My Adoption Story: When Your Cats Are the Family Favorite

Max, left, and Nugget, right, Crystal Duan's faily cats

Crystal Duan

In the Duan household, there are two daughters and two “younger siblings” as well. The younger siblings I’m referring to are named Max and Nugget, and yes, they are cats.

Max turned 9 this April, and Nugget is turning 5 in August.

It’s pretty funny how I’m still getting to know them, despite them being a part of the family. What’s funnier is also the fact that they’ve taught me a lot as pets because we don't exactly get along.

Max and Nugget are both from the Oregon Humane Society, and they’d been through a lot by the time we adopted them. However, thanks to my mother, they learned to trust again. That’s the good news, but their trust doesn't really extend beyond the matriarch of our family.

My mom didn’t like pets for the longest time. She’d cringe a bit at petting other people’s dogs when we went to their houses, and she said she wished she were allergic to have a valid excuse. When she eventually realized she was going to miss me and my sister after we both graduated, she changed her tune about small animals. And before we both knew it, she had set out to make sure the void we’d leave behind would be filled appropriately.


Max came first. He’s a gray and white handsome short-haired cat with a stubby tail and the most distinct human-like personality I’ve ever seen. I expected him to be cuddly and easy to get along with. But, it turns out, he’s incredibly grumpy and meows ferociously at most people who get too close to him. He really values personal space. I knew cats were temperamental, but I remember being shocked at Max's insistence on being a stereotypical indifferent feline.

We adopted him after I graduated high school in 2013, so I only spent a few weeks with him before I went off to college. He was a small kitten when I left, and I am sad I didn’t really get to grow up with him.

Max, Crystal Duna's gray and white family cat

Crystal Duan

The part that can be annoying is he always hisses at me in greeting when I come around. Even if he lets me pet him, he’ll still hiss. But my mom? My mom dotes on him relentlessly. She’ll pick him up and carry him around, and he’ll crawl onto her legs while she watches TV. He never hisses at her and meows and rubs against her legs. It is kind of cute how she can be around him, and him her. She always jokes that they have the same personality issues, except I think she’s a little more polite, if you ask me.

Nevertheless, I love Max dearly. Sometimes I think he’s playing hard-to-get with me. I’m used to not paying attention to most animals, but my relationship with Max has kept me on my toes in interesting ways. Despite this seemingly inconvenient dynamic, I do feel sort of loved by him in that he’s a real sibling I can have “fights” with. My mom is also pretty happy being Max's favorite person.


Nugget is so different from Max. Nugget was a rescue from the humane society in my hometown, so she’s very skittish. It wasn’t until this past year that she let anyone pet her. Just as Max was my surrogate replacement after graduation, Nugget was my sister’s “surrogate replacement” she was adopted the year my sister graduated high school in 2018. Nugget is a beautiful Siamese lynx mix with a white spotted coat and big blue eyes. She’s extremely shy, but loves to eat, and if you do feed her or sit with her while she’s sleepy, she’ll let you pet her. Nugget is the more adventurous one who likes pawing and scratching. She’s definitely more affectionate and friendly than Max, but her shyness means half the time she’s hiding or running away. We became buddies when I lived at home after graduation; treats and toys always help!

Nugget, Crystal Duan's family cat

Crystal Duan

Max and Nugget have taught me so much patience. I’ve had to understand that animals have emotions, too. It’s been hard for me to accept that Max will hiss at me if I look at him for too long sometimes, or I may go days at a time at home without petting Nugget.

I think there was a time when I might’ve resented these pets because they didn't behave how I thought they should act. I've learned to let them be who they are. Needless to say, if it weren’t for my pet siblings, I wouldn’t be as well versed in the subtleties of body language (a favorite way of communication for these two). So, thanks, Max and Nugget, for joining the family—even though you'll be too busy getting treats from my mom to ever read this.