Navy veteran charmed by old tabby cat with unexpected personality

Navy veteran charmed by old tabby cat with unexpected personality

Tacora sought a calm and quiet cat for companionship. But the Navy veteran came home with an energetic senior tabby who brings love and joy into her life.


Tacora never imagined a career in the military. Her great grandfather was an Army veteran, yet he passed away before she had the chance to talk to him about military life.

So college seemed like the next natural step after graduating from high school. But when uncertainty struck during her first year, Tacora put college on pause.

“I don’t think I was ready or mature enough for it,” she reflects.

A few months later, in August 2009, a newspaper recruitment ad for the Navy caught Tacora’s eye. Curious and without any intention to commit, she arranged a meeting with a recruiter.

Soon after Tacora signed on the dotted line for the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program. This gave her a one-year cushion before she headed to Great Lakes, Illinois for bootcamp.

Tacora’s decision shocked her friends and family.

“It was kind of [out of] left field.”

Mind over matter

Bootcamp was not easy.

“I actually struggled quite a bit,” Tacora says.

The young enlistee is the oldest of eight children. She had never before left home or taken a plane. Being away from her family was the hardest part of Tacora’s training.

The physical demands of bootcamp were almost as difficult.

“I wasn’t very athletic, so getting through swimming and running was challenging.”

Recruit division commanders were responsible for training recruits. They seemed to doubt whether Tacora would make it. But their skepticism pushed the young recruit even harder – and grew her confidence.

“I was very proud of myself,” she says, “I proved them wrong and accomplished something.”

“…standing in history”

Tacora not only survived bootcamp, but excelled on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (AFVAB).

The AFVAB is an exam that determines recruits’ eligibility for certain jobs. Her high score got her assigned as an electronics technician, which required two more years of training. During this time Tacora was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

In 2013 Tacora deployed aboard the USS Bataan, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. She was at sea for many other assignments, as well, and put her liberty time to good use. Portugal and Rome were two favorite destinations.

“You’re literally standing in history,” she says.

A stopover in Dubai was impressive and eye opening as well. To the young sailor everything seemed glamorous, luxurious, and extravagant.

Springing into action

Tacora recalls an unreal encounter during one of her many assignments at sea.

“At the time we were on one of the longest deployments on a ship,” she recalls. “182 days without going to a port.”

The ship on which Tacora was serving encountered a small boat – filled with people – that was taking on water. Everyone was rescued and taken to a safe destination.Navy veteran charmed by old tabby cat with unexpected personality

“We were able to have all those people come on [the ship],” she shares.

The Navy veteran could not help but wonder what it felt like for those people to be so helpless at sea.

“You’re not expecting to come across something like that. This is where you see people’s training in action.”

“…give people grace”

In 2016, Tacora separated from the military. She was honorably discharged as a petty officer 3rd class. At the time she was married with two children, and the change came as a bit of a shock.

“You just don’t realize how much the military was part of your life until you’re not in it,” she says.

Transitioning from a dual to a single income placed a strain on the family’s finances as well. Tacora needed to pursue a civilian career; it seemed like the right time to return to university. She majored in psychology and is very proud of having earned her bachelors degree.

“To this day,” she says with pride, “it is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.”

Tacora now works in child advocacy and mental health. She feels the interpersonal skills she built in the Navy have helped her civilian career.

“Life experiences are different, and that’s something I’ve taken with me,” she says. “It’s very important to give people grace and get a full picture of people before forming an opinion.”

Feeling lonely

In time Tacora and her husband divorced. She confides to being lonely when the children are with their father.

So the Navy veteran decided to adopt a companion pet. She had grown up surrounded by both dogs and cats most of her life.Navy veteran charmed by old tabby cat with unexpected personality

Tacora figured a pet could provide companionship while her kids were with their dad. While at first she shared custody of a family dog with her ex-husband, the dog lives with him now because he has a yard.

Divorced and living in an apartment, Tacora opted to adopt a companion cat.

“I had wanted a cat while I was married anyway,” she explains.

“I knew having a presence in the house felt very good.”

