Still, Again, and Always

I was always destined to be a cat person.  My mom is a cat person.  My grandmother was a cat person.  My dad has always claimed not to be a cat person, but was have definitely turned him into at least half of one.

I could say I don’t remember a time before having cats in the house, but that isn’t strictly true.  I have a very clear recollection of being a shy little five-year-old, taking a trip to the North Shore Animal League to adopt my lovely boy Solomon, who instantly adopted me back as his Person.

Long before I became a cliché thirty-something utterly lacking in the ability to form romantic attachments, I was whispering my little secrets into flicking, fuzzy ears over the sound of soft purring, confident in the knowledge that my adolescent heartaches would be safe and secure and somehow completely understood.

Cats governed pretty much everything I did as a child.  My sister and I didn’t play house: we played pretend pet grooming shop.  When we didn’t want to do our chores, “I can’t; the cat is sitting on me” became our automatic (if unsuccessful) excuse.

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When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I invariably said a veterinarian…at least until about 7th grade when I realized how much math and science was actually involved.

If I stomped upstairs and slammed my bedroom door in anger, which happened more often than I care to remember during my terrible teenage years, Solomon would paw at the latch until I let him inside to sit next to me.

He would stare at me with his big golden eyes (maybe judging me slightly for being overly dramatic – but hey, he wasn’t wrong), and stay on my lap or curled up between my shoulder blades as I read a book until he was sure everything was all right again.

He was sweet and cuddly, curious and occasionally a little too adventurous, as he was wont to bolt from the front door or bust out of our screened-in deck to eat grass on the lawn and scare the living daylights out of me.

Once when I was still in grade school, he went MIA for several days – sort of a big deal for a cat who had been declawed – and all I remember about his return was that it was the happiest day of my young life.

I still have stress-dreams about losing him.  Even though we sold our house some time ago, I still occasionally get anxious that someone didn’t lock the screen room door.

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We collected several other cats when I was growing up, whom I loved dearly as well, but I was always Solomon’s and he was always mine.

Leaving him to go to college when I was 16 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I knew he was getting older; that I couldn’t check that the doors were locked from my dorm room in Massachusetts; that I would miss having to squirm into the corner of my bed because he had decided to sprawl across as much of the mattress as he could manage.

I felt a little like I was betraying his steadfast friendship, and that I had somehow wasted our time together by being too young to understand how rare and precious it is to find anyone or anything so capable of unconditional love.

I was nervous, of course, about leaving home for the first time.  I was terrified about failing to succeed in my new environment, especially since I was veering sharply away from the traditional educational path by going to college earlier than my peers.  And I was still reeling from my parents’ unexpected divorce the year prior, which had redefined my world in ways I am still working to understand.

So naturally I projected my anxiety a little bit into the one thing that had always been constant in my life: the unflinching, immutable love of a cat who thought I was the best thing since sliced tuna and always would be.

He died at the ripe old age of about 19, after a long and slow decline that I was too selfish to end mercifully.  I couldn’t let him go – I couldn’t acknowledge the end of all the things I had turned the poor dear thing into.  We had spent three-quarters of my life together, and I couldn’t really understand what it would mean not to have him around for the rest of it.

At the time, I was in the midst of a soul-crushing, demeaning, and nightmarish job that had left me isolated and purposeless. I was living in the middle of nowhere and so far from home, with no friends within a three-hour drive, and no outlet for the despair that was building to the bursting point inside of me.

His passing, though peaceful at the end, was one of several catalysts for eighteen months of profound depression that saw me (thankfully) lose my job, get into therapy, and start a significant reconstruction of who I was and who I wanted to be.

Four years later, I adopted Oliver.

I saw his picture on a pet-finding website sometime before Christmas, and knew instantly that I had to make him part of the new life I was building for myself.  Three months later, I had moved to an apartment that allowed cats and brought him home.

He has been nothing but joy to me ever since.

