobbies with her cats is passing along her love of fashion. She sports cat-print clothing and accessories both professionally and outside of work, including a fabulous pair of high-heeled pumps, and dresses up her cat daughters in costumes–when they allow her to, that is.
"I would love to dress them up more," she laments, adding that she has a wardrobe of pet clothing at the ready, "but they don't like it. A lot of cat treats are involved in getting the clothes on them." The cats tolerate the outfits long enough for Wilkins to capture a few photos, but they immediately set to work getting out of them.
Despite their reluctance to be feline fashionistas, Lola and Simone fit perfectly into Tara Wilkins's life, and the bond between the three of them is evident. She takes their emotional well-being into consideration at all times, and she loves "the little ways they express their love" for her every day.
Image source: Tara Wilkins
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and longtime pet parent to two Russian Blue cats who run the household. Her work also appears on Care.com, Fit Pregnancy, and What to Expect. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.
Date Published: 24 April 2018