This past week, everyone in the gaming world has been obsessed with a new title that just dropped on Tuesday called Stray. Once you read the following synoposis of Stray, you might easily be able to ascertain precisely why it has my attention:

Key art for Stray.

Lost, alone and separated from family, a stray cat must untangle an ancient mystery to escape a long-forgotten city.

Stray is a third-person cat adventure game set amidst the detailed, neon-lit alleys of a decaying cybercity and the murky environments of its seedy underbelly. Roam surroundings high and low, defend against unforeseen threats and solve the mysteries of this unwelcoming place inhabited by curious droids and dangerous creatures.

See the world through the eyes of a cat and interact with the environment in playful ways. Be stealthy, nimble, silly, and sometimes as annoying as possible with the strange inhabitants of this mysterious world.

Along the way, the cat befriends a small flying drone, known only as B-12. With the help of this newfound companion, the duo must find a way out.

Stray is developed by BlueTwelve Studio, a small team from the south of France mostly made up of cats and a handful of humans.

Stray official website

As if I didn’t already have an affinity for story-driven narratives and dystopian cityscapes, but now you’re telling me that a CAT is the main protagonist?! How many times can I sign up? It’s like they basically developed this game FOR me.

But I’m apparently not alone! Stray has been out for less than a week as of the writing of this post and has already amassed more than 60,000 concurrent players on Steam. That’s not even taking into account the number of players that may also have purchased and played the game on PlayStation consoles, where it’s also available. People all over the world are relishing the opportunity to get their inner cat out, and I just happen to be one of them!

I haven’t been able to get my hands on the game just yet, but I’ve watched plenty of footage of other people playing it on Twitch this week and it looks beyond beautiful. The main player cat actually reminds me of my own Rufus, which is strange because Rufus is black and gray, whereas the in-game cat is orange like my Cinnamon. But the cat in Stray is smaller and leaner and has the same big eyes as he explores the world, whereas Cinnamon is a bit of a chunk. Watching the cat run around in the game makes me envision a little bit of what life may have been like had we not rescued Rufus before he and his brother were chucked out on the street. Which is a little bit hard to watch, but also makes me want to strive to complete the game and get the kitty back to his family all that much more!

What strikes me the most about the game are some of the tinier details that they put into it. The in-game cat rolls around on the ground as if paralyzed when first equipped with a harness that houses the B-12 drone like a real cat would. It takes catnaps on the warm bellies of some of the city’s friendly inhabitants. It walks across keyboards and pianos. It scratches up walls, doors, furniture, and window blinds. There’s even a dedicated button with which to make him meow! You can, without a doubt, tell that the team that made this game owned cats themselves and studied them, and used them as inspiration.

Once I acquire the game, I’ll likely be streaming my playthrough on Twitch as well. You can probably count on that happening within the next couple of weeks. If you’re interested in watching when I do, be sure you’re following me on both Twitch and Twitter so you know when I’m about to start broadcasting.

Until next time…

The Cat Guy

At some point in the last decade, I became what some would refer to as a “crazy cat lady.” I’m not actually a lady, and it also isn’t cool to refer to people as “crazy,” so I’ve decided on and resigned to simply being The Cat Guy that most people in my circles know.

My nephew Andrew hugging Tigger.

It all started back in late 2013 when my nephew, brother, and I took a trip to the local animal shelter. Truth be told, for as long as I can remember, our family had always been “dog people,” so we were actually looking for a new pupper to add to the family. We looked for a while, but couldn’t find any dogs at the time that we thought would make good additions to our family. Before leaving the shelter entirely though, I sighed and said to them, “Let’s at least look at the cats…” So we were taken to the cat area and were suddenly overwhelmed by crates stacked upon crates of cats and kittens who needed a good home. It was seriously depressing to see the number of cats versus dogs that were homeless. Everyone loves a good dog, and dogs are considered the most popular pet to have in the United States, but I think there’s still a large number of people who remain skeptical of felines.

As depressing as it was, I still wasn’t convinced to take home a pet kitty until we started to pass one crate where a paw reached out and grabbed hold of my shoulder. I stopped and took a look inside to see the most gorgeous big cat in the room. His name was Tigger, the cat that I wrote about not too long ago. After opening his crate and holding him for a little while, I knew that we would be bringing him home. The family didn’t object much and even grew to love the big guy themselves.

And that was the start of my downfall. My addiction to all things related to cats started with Tigger, but certainly didn’t end there. A few years later, in the spring of 2016, a friend of my dad’s had an acquaintance who had two kittens. This woman, horrific as it sounds, was being evicted from her apartment and was prepared to simply release the two kittens to fend for themselves on the streets of Louisville in the process. Dad knew that wasn’t cool and knew that I wouldn’t stand for it either and he asked, “Do you want these kittens?”

Rufus the snuggle bug.