Yes, he scratched my furniture, and woke me up early on the weekends for his breakfast. There were occasions when he would pounce on my feet as I turned a corner, and I may have a faint scar or two from his habit of affectionately wrestling my arm into submission with all 18 pounds of his fur and muscle.

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Of course he shed like crazy but never let me brush him – woe unto me if I tried to snip a bit of tangled fur from his back end – and if I accidentally approached him in a certain manner, intentionally or not, he would meowl and swat at me, afraid I was trying to hurt him.

Former street cats can be like that sometimes, of course.  They have hidden traumas and bad memories that they can’t share.

Oliver was adopted from a small rescue operation (i.e. the basement of a very nice woman with eight cats too many). While he had very good manners and clean habits, which means he must have been raised in a home at some point, the nicks in his ears and the bottom of one eyelid told plenty about what must have been a troubled youth.

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The worst relic of his transient period was feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV.  Similar to the human version, it can be acquired through fluids or passed on at birth.  There’s no way to tell.

A positive screening usually makes a cat unadoptable.  Their compromised immune systems make them susceptible to gum disease, respiratory infections, and digestive problems – not to mention any other stray bacteria or viruses that happen to wander in.

And the relative ease with which they can pass the virus on to other cats through biting or scratching means they can’t live in a household with unaffected feline companions.

That part wasn’t a problem for me, since my lease stipulates I’m only allowed to have one cat on the premises. Let’s be honest: it’s the only reason I don’t already have two or three.

I was pretty sure that with no other cats, an indoor-only lifestyle, and my familiarity with caring for members of his species, Oliver had a relatively low risk of living a shortened life due to preventable illness.

I may have been right. He made a full recovery from a serious sinus infection during our first year together.  He got regular checkups, vaccines, and lots of exercise.  He ate quality food and gourmet treats, and received personalized drinking service from the bathroom tap every time he pleased.

He had full access to open windows when the weather was nice, and a warm bed next to the radiator when it wasn’t.  Occasionally, he even had the pleasure of a catch-your-own rodent buffet.

Most of the time, I forgot about the FIV all together.  It didn’t seem to matter much to him.  He was just a happy, silly, energetic boy with kittenish behaviors and a penchant for hogging the couch.

I would have spoiled him rotten no matter what was in his bloodstream, and I’m happy to say that’s exactly what I did.  All we can do is give them the best life possible during the time we share, and I am fully confident that I provided a very good home for him.

But not every illness is preventable, and the inevitable caught up with us sooner rather than later.

Kidney trouble is common in all breeds of cats, and renal failure is one of the top causes of mortality.  In FIV cats, the problem often comes in the form of lymphoma.  Most cats last less than a month after diagnosis.  While chemotherapy exists, it is a very expensive and not altogether practical way to gain little more than a few weeks, often with questionable quality of life.

I decided not to go the route that involved biopsies and lab work and half-hour drives to the specialty hospital in Woburn.  Even going a mile up the road to his usual vet was a trauma, and I saw no point in making his last days so stressful when it wouldn’t much improve the outcome or his experience of it.

Instead, we treated him as if he had a bilateral kidney infection, which was also a very real possibility, if a remote one.  A course of antibiotics is neither invasive nor prohibitively costly, and doing something always feels better than sitting back and just waiting.

In the end, it didn’t solve the problem.  But he did have another three weeks of enjoying his favorite things: stalking birds through the window, watching TV with me in the evenings, looking intently at the ceiling even though nothing is there, and following me around to supervise as I went through my morning routine.

He was always a very attentive, human-focused cat. Every time I looked in his direction, he would acknowledge me with a little “prrrrup,” staring straight into my eyes.

When I spoke to him, his tail would start tapping.  When I smiled and blinked at him, or told him I loved him, I thought it would thump its way through the floor.

If I was about to get up from the couch to get a snack or do a chore, he would jump off my lap and wait by the sofa until I came back and he resume his favorite cuddling position again.

