Anything that can be said about cats has been lovingly and loathingly said already. This story is not about cats; it’s about character.
You wouldn’t have known they were siblings. The male was charmingly dumb, gluttonous, and unworried. He liked to be held, and was full of satisfaction, and purred even when being tipped out of a carrying case onto a cold metal table for his annual physical exam. That’s a loud engine, said the vet with approval.
The female was sharp-faced, resentful, and quick with her nails. She barely tolerated her brother.
For 14 years they lived in proximity and indifference. But when she began to lose weight, he noticed before anyone else. He started to appear nearby, an unrequested shadow, lounging and stretching, though always at a safe distance; he was dumb, but not unteachable.
Eventually it was clear to the rest of us she was sick. The vet examined her, one hand holding her down (he knew her well), drew labs, and called the next day. Most likely this was lymphoma, with a few months left. He had just gone through it with his own cat.
We felt the tenderness of unpredicted loss. Now we wanted to treasure her. But she had always been less lovable than her brother, and the truth was, even dying, she was still ill-tempered and less loveable.
Her brother disagreed. One night I found the two of them on my bed. With uncanny understanding (at least I imagined it that way), he had approached and begun to groom her. He was licking her vigorously, starting with the outer quadrants of her face and circling in. She had turned her cheek towards him and her eyes were closed. She was purring from a loud engine we had never noticed before; a thing of beauty.
They stayed like that for a long time. It was like world peace. Then she swatted him full in the face with all her might. Circumstances change, but character doesn’t.