A lot of writers have cats. That wasn’t my reason. I’d always wanted one, you see. Or, maybe, I’d wanted the idea of one. Anyway …
Like they say, the cat chose me. I’d been set on getting a Ragdoll or Scottish Fold or Russian Blue or something. A cat with title. Instead, I got Otto.
We hadn’t expected to get a cat that day. At least, I hadn’t. Visiting the shelter had been a surprise but I was very aware of the current inmates they were housing as I was in the habit of liking the many photos they shared on their social media pages. I was also in the habit of tagging my boyfriend in aforementioned photos. He got the hint. I had talked, liked photos and generally been a pain in the ass about a sweet, pretty, delicate, princess of a cat called Delia and I was finally going to meet her. We met. I felt nothing. Delia felt nothing. I thought that was that. Until we almost walked right past Ulysses. Like his namesake, he had clearly been on quite a journey. Ulysses had an injured ear; someone or something had taken a good chunk out of the top of it. Ulysses was huge. Ulysses filled his little cage. Ulysses had a cool name. He was proud and made eye contact and never felt the need to perform.
He kept on staring. So, I gave in and met him and that was it. We knew. He knew. I knew. The moment he stepped out of his cage. The moment the shelter volunteer picked him so easily despite his hefty size. He was huge, even bigger outside the cage.
We went away to think about it but not really think about and came back and said yes. Sign us up.
He came home.
We called him Otto because Ulysses didn’t have the greatest ending, really. And we wanted him to realise his travelling days were done; no more epic journeys, no more ear-biting-crusades, no more Helens to save. He had retired to a life as an indoor cat because he had to. They said that would be fine. But nobody asked Otto.
When I was teenager I wanted a kitten. Desperately. I was anxious and miserable at high school. I had this dream that a kitten could help all that. A cat would understand. Just as Mum finally gave in to the idea, I backed off. The idea, the dream, of a kitten was easier than reality – maybe? Or maybe I just got scared. What if it didn’t work out? What if I wasn’t quite ready, quite yet, to be a cat owner? What if it didn’t like me? What if … So, it just didn’t happen.
I tried the cat thing again, in my late 20s; supposedly happily married and ready to take the plunge into pet ownership with my supposedly solid relationship as a foundation. It had been eight years, three nearly four of marriage, of course we were ready. We named her Scout because of the book and hipsters weren’t naming their kids that yet. But he discovered a cat was too much commitment too soon and found someone else. They now have a baby with an incredibly hipster name and undeniably big expectations to fulfil – clearly, this child must grow up to front an alternative/indie/pop/rock band with such a name. Somehow, he left me but I moved out and Scout stayed. There was no talk of custody. I didn’t fight the decision.
So. Cat Attempt Number Three. Here I am. A woman on the wrong side of thirty, as I have been so delicately told, once again wondering … is this the right time for a cat? If I don’t do this now, will I ever do it? Will my lifestyle change too much? I mean, no more jumping on a plane for a spontaneous weekend in Sydney. Not like that ever happened. Not once. Although it could. As non-cat owners it could happen. We had that option, that choice. Is our relationship stable enough yet, it has only been three years (zero of that marriage): To share the responsibility of cat could be, I don’t know, a big step. It could change so much …
And yet …
There we were. Bringing Ulysses-now-Otto home. To our home. We hid the delicate artworks that adorned the mantle. We paid far too much for a bit of carpet stuck on a wooden post which doesn’t much our furniture whatsoever. We bought toys which scatter over the floor and trip us up.
We don’t get a good night’s sleep.
We don’t stay out too late.
We clean up poop and furballs and pick cat fur from our black pants and sweaters and sweep and vacuum like we have OCD.
We consider how we could go away and where we could leave him overnight or for a few days and we read blogs and forums about other cat owners.
We learn what his different meows mean and what he is communicating by the shape his tail makes or the position of his ears.
We say how cute, whilst he is sleeping.
And still, I wonder, have I done the right thing? Is this the right decision? It’s too late to change my mind now. When I attempt to get him to stop scratching at the mirror (why the goddamn mirror?) at 3am or crying incessantly at 4.30am or leaping on my pillow only ten minutes before my alarm goes off … But it is too late now. We love him. The commitment has been made. And our lives are, probably, better for it.