We didn’t grow up with animals. Although my dad loved dogs, my mom is not an animal lover, so we didn’t have any pets growing up, with one exception. My aunt’s dog, Toby, came to live with us for about 1.5 years when I was in high school when my aunt moved and couldn’t take Toby with her. Since I was usually the first one up in the morning, I usually let Toby out. We lived on a half acre lot in the suburbs, so Toby had plenty of room to roam. We had no coyotes, at that time, that I’m aware of, and so Toby was always let out off leash and allowed to run around. I don’t think anyone ever walked him, because he could always safely go outside and roam himself.

That was the entirety of my knowledge when I found my first cat, the beloved Andromeda, in my garden in Fall, 2011, about five weeks after September 11th. For those of you around then, you know what a dark time it was in our country. I had gone back to school and came home from class one night to find her playing in my garden. I had decided the previous spring that I wanted to test drive having a cat. I didn’t have the right lifestyle for a dog, so thought a cat was the best solution. But, I had lifelong allergies, and wasn’t sure I could have a cat around. So when I found Andromeda, I thought she was the perfect opportunity to see if I could have cats.

I called all the lost pet signs in my neighborhood, and one lady said she would come by the next day. I lived across from a park, and the backside of that was a huge field that eventually became a golf course. It was well known that people would dump their animals, particularly cats, in this park, believing that they could hunt mice and get water and would be fine on their own. My neighborhood had some less than desirable pet owners in it, and this would happen when people had to move and couldn’t find a place that allowed cats, or allowed cats within their budget. So, when I found Andromeda, I strongly believed she’d probably been dumped. I had seen her and another cat running around the neighborhood for the previous ten days or so, furthering my belief that she’d been left behind in a move.

I easily caught her, brought her in, snuggled her, and got out a can of tuna and a dish of water. She seemed very happy with this. She had no collar or tag, and this was before microchipping became commonplace. This was definitely a case of love at first sight. From the moment I met her, I knew I loved her and wanted to keep her. As I said, though, I did call all the lost cat flyers in my neighborhood.

I weighed her, and she only weighed nine pounds, which is thin for an adult cat, unless they’re an Abyssinian. Having no cat necessities at all, I made a bed for her in the front bathroom out of some blankets, and spread my San Francisco 49er’s beach towel all across the tile floor, figuring that would be easily laundered if she did her business on it. I left her overnight with food, water, bed, and the beach towel, locked in the front bathroom.

When I awoke the next morning, I let her out and, about 10 a.m., began holding her on my lap, loving her, telling her how beautiful she was, and how much I wanted to keep her. The lady from the night before was due there at 11, and I knew I had to do the responsible thing and return her to her owner if she were the lady’s cat.

I am an astronomer, and have a lifelong love of astronomy, space and physics (see for more). The Andromeda Galaxy is the only naked eye deep sky object (I know, I just said a mouthful there) and it is magnificent to feast your eyes upon on a late summer or early fall night. As I lived on a cul-de-sac with no homes across from me, it was reasonably dark for an urban area. I would almost always go outside and cast my eyes upon the heavens at night before I went to bed. And the Andromeda Galaxy, when up, was right there. It was easily found and not hidden behind trees or telephone poles. So I named this cat Andromeda.

As the 11 a.m. hour approached, I found myself sobbing my eyes out, desperately wanting to keep this cat, but knowing I had to do the right thing. I held her, loved her, the whole thing. I wanted this cat. She was BEAUTIFUL and had a very friendly disposition.

When the doorbell rang, I brought Andromeda to the door and showed her to the lady. She took one look at her and said, “That’s not my cat,” and in that moment, I knew that Andromeda was mine.

The lady and I talked a bit and she said, based upon her teeth, that she thought Andromeda was maybe 1.5 years old. So, I decided that was her, “at least” age at that time and assigned her a birthdate of March 20, 2000.

And so began my life as a feline pet parent. In the ensuing years, I had several others, which you will learn about, foster parented cats and kittens, rescued cats, fed strays, you name it. It has been amongst the most fulfilling things I have ever done, and I have Andromeda to thank for it. She was the love of my life, and the one who started it all.

After an amazing life, so filled with laughter and love, it was time for Andromeda to go to the Rainbow Bridge on May 19, 2019. She had kidney disease, arthritis that she’d had for several years, was barely eating despite me offering her baby food and every yummy enticing food I could come up with, couldn’t walk or move her lower body, and had come to me a few nights before, a week after we’d moved into our new home, as if to say, “Mommy, I need you.” She could only make it halfway across the hallway between the two bedrooms before she laid down. She just gave me this look. I spent the next few days in bed with her, nursing her, loving her, taking pictures and video, telling her how much she meant to me, and praying that she’d pass in her sleep. After the third night, though, I came to believe she was holding on because she knew how much I needed and loved her, and she wouldn’t let go. I didn’t want her to be in pain any more, and knew she could drag on like that for several weeks if I let it. I made the most painful decision I have ever made and took her to be put down on the early afternoon of May 19, 2019. I took her to Sorrento Valley Pet Cemetary the next day, to be cremated and have her foot and nose prints made.

Life is definitely not the same without her. I no longer have a snuggler cat or any one who I have the emotional attachment to as I did her. That time will come. I still have two cats who I love and take excellent care of, but they’re not Andromeda. Someday soon I hope to get another snuggler like her.