If I collapsed into bed after a long day and a longer commute, sad and exhausted, he would do everything he could to get me up again by walking on my sternum, looking plaintive, or calling to me from the living room.

And the funny thing is, I would get up.  Almost immediately.

Unlike during the fallow period following Solomon, where I would sleep for hours after work just to make the day end quicker, I would pull myself together and dry my eyes because I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing Oliver.

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People who are prone to loneliness or depression need that sort of wholehearted, pure belief that they have a place in the world and a role to fulfill, even if that role is to be a human can opener and living hot water bottle.

Well-treated cats (and dogs, too) don’t doubt that you can do what they need you to do.  They don’t doubt that you will.

Their trust is both humbling and uplifting; a pillar and a pedestal; a lifeline to tether drifting souls to the sense that something, anything matters – and that they have a clear and necessary purpose within it.

Cats are unwavering in their conviction that you will rise to this challenge.  The reward for meeting the terms of this simple contract is an unbreakable, unconditional love that can help carry you through darn near any of the petty frustrations and helpless heartbreaks that comprise human existence.

Say what you want about spinsters collecting cats after giving up on finding love with another person or a place in the world, but I don’t think that’s what happens most of the time.

Cats keep your heart warm.  They help you hold the door open to the future instead of shutting down and locking yourself away.  They compel you practice patience and understanding; to maintain your capacity for love.

They show you the epitome of what that can be: selfless, immutable, and blind to all the little faults of fashion or manner or politics or jealousies that can so often split two people apart.

The love of a pet is a direct connection to the best we can be.  A glimpse into the fundamental definition of joy. That’s something I aspire to achieve with other people, not something intended to replace a life of human friendships or relationships.

To love a cat is a privilege.  To be loved in return is an honor. Even through the pain of missing him fiercely and the grief of never seeing him again, I count myself so, so lucky to have been his Person for as long as I could.

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It’s too quiet in my apartment today, and I feel aimless in a way I haven’t felt for years.  He didn’t come to say good morning.  He didn’t ask for his breakfast.  He isn’t stretched out on the floor, tail tapping, watching me write.  He will never do those things again, which hurts more than I can express.

I feel confident that I did the right thing last night.  I knew as soon as I saw him that something bad had happened: his spark was gone, his body was failing him, and he was in pain.  He wouldn’t make eye contact.  He was too weary to move.

I won’t go through the details of saying goodbye to him.  Every pet owner knows exactly how heart wrenching that is.

The vet was very kind, my dad was there to drive me since I couldn’t see through my tears, and it was all over so quickly.  I feel as if the real Oliver had been gone hours before he stopped breathing, and I like to think that what I saw in his final moments was a sense of relief.

Taking a pet into your life is signing a contract with sadness, even if the terms of the agreement are more than fair.

It may be brutally bitter when the lease on happiness is up, but that isn’t going to stop me from adopting another cat some day, and another after that, and after that.

Our feline companions come and go throughout our lives, leaving gaping holes when they’ve gone.  But we have a choice of what to do when that abyss opens up underneath our feet.

We can let that grief defeat us, and shy away from future attachments due to fear of what happens when they end.

Or we can take hold of that lifeline, that thread of joy, light, and laughter they each bring with them, and let it stitch up our broken hearts and bind us together.

Still, again, and always I choose to keep myself open to that love. I will try to seek out joy.  I will aspire to stay worthy of a cat’s trust and affection and freely-given tummy rubs, because I can think of no better way to be.

I will never stop missing Solomon.  I will never stop missing Oliver.  I will never stop missing the other cats who have stayed a while in my life, each bringing something irreplaceable to how I experience the world.

I don’t know what the future holds, or where my life will lead.  But I can tell you this for certain: still, again, and always, there will be cats to walk those roads with me.

***

If you are considering adopting a pet, hopefully a rescue, please don’t discount the ones who appear to have special needs.  They will give you just as much of their love as any other, if not more so for being so often overlooked. 

