Covid-19 Confinement and a 19-Year-Old Cat: An Ode

You do not not fall in love just because they haven’t got that long to live. I am hopelessly falling in love with a 19-year-old cat who lives at my lodging. I am a sucker for love.

This morning, exactly one moon cycle after I moved in, I felt ‘it.’ The emotional attachment I am developing for this beautiful creature. This came with a pang of pain, a memory-induced dread for the inevitable consequence of having a family pet. Separation by death that eventually comes, which I am never ready for.

Her name is Aurora. My landlord says, ‘she only understands Welsh.’ She meows at me (possibly in Welsh), looks me in the eyes inquisitively, follows me down the wooden stairs and up to the attic where I’ve set up my office. She is sleeping behind me now, in the sunniest patch on the floor. Yesterday afternoon she was in the corner amongst bits and pieces builders had left, snoring.

I know there’s ‘something’ going on in Aurora too. I would be too self-indulgent to assume it’s love. Then again, why else would she drag her frail arthritic body up and down a slippery staircase following me? She doesn’t let me carry her though. That’s what I love about cats. They are fiercely independent.

The first week I was here, she sneaked into my room and stained my white linen with blood weeping from a sore next to her nose. I scrubbed that off, lovingly. Reminded me of the times I hand-washed my son’s soiled underpants during his toilet training. Come to think of it, when I came to view this house, I did smell a whiff of cat wee. Old cats have ‘accidents’ too.

Animal friends are extremely reassuring to me when my life is flying through an emotional turbulence. For them nothing ever really changes, apart from the occasional visits to the vet, or fireworks perhaps. I find the same comfort in birds and insects out in the garden, even that coughing sheep over the fence. They are there, going about their everyday things, like there is no pandemic in the world. When I was still afraid of flying, I used to watch flight attendants for reassurance during a flight. They seemed to completely ignore the fact that the plane was rocking, with confident air about them, even joking with their colleagues sometimes.

I’ve had a couple of friends tell me of a ‘shaman dog’ they’ve met on retreats. These loving beings know when people are having wobbles, in worse cases, having a ‘bad trip’ during an ayahuasca ceremony. They come and sit by the person and just be there for them. They don’t say anything (obviously), they just sit and be, accepting the whole of our humanity, freak-outs and all. Pretty much all dogs I’ve met are like that, in fact. When I’m down, they’d put a paw on my lap, and look at me with those knowing eyes.

I suddenly realise that’s what Aurora is doing with me, while keeping an appropriate distance for an independent cat. I realise also that she is respecting the independent woman front I’m putting up, something that I am hoping to grow into.

Now, if that’s not love, what is?

‘What greater gift than the love of a cat.’
― Charles Dickens