Friday, May 03, 2013

Why to be cat people

Or pet people. Why would anyone voluntarily become someone who spends nights out looking at their watch because they have to be back to walk the dog or who suddenly can’t just go away for the weekend because the cat won’t feed itself?

The answer for me is that within the next 15 years or so, Fortran will die. And a big part of me will die too. That’s why people have pets: because in no time at all they become as big a part of your life as anything else.

It became almost impossible to imagine A World Without Fortran less than an hour after she moved in. She’s a strange cat. She purred contentedly all the way home from Blue Cross in her carrier (and still likes going in there, even after some trips to the vet involving needles)  but was very nervous and upset when we let her out. At first, she was weird about food and space. From what the Blue Cross staff said, I think she’d been neglected by her previous owners. She was rather small for her age, underweight and nervous about unexpected things.  For instance, she constantly begged for food then wouldn’t eat it when anyone was watching.

And then over the last year, she changed. She became happy. She became satisfied with her life like only a cat really can.  She still has some odd habits. She won’t eat food unless it’s in really small pieces. She loves bacon but I gave her a bit the other day and she wouldn’t eat it because it was slightly too big. When I tore it in half, she ate both halves without a thought. She has developed crazy rituals which become increasingly elaborate over time. She has one particular toy (annoyingly, a candy cane with a Christmas tree tied on with a bit of elastic) which she drags around the house like it’s her kitten. Recently, she’s started dragging it into our room at some point in the night. When I get up, I close the door and Fortran waits until Liz wakes up then bounds up to get her toy. She used to leave it on the landing so she could get it whenever she wanted, but for some reason denying herself access to it for a little slice of the day has become important to her, I don’t know why.

So she has issues, but I wouldn’t want a cat that didn’t. But this is the point: we’ve been able to create an environment for this creature which has made it become happy. And doing that was a joy. Changing our lives to accommodate the damn thing was the opposite of a chore, in the end. When a cat goes from nervous because it was mistreated to bold because it feels comfortable, the amount of good in the world has just increased.

Fortran has her own room (ffs, she even has her own sofa). But she has gradually annexed two other rooms and treats those as her own too. It’s like she has her own flat inside our house. We just clean it and stock it with food.

She’s part of our lives. Like the lines between the pieces of a jigsaw. And our lives will never be the same because of that.

So tell me again why you aren’t a cat person.

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