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Frame of Reference

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Autumn is usually my favorite time of year.  The cooler weather, the blushing trees, the omnipresence of corn stalks and apple cider and even pumpkins, although they actually taste vile to me.

I get creative in the autumn.  There’s something about the exuberant last celebratory display of nature before it curls up and goes to sleep under the snow that makes it almost compulsory to tell stories, and I have always done my best work in October and November (thanks in no small part to NaNoWriMo).

This year is a little different for me.  It has been full of distractions, conflicting priorities, and anxious circumstances.  My day job is getting more complex, I’m starting to get competitive with archery, and I’ve got a lot more travel on my schedule over the next few months.

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Worst of all, my lovely cat companion Oliver has recently developed some very serious health problems that have taken up all of my attention and changed my outlook a little bit.

I haven’t been wholly there – or wholly anywhere, really – for quite some time.  The almost-finished first draft of Dark the Wayward Dawn has gone untouched for days, then weeks, then months at a time.

I only have one scene left, but I just can’t seem to make myself sit down and finish it.

It’s not just because I’m busy and stressed or that I don’t care about bringing these four books to their rightful conclusion.  I haven’t lost interest in these characters or their struggles, and I haven’t abandoned the idea that there is some cosmic reason why I feel compelled to share them with a very small segment of the world.

It’s mostly, I discovered this morning, because I just really don’t like the way I’ve written it.  I hate the way it’s turning out.  I’ve managed to put my characters in a really stupid situation that gives them no plausible way to triumph without making everything even stupider.  I will have to rewrite a fairly large portion of the ending in order to put everything to rights.

And I’m thrilled to say that.

I’ve written before about how much I love eureka moments, when everything becomes startlingly clear and you can finally move on from a problem that’s been plaguing you.  I don’t know exactly how or when I will be able to address the situation, but it’s a major relief to know what is holding me back, at least.

I hope to use NaNoWriMo as a catalyst for revision and finishing the draft, even if I don’t commit to the full 50,000 words this year.  A little progress will be better than nothing, and hopefully set me on the right path again.

I can’t promise a publication date for the last book, for those two or three people who are still interested, but I can promise that it will happen at some point.  I’m committed to that, even if it takes me forever.

So it’s onward and upward, slowly but surely.  Thank you for your patience with me.  I hope it pays off some day.

 

 

Mouse Trap

Disclaimer: For those of you suffering from rodent-centric phobias, you might want to skip this one.

Hail the conquering hero.

Hail the conquering hero.

Oliver killed a mouse last night.  A real, actual, fuzzy little mouse that I almost stepped on when I came in the door after a long and dismal commute.  As I gaped in horror and confusion, he told me all about his adventures with a series of very proud, excited meows.  I think he was rather puzzled that I didn’t immediately praise him for heroically slaying the invading foe, but I was too busy running away as fast as possible.

It was very clearly dead.  It was dead when it was lying on the doormat, and it was dead when Oliver started batting it around, tossing it up in the air and catching it like one of his squishy balls as I shrieked at him to stop.  It was dead when I took to Twitter to compulsively share my anguish, and dead when I tentatively reached out to trap it under The Creature Cage (the top of a big glass vase that serves as a temporary containment facility for beetles and other creepy crawlies that I have to work up the courage to dispose of).

I know this marks me as the wimpiest of spoiled suburban girls, but I really hate creatures that don’t belong in houses.  Houses are places for civilized things that I choose to put there.  Houses are safe places.  They are human places.  They are, in my idealized world, impenetrable.  I have never encountered a rodent in any of my previous living situations, and I hope that my landlord will ensure that I never encounter one in my current situation again.