Tigger had been an only child for a few years now so I wasn’t sure how he would react to having other animals in the house, but I also knew that I couldn’t let this woman just abandon two kittens on the street. Ultimately deciding to do the right thing, he and his friend took a trip down to Louisville to retrieve the two kittens and brought them home to us. That’s when we added Rufus and Oliver to our family. About a month later, Oliver sadly got unexpectedly sick and needed to be euthanized on what might be one of the most emotionally difficult days of my life. Seeing as what caused the sickness could have been genetic, I was worried that Rufus might eventually suffer the same fate, but he has instead been with us for the last six years and appears to be just fine. More than fine, in fact. After losing his brother, he became something of my shadow and sleeps next to me in my bed each and every single night. He’s my little snuggle bug!

After the heartbreaking loss of Oliver and then years spent loving Tigger and Rufus, we were convinced that we didn’t need any more pets. As much as I would love to have the time, money, and resources to save every single dog and cat in the world, we were content with what we had.

Then in the early months of 2021 when it was still especially cold in Kansas where my sister lives, she took in a cat that appeared to be homeless and was wandering around out in the snow. The cat, whom she decided to name Karen due to her ill temperament around her other animals, turned out to be pregnant and had six kittens in their home. Having recalled that I once said I always wanted to be like Babette on Gilmore Girls and have an orange cat named Cinnamon, my sister decided that one of the orange kittens from Karen’s litter was destined to be ours. She kept three of the cats from the litter herself, and the other two went to my nephew. A few months later, when my sister and brother-in-law came to Indiana for a visit, they brought Cinnamon to us and he’s been a part of the brood ever since.

Hurricane Cinnamon!

And let me be the first to tell you that Cinnamon is a little bit of a hurricane.

We got extraordinarily lucky and a little bit spoiled with Tigger and Rufus. Both are mild-mannered and calm cats that want nothing more than to eat, sleep, and be loved. Cinnamon, on the other hand, sometimes seems like he just wants to watch the world burn. He’s energetic and destructive without meaning to be. He always wants our food when we’re eating meals. He gets the zoomies like nobody’s business. He chases poor Rufus through the house when Rufus just wants to be left alone. But despite his rambunctiousness, I love Cinnamon just the same. He’s a playful baby and you can’t really fault him for that. He came to us socialized and bouncing off of five other kittens his age, while Rufus was never socialized with other cats at all with the exception of his only brother who was gone too soon.

Their relationship is one we’re still trying to work on. They may, truthfully, never get along with one another, but as long as they can at least co-exist, I’m happy with how things turned out. Even though it means that I consistently have cat fur on my clothing and that I’m cleaning up hairballs at 3:30 AM some mornings, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Now do me a favor and tell me about your pets! You can even post photos of them for me in the comments. I’d love to see them all.

Until next time…

You Can Still Be Free

For the last couple of months, my oldest cat Tigger has been having some health issues. After having a couple of episodes that can only be described as seizures, we took him to our local emergency vet only for them to do some expensive bloodwork that came back inconclusive. The next step for them to diagnose what could be causing his seizures was to do an MRI, which we were initially quoted at being between $800 – $1,200 on top of the hundreds we had already spent in having him seen by the emergency/specialty doctors and the bloodwork.

After bringing him home and figuring out my next steps so that I could afford that additional amount, we were then told it would actually be between $2,800 – $3,000. It was quite a jump and we were more than a little surprised.

Tigger while relaxing.

In what I assumed was a genius move on my part, I had secured a loan to help me consolidate my credit card debt as well as pay for the MRI with what I had left over, but after we received the new price, we still weren’t able to do it. Especially given that, if Tigger’s seizures were being caused by my worst fear — a brain tumor — we’d likely have to spend thousands more on surgery and/or cancer treatment.

If Tigger were a human child, I would be able to use my insurance from work to have him saved. But insurance in the pet world is still pretty far behind the insurance we get for ourselves and, even if I wanted to add-on to the insurance I already have for Tigger now, it might be considered an “existing condition,” in which case it’s too little, too late.

I love my pets like they’re my own children, but we just can’t afford it.

Our only option is to continue giving Tigger the anti-seizure medication we were initially told to give him — which seems to help but has not completely rid him of them — and to keep him as comfortable as possible.

Tigger’s a very big cat — we’ve even jokingly told strangers that he’s part bobcat — but he’s also very docile. If you were to describe him as a “gentle giant,” it would be highly applicable. He is the first cat I’ve ever seen who doesn’t mind a single thing you do to him. Hug him! Rough up his fur to make him look feral! Pick him up! Give him a huge wet kiss right on his face! He might not love it, but he hardly ever objects. If the photos haven’t given it away, he’s very handsome, too. He has big, soulful eyes that are easy to see the world reflected back in.

Tig & Me

Though we do our best to keep our cats indoor-only, Tigger sometimes escapes us and slips outside. He never goes very far, usually only into the bushes in front of our house where he plays as “king of the jungle.” While there are plenty of domestic cats in this world who love to go outside, keeping them indoors is generally considered the safest option for both them and the environment. Despite this, it’s hard to watch him and his brothers yearn to be free when they really can’t be. It’s a scary world filled with automobiles, predators, disease, and really mean people that sometimes do harm for no good reason at all.

It’s my hope that he feels safe and loved and free in his home here with us. He is the king of our jungle after all, and I’m not sure what any of us would do without him.

Until next time…