is a dish best served…….. with an enormous side order of abject panic.
Three weeks ago I took delivery of a tiny kitten. I rescued him from a refuge/foster home after seeing him on the Facebook page, and after some weeks deliberating the pros (and many cons) of having a pet in a small flat in the city.
Like most big decisions in my life, I stopped incessantly yacking inside my own head and pushed the button on a message I wrote in the spur of the moment, the minute I saw him. It was a bit like the time I decided to get divorced, the time I decided to buy a house in Liverpool, moving from London after eight years, and moving to Barcelona…… a random thought made actual within the space of a couple of weeks. As is my form – two weeks later Merlin, the artist formerly know as Gio/Cat, came to stay. Ok, ok, I know it’s not like having a child or getting a mortgage, but for this PANK, flying solo since 2000 – it’s a pretty big deal.
And in the first week it’s true to say, I experienced every one of the following emotions:
Profound panic. What on earth did I do? What was I thinking, taking on a living, breathing creature!? I am solely responsible for keeping him alive and happy now. My flat is small and there is no way he can go anywhere. But when I can’t find him immediately I call him, I stress that I will have to call the refuge to explain that, within only three weeks, I have indeed lost/broken/killed the cat. The first night he arrived, I panicked when I could hear him mewing from the lounge ( his sleepy time room). Resisting the urge to take him out, remembering the cross I’d made for myself with the boxer puppy my ex-husband and I took custody of a gazillion years ago, when I allowed him to sleep with me the first night he cried all night. That clingy dependency never left Chester the boxer dog. I left Merlin to cry…….. despite feeling a mountain of guilt.
Guilt. Literally every. Waking. Moment. Guilt for controlling food portions, guilt for going back to bed after rising to feed him at the weekend. Guilt for sneezing because I’m mildly allergic to him. (I am in fact allergic to most animals, so why I would do that to myself, god only knows.) Guilt for not allowing him in the bedroom – see previous. Guilt for the stern voice I apply in attempting to train him that ripping my hand to shreds when I’m stroking him, is not OK. Guilt for not stroking/petting him enough because of the hand ripping. Guilt for ignoring him while I’m working. See also: reading, cooking, painting.
Warmth of heart I’d forgotten was possible. I find myself often idly scrolling through the gazillion photos I already have of him, smiling to myself, fondly referring to him as ‘dickhead’ in my mind, while enjoying the tingly feeling I can only assume is love; looking at his daft face. And it’s just so lovely when he wakes up or comes to greet me when I arrive after work, when he’s still dozy from sleep and feeling affectionate. There are nose-boops, love-mewings (usually when it’s time for breakfast or dinner, but I’ll take what’s available), and snuggles on the sofa. All be it after a couple of hours of post dinner zoomies. That’s when he makes me laugh the most. He’s a maniac; tearing round the flat, attacking the scratch pole and falling and skidding off and along things. For a cat, he’s really not that agile.
Resignation. As Marc Maron once said: “What? Now I gotta love you too?” A cat can live for more than twenty years, and I sincerely hope Merlín does. I can imagine his sassy character developing as he grows. So he’s basically with me for the long haul, my little funny, furry partner in crime. I did it, I bit the bullet of responsibility and now need to care for something other than myself for a couple of decades. I’m resigned to that fact. In a kind of happy, ‘wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m so glad I did it’ way……