That being said, I’m very glad to have Oliver as my champion.  He can’t really be bothered with ordinary spiders or bugs, and even jumpy crickets only hold momentary fascination, but he certainly did his feline Viking ancestors proud with this one.  He already has a great deal of practice when it comes to hunting big game (read: he grabs and chews on my arm while we are watching TV together), and I was told when I adopted him that he had already vanquished a dragon (read: some sort of small garden snake that had found its way into a basement).

He was so pleased with himself that I couldn’t really be angry that he had brazenly taken the life of a small, squeaky, innocent creature that had likely just come in for a nibble of cat food and an escape from the cold.  I don’t think I have any real reason to be angry.  He’s a cat.  It was a mouse.  We’ve all seen the cartoons.  What else was going to happen?

Oddly enough, the only thing I could think about for the rest of the evening (besides the worry that there were even more mice lurking in every quiet corner) was the strange dichotomy between Fantasy Writer Jen and Real Life Jen, who was afraid to approach the stiff little corpse, equally terrified of its blank, foreign lifelessness and of the possibility that it might spring up and run off.  Fantasy Writer Jen doesn’t fear mice.  Fantasy Writer Jen tortures, maims, and kills with little compunction, describing blood and gore and horror in great, poetic detail.

Yes, things are getting pretty tense in Book Four, which is coming along nicely thanks to NaNoWriMo, and there is plenty more murder and mayhem to come as I wrap up the series.  As writers, we often let our imaginations take us into dark places – we often force them into ever darker and darker places, inventing new and horrible ways to cause pain and misery just to ramp up the tension and raise the stakes for our hapless puppets.  But how many of us are too afraid, in real life, to approach a dead mouse?

Fantasy can be funny like that.  We want to make our imaginary worlds as brutally realistic as possible,  and we happily tap away at our keyboards when there are vicious battles to recount or terrible plagues wiping out thousands of innocents, secure in the knowledge that most of the time, any small creatures we might happen to encounter on our way to Starbucks do not carry yersinia pestis.

How fortunate we are in our imaginations, which let us dip a sterile-gloved finger into grimy, bitter, violent worlds where pest control is far down on the list of major concerns.  And how fortunate we are to have keen-eyed cats in our homes who take great pleasure in reminding us that without them to protect us, the modern world could be a whole lot worse for someone as squeamish as Real Life Jen.

"Did you hear that?  I definitely heard that."

“Did you hear that? I definitely heard that.”

Short Story Friday: Cat People

942366_794657468005_1170412341_nMaria tried not to stare out the window as she idly poked her wilting salad with a plastic fork.  There were a couple of crows preening themselves on the bare branches of the tree outside, and the dark flash of their spreading wings was distracting.  But looking out the window would mean her head was turned away from the other girls, and she didn’t want them to think she wasn’t listening.

She wasn’t, of course.  This was the part of the conversation she tried her best to tune out, so that she could spend the rest of the afternoon focused on work instead of morosely playing with her phone on and off until 5:30, moving a few cards around in a Solitaire game before doing her best to will her attention back to the computer screen.

Brit wasn’t even getting engaged yet, but she kept talking about it.  She wouldn’t stop talking about it.  And that made the other girls feel like they needed to compete.  They’d boast about their boyfriends in terms far too romantic to be the truth, or warn each other about the pitfalls of spending years with a man who had basically been bullied into matrimony after one too many lunchtime conversations.  Maria wasn’t sure why that was an acceptable premise for a marriage, but it seemed to be something that the women were very proud of.

Maria would have preferred to talk about her cat.  He performed many of the same functions as the significant others the girls gushed about: he was someone to feed, someone to clean up after, and someone to have one-sided conversations with before falling sleep after forfeiting most of the blankets and a pillow or two.  He was someone to love when loving other people didn’t seem to be very effective, and she rather thought that she had the most stable and equitable relationship out of the bunch when she listened to the girls natter on.

