At Home With Alder New York CEO, Nina Zilka, & Her Cats Gene & George

This article "Nina Zilka, Gene Parmesan & George Michael" was originally published on Girls And Their Cats. Photography by BriAnne Wills.

Nina Zilka and Her Cats

My husband and I knew we wanted to adopt two rescue kittens, and we’d heard that the NYC rescue adoption process can be arduous. So I went into it super prepared, with our references lined up, an excel sheet for the different shelters where we were applying, etc. I didn’t expect the process to literally take 24 hours, but my very first day on Petfinder, I stumbled on a photo of two kittens that were too beautiful and heartbreaking to be real—I genuinely thought I was getting kitten cat-fished. Nevertheless, I emailed the woman fostering them and she told me they were already booked for another family. She was meeting them later that day and she assumed they would take them home that night. But that evening she emailed me to ask if we could come meet them ASAP. My husband and I immediately canceled our plans so we could take an hour train ride to meet our dream kittens. We obviously fell in love with them immediately, and their foster mom told me she’d sent the other family away—she’d had a feeling that we were meant for these two. 

We agree—they’re the perfect addition to our family. I’m still amazed by how pretty they are—George is this super sleek black cat that looks like a baby panther, and Gene has a stunning grey-blue coat that feels like silk. We named them after characters on our favorite show, Arrested Development, and Gene Parmesan and George Michael make me laugh even more than their namesakes.

Nina Zilka and Her Cats

Alder New York CEO Nina Zilka and Her Cats

This was my first time owning kittens—I’d only ever had an adult rescue before this, so I really appreciated getting to see them become the cats they are. Gene is the braver of the two—when we first got them, he’s the first one who came out from behind the garbage can where they hid the first night (which was really cute/depressing). It took George a lot longer to warm up—my husband and I traded off working from home for the first two weeks we got them, since they were so little and we wanted to be there to help them acclimate. And I remember I was sitting in our rocking chair with my laptop and the kittens were sleeping on this trunk we have next to it, and George slowly walked onto my lap. He was so tiny—under two pounds at that point—and it was the first time he really let me hold him, and it was the most exciting thing ever. That’s basically been his personality ever since. He follows me everywhere and craves constant attention and cuddling. My husband jokes that my love style with them is just to smother, and George really likes being smothered. Gene is much more aloof—he likes attention, and he is obsessed with belly rubs, but he’s more of a needing-his-space cat than George. (Hard to believe considering that when BriAnne came over, George refused to come out from under the couch, while Gene pranced around like a supermodel).

When we first saw them as babies, they were intertwined with each other, and that hasn’t changed. They still take naps completely wrapped around each other. Gene is definitely the little brother to George; sometimes he walks around the house crying to get George to play with him, especially if George is cuddling with me, and George usually ignores him, as an older sibling does. But when there’s anything stressful, Gene is the protector. I have this memory of when I took them to the vet for one of their early vaccine visits—they were still tiny, maybe three pounds each. The waiting room had been really empty, so when I went to pay at the end, I left them in their carrying case (they shared one at the time) on a chair. And when my back was turned, a man with a large puppy came in, and before I could do anything the puppy ran right up to their carrying case and started barking. It was only a second before the owner pulled the dog away and I ran over to grab them, but I still felt horrible. And when I looked in, Gene—all three pounds of him—was standing over George to protect him and just puffed up, hissing at this giant dog. It was so heartbreaking and also so sweet. Gene would do anything for George.

Nina Zilka and Her Black Cat

Our life is so much better with these two monsters in it. They’re impossible—as I was writing this, George stuck his head in my lap from under the table because he’s hungry, and no matter how many carpet protectors/fancy scratching posts I place everywhere, they will continue to destroy our rug. But they make us laugh so much every single day, and when George falls asleep on my lap while we watch a movie or I wake up to Gene kneading me, it makes me feel a deep sense of contentment. 

Leave a comment