"The Holy Father called, and all I could do was stammer, 'So how do I address you now?' He laughed," she said.
She said she's glad she heard him laugh. His new job isn't easy, and he'll need to laugh. She said that when he was relaxing, there was never a mystery about what would make him laugh.
"Oh, cats," she said. " He loves them."
She pointed up a staircase to a wall full of painted plates, each depicting a different cat. The brothers collected the plates together, she said.
"When we were on vacation, a cat, a little kitten, would come by, and he'd be giddy, almost giggling with joy," she said." Cats love him; they always go to him straight away. And he loves them back."
He doesn't have a cat, however. Heindl doesn't think he can have one living in the Vatican.
"He was always content to play with the street cats," she said. "I don't know much about Rome, but I know there's no shortage of cats there."
Benedict still owns the house he bought on the edge of Regensburg in 1970, but he visits only a couple times a year. The city adjusted his deed this week: It now lists the owner as "Holy Father."
On Thursday afternoon, Chico the cat _ perhaps the closest thing there is to The Pope's Cat, strolled from the shaded arch between the pope's front door and his garage. Chico belongs to Rupert Hofbauer, who looks after Benedict's garden and home.
"Chico is his friend, though he scratched him over Christmas because he didn't want to go outside, all day or night, and the cardinal tried to put him out," Hofbauer said. "They usually get along well, though."
Hofbauer and many others in Regensburg, where the new pope remains on the faculty rolls, shared mixed emotions, pride and sorrow, when they heard the news. Georg Ratzinger said he almost feels as if he's lost his brother, knowing that it won't be easy to see him now.
"I thought he'd retire soon, and we would finally have a lot of time to finish all the talks we've started through the years. We talked about that, just this Christmas when he was home," Hofbauer said.
"He thought it sounded nice, to retire, to take it easy. That's not how it worked out though, is it?"