But of course, she’d never say so.  Maria was one of those people, and she knew it.  She didn’t care, really, except when her quiet contentment with a bundle of pure, purring love made her feel lonelier than if she had really been completely on her own.  They pitied her for the uncomplicated, platonic joy that she cherished, and that hurt nearly as badly as the human rejection she had endured time and again when she tried to cling on to the messy, unsatisfying, confusing, and sometimes downright mean relationships that she was supposed to have.

She wasn’t supposed to accept that she could be happy by herself. Not that she really did accept it. Not just yet.  A little pearl of hope, too hard to be dissolved away completely, did little more than irritate the hollows in her heart as it rubbed and bounced and poked its angular edges into the raw places, and the scars sunk in a little bit deeper every time she failed to find a better version of whatever it was Brit kept going on about.  She just wanted to be happy.  She just wanted her hidden, homely happiness not to make her so sad.

So she didn’t listen to Brit anymore, and she didn’t talk about her cat.  She stared out the window at the preening crows and thought about sandwiches for next week instead of salad.  She liked roast beef almost as much as he did.  That would make them both happy, she thought to herself, chewing on a forkful of lettuce to keep a little smile off her face.  No one would bother to ask why she was smiling anyway, but it was habit by now to keep her thoughts to herself.  They never understood, and there was no reason to let those people see.

A Few of My Favorite Things

I love those slideshows that come out every so often picturing famous writers and the places they do their best work, filled with cluttered desks and worn leather chairs, haphazard walls of books and pensive pets captured in repose.  I love them the same way I love looking into people’s houses when they leave the lights on and the blinds up after dark: a creepy, curious, comforting glimpse into the way the rest of the world lives.  But here are a few of my own writing habits, so you can indulge your stalker side, too.

As we’ve previously established (in a post that gets several hits every day from people around the world searching for an image of a coffee shop), I like writing at home.  I like editing at the office, because editing is work and home is too relaxed a setting to be brutal with myself, but creativity happens on the couch.  I’m not a writer who needs a very specific set of things around me at all times, but I do like to know where the cat is, because when I don’t, it means he’s getting into trouble.

I never even showed you guys my new apartment.

I never even showed you guys my new apartment.

I also like a water bottle or something nice (and non-alcoholic) to drink, because picking up a glass gives my brain just enough time to pause between typing frenzies, and because staying well-hydrated is the key to any endurance sport.  Eating is a distraction, though, and I can’t snack (dirty fingers on the keyboard) or eat dinner (can’t tell you how many times I drop my fork) while I’m in the middle of a thought.

I usually have a blanket, both to prevent hypothermia from hours of physical inaction, and because I never made enough blanket forts as a kid and so have a latent need for quilted security.  I wear pajamas and a sweatshirt and kick my feet up on the ottoman, leaving me swaddled in warmth and comfort,  and allowing me to leave my body behind while I’m wandering in my made-up world.  That’s the most important aspect of my work space, wherever it might be.  I have to be able to get lost.

That paragraph would be laughable, if I could summon the willpower to get up and read it.

That paragraph would be laughable…if I could summon the willpower to get up and read it.

When I’m editing, though, I have to be external.  I have to be separated from that world so I can see it from the outside, just like my readers will.  Editing at home is pointless, and I find myself being a little too indulgent with things that don’t really fit, because all I can remember is how nice I felt when I created them.   Besides, Oliver is a harsh critic.

The only other thing I’d classify as a “need” is some sort of game.  Solitaire, Bejeweled, Tetris…I need some sort of relatively mindless, repetitive thing to play in order to occupy the half of my brain that’s normally responsible for self-doubt or frustration.  Keeping that part of me on autopilot is the best way to ensure that I won’t wander off.

I guess I don’t have any endearingly quirky habits, like keeping one shoe on and wearing a goose on my head, or listening to Flight of the Valkyries at full blast over and over (I’ve evolved to need silence, which is boring).  Just give me some water, a cat, and a quiet place to stretch out with my laptop, and I’ll be perfectly fine.

What are the things you need around you in order to write?  Books?  Your lucky scarf?  A squeezy stress ball?  A live brass band?