Tacora returned to Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center where she had adopted in the past. Staff told her how we help veterans and active duty military adopt companion pets.

Over the years the shelter has made more than 125 adoptions through our partnership. They extend a 50 percent adoption fee discount to veterans in our program.

Tacora found the application process easy and quick. And the benefits – including a generous pet retailer gift card – made it affordable to welcome home a new pet.

“I didn’t even realize all the things I needed,” she shares.

Cat’s out of the bag

It was late July 2021. Tacora was approved into our program and was visiting some adoptable cats. She singled out the most timid of the bunch, a senior tabby cat named BJ.

The Navy veteran wanted a more independent-minded cat. BJ appeared to fit the bill.

Unlike the others, BJ was an overweight, 10 year-old orange tabby cat. He had been surrendered by his previous family, yet was not pawing at Tacora for attention.

“It’s nice to have a pet that knows we can chill sometimes,” she explains.

But Tacora liked even more that BJ was a mature cat.

“I have a habit of adopting a senior pets because they are usually harder to adopt.”

Upon reflection Tacora wonders if the older felines seek her out.

“I wouldn’t even say I distinctly seek out senior pets,” she says. “I think I attract senior pets.”

Sometimes you get what you need

When Tacora first brought BJ home he seemed to be the perfect fit. He was a calm cat who came to her when he wanted, but at the same time respected her space.

“He was minding his business. He came to me when he felt like it,” she explains. “I got the cat I thought I adopted.”

Yet within a week of their adoption the veteran came to a startling realization. The 17-pound cat’s true personality was starting to emerge.

BJ was rambunctious and loved doing zoomies around the apartment. The senior tabby cat likes to play – but not with toys – and insists upon laying on Tacora’s lap when she’s on the phone.

And the big old cat has a big old voice as well.

“He is very vocal about when he wants to eat,” she says. “Because he’s overweight I try to limit [his] intake, but he will yell and yell.”

Tacora was shocked at BJ’s rapid transformation from cool cat to frisky feline.

“He completely tricked me,” she says with a smile.

The Navy veteran now finds BJ’s assertive nature endearing. But it’s not all zoomies, playtime, and cuddles. Sometimes BJ will relax and keep to himself.

“He genuinely gives retired old man vibes,” Tacora says.

Expect the unexpected

Tacora has no regrets adopting the senior tabby cat, despite his occasional annoyances.Navy veteran charmed by old tabby cat with unexpected personality

“He does some things that frustrate me, just like members of my family,” she explains, “[but] that doesn’t mean I want him to go.”

In fact, Tacora cannot imagine life without her four-legged friend.

BJ is a wonderful companion to her three young energetic boys, all under the age of 10. And while it is said that cats have nine lives, this particular cat has a keen sixth sense when it comes to Tacora.

“He does know when I am feeling down,” she confides. “He will know sometimes before I do.”

Above all, BJ brings another dimension of happiness to Tacora. He fills those empty spaces left by the absence of her children. Those lonely and alone moments everyone experiences from time to time.

“He just brings me joy,” she shares. “He really does love me.”

“I will always get a shelter pet”

As a mental health professional Tacora is aware of the healing power of companion pets. She believes they are particularly valuable for her brothers and sisters in arms.

“Companionship is so important – especially for veterans who don’t have kids or a support system,” she says. “Having this [program] available to them is a blessing to have.”

Tacora encourages potential adopters to be open-minded when looking for a pet. Understand that the pet’s personality will emerge over time.

Even though Tacora did not get the cat she thought she wanted, she got the cat she needed. And the Navy veteran is adamant about the importance of adopting a pet – versus buying one from a store or breeder.

“I will always get a shelter pet,” she declares. “You’re giving this small thing a chance that it might not otherwise have.”

The Navy veteran believes – as we do – that saving a life is a noble act. And it is a beautiful thing to peel away the layers of an adopted pet’s personality over time.

“Being a pet parent is a privilege,” she says. “And my takeaway from this entire experience is enjoy getting to know your pet. Enjoy learning their quirks. Enjoy getting to know them.”


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