For the last couple of years, I have sat at home all day alone.
Chronic illness can do that to you. It hasn’t been too bad, really. I don’t live alone, so I have company for non-working hours, and some wonderful friends and family members visit and take me out on my good days. A lot of people with my illness have it much worse.
Being alone wears you down.
(Even a super introvert with social anxiety disorder and occasional agoraphobic leanings, like me.)
So, easy solution, I got a cat.
We were renting and weren’t allowed pets, so it only required us to spend all our current and future money to find a house, sign over our souls and move, just before Christmas, the worst time of the year to do anything other than eat gingerbread. It was no trouble at all.
I like cats. I had a cat when I was growing up whom I loved to bits.
Although, actually, it was me who ended up in bits. That cat was a psychopath. When I was eight she invented a game where she would lurk outside the bathroom when she heard the shower. She would pick a natural bottleneck—a doorway, the hall—and wait for me to emerge, vulnerable, wrapped only in my towel.
Sometimes that’s all she would do. Just watch me as I edged past her, staring with pouncing eyes, knowing I was nervous. Other times…
Remembering this, I thought a great deal about the type of cat that would be best for us. And it turned out my partner and I had met a lot of other types of cat over the years that we didn’t think would suit.
We didn’t want the kind of cat that hates people so much it lives on top of bookshelves whenever anyone is around.
We didn’t want the type of cat that pretends to like you, but acts as though it will catch fire if you actually touch it.
We didn’t want the type of cat that murders animals larger than itself in the dead of night, then eats their entrails. I know people who live with this type of cat, and since the Possum Incident, they haven’t been the same.
Armed with a clear picture of what we didn’t want (literally, see cat types 1-3 above), we walked out of the shelter with the complete opposite. The most clingy, affectionate cat to ever exist.
He needs to be close to people, either sitting tucked under your chin or participating in whatever you are doing, at all times. For the few days after we took him home, he only stopped cuddling and kneading on my throat for eating or pooping (his eating or pooping, not mine).
He’s getting better at separation, but he can’t handle being left out of things. He follows me from room to room. He watches as I brush my teeth. He pounces on books and my computer so he can play with them too. When we do the dishes, he claims the rinse water as his personal paddling pool. Tiny, prickling claws are involved in every activity, and if you try to stop him, he climbs you with them.
It’s kind of like living with an affectionate cactus. Or wearing a scarf made of hedgehogs.
It’s very different to my previous experiences with cats. Showering with my old cat in the house was like starring in a B-grade slasher movie. My new cat turns showering into one of those romances that are supposed to be swoonworthy but are just super, super creepy. He won’t let me shut him out of the bathroom. He sits in front of the shower glass, sometimes with his face pressed up close, sometimes playing with the water droplets he sees running down my side of the glass that he can never catch. Sometimes, if he can paw the door open a crack, he jumps in.
(I let him in the first time because I thought it would teach him a Valuable Lesson about consequences and personal space. It didn’t. Now he thinks darting in and out under the sprinkling water is part of the game.)
As a human, that kind of thing gets you restraining orders. As a cat, it gets him whatever he wants.
He’s a whole new type of irritating cat.
But I love him.
And I’m not alone.
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