An Ode to Furry Feline Friendship

I’m not really going to write a proper ode – I mean, I could, but I think that sort of thing is still illegal in Massachusetts on a Sunday.  But I know you’ve all been awaiting my new arrival as anxiously as I have, and are desperate for an update.

OliverOliver arrived yesterday morning, meowing his head off and not sure if he wanted to explore or camp out in a dark corner.  He chose the latter for the first few hours, scoping out his new abode from under the bed, but he quickly took to surveying his domain.  By the afternoon, he had already broken one of my porcelain figurines (fixable, I think), inadvertently caused the demise of a decorative glass jar (that had admittedly been unstable before his arrival and only slid off the bookcase well after he had jumped down), and stolen my heart.

He is the sweetest thing.  Cheerfully playful, constantly vigilant, intelligent, excitable, and always, always looking for affection.  He’s started to follow me around like a puppy, staring up at me and shadowing my every move, sitting near me just for the sake of being close to someone.  I was woken up at 5 this morning by his big purring nose in my face, and even though we’re going to try very hard not to make that a normal occurrence, it’s impossible to be annoyed at a creature who is just so pleased he’s found a loving home that he needs to thank me for it every chance he gets.

And he’s big!  At last count, he was 18 pounds, but I think he must be more like 22.  He’s not overweight – he’s just a very large beast.  It’s all muscle and fur and huge floppy paws.  Despite the fact that he was crushing my internal organs as he sat on my chest this morning before we got out of bed, I haven’t been happier in a long time.

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I have to mention that my sister took this picture because she reads this.

My childhood cat, Solomon, used to sleep on my bed every night until he got too old to want to bother going up and down the stairs.  He’d curl up beside me and listen to my secrets with his beautiful, wise eyes.  He would knead his paws and purr me to sleep, making me feel absolutely safe knowing I had an unconditional friend and confidant during the most tumultuous and difficult times of my youth.  It’s been three years since he passed on at the ripe old age of 19, and was at least five or six years before that that he stopped sleeping beside me.  So it’s been a while, and I didn’t realize how much I missed being able to relax with a cat by my side.

Now, Oliver still has some nerves to work out, understandably.  My radiator makes some funny noises, and he hasn’t quite accepted the fridge.  But he reminds me of Solomon in several ways, and not just his looks.  He’s got a thoroughly sweet nature, and when he blinks in contentment and head-butts my hand so I’ll pet him, I’m reminded of all that’s best in life: unselfish love, and mutual contentment, and cat hair up my nose.

Wait, maybe not that last one.

Creeper.

Creeper.

In any case, I think we’re going to settle in nicely with each other.  I was a little worried about all the added responsibility before he got here – I will admit that I’ve never had to feed and scoop and groom and go to the vet all by myself before – but he doesn’t seem overly demanding about breakfast or the pan, and he’s relatively self-sufficient after spending the last year and a half alone in the basement of his (exceedingly nice and caring) foster home.  He does sit on the floor and stare at me for about 90% of his day, which is a little awkward when I’m getting dressed, but cats are natural stalkers, after all.

The minor increase in effort is completely worth the companionship, in any case, and I don’t mind it.  We’ll see how I handle the emotional investment when I need to go to work on Monday, or when I need to travel for a weekend and leave him in the hands of a sitter.  I’m hoping my separation anxiety won’t get the better of me.  But in any case, I’m so glad I finally decided to do this.

I will try not to become an overwhelmingly crazy cat lady.  But it’s possible that I won’t be able to help it for a while (if you don’t like cat pictures, you might want to unfollow me on Twitter).  If you have pets – cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, it doesn’t matter – you’ll understand.  It’s a fine thing to love an animal in need of a human’s care, and I would encourage the petless among you to try it.  Besides, it’s really hard to be a reclusive author and/or super villain without a cat.  You just don’t have the same amount of street cred.