Of course, I know there are thousands - millions?, unfathomable numbers - like them waiting behind glass. I know this, but it doesn't make the sight of the individuals there on 7th Avenue, waiting in their cages, any easier to see.
My boyfriend and I already have as many cats as we can fit in our tiny New York apartment. So we abandon whatever errand we were going on and go home to our animals. I know there are countless others. I cannot even bear to look.
* "But what can I do?" is a question people ask about the sad plight of animals, some wanting to actually do something, others wanting to point out their impotence before the massive, almost unthinkable problems, and excuse themselves for doing nothing.
All day, in writing about animals, I try to give the facts some shape, make the problem thinkable, lend the suffering a story. I look into my lit screen to find the animals, then I call and ask questions to which I may or may not want to know the answers.
One of the hardest pieces to write was about the cat who was killed with an arrow. I saw the photographs of the woman who bragged about "her first bow kill" holding up the arrow with the limp, dead body of a cat dangling from the end.
After, I watched a video of him, Tiger, when he was still alive, purring. There was no sense I could make of it, but I tried. I wrote the article and then I wrote another. I checked for updates every day about the court case, which is still pending.
I could not bear to hold the image of Tiger in my mind while looking at my own cat. Sometimes, I had to go for a walk outside, and not be around the animal I love at all.
* An animal activist tells me over a vegan lunch that she can't sleep at night.
Months later, approaching the Yulin dog meat festival, I cannot eat.
I think of the hypocrisy, too. I think of the cows and pigs I've met who I relate to in the same way as I relate to my cat. I should be sick all the time.
My stomach turns. I dream about a whale trapped in a fountain, and wake up throughout the night.
* Those first days with the new cat with one white whisker, we were still strangers, even though, now, we were sharing a home.
In keeping with a multi-generational tradition in my weird family of naming cats after pastries, I named her Brioche. Brioche brought the tradition into a fourth generation.
But Brioche did nothing but hide under my bed for days.