The Story of a Cat
I’d wanted a dog, but life had other plans for me.
November 3rd, 2017
On a very ordinary day in 2011 a stray calico cat walked into a pub in London. She looked a bit worse for wear and nobody had clue where she’d come from, but she hopped up onto a bar stool and decided to stay. Over the years she became a fixture in the pub, though she didn’t like being picked up and was reportedly “a bit sniffy around women”. She’d come and go as she pleased and remained an independent little soul.
Earlier this year the pub got flooded during a night of torrential rain and had to close its doors. Over the last few months it’s been refurbished, transforming it from a pub into a groovy new bar with a brand new name to boot. It’s yet to reopen, however, and there’s been no extra staff or punters for the cat to hang out with.
And so it was on Friday September 22nd 2017 that the little calico cat decided to climb through an open bathroom window and take a nap under a bed. My bed. I was getting dressed for a date when she announced her presence with a meow and sauntered across my bedroom floor. She did a lap of the house, sniffing and rubbing against everything before jumping up on my lap for a cuddle. I dutifully made a Instagram story of this furry surprise and pondered: “Perhaps the universe is telling me to get a cat?”
Six weeks later she’s still here. Each week the trust between us grows as I’ve unravelled her story layer by layer and let her into my home and heart. I never dared to think she could be mine and even though I now understand she’s basically the Littlest Hobo, she is still her own (feline) person. Nevertheless, she’s here 90% of the time so I’m now feeding her, about to buy some flea drops and relaxing (a tiny bit) into the fact that she seems to want to stay. I haven’t officially spoken to the pub landlord yet but I’m guessing that the fact she’s always done her own thing, and is seen in the yard most days, tells them she’s okay. With so much upheaval happening this year I imagine she got lonely and wanted somewhere warm to hang. Maybe she needs a quieter more predictable home as she’s getting older — I’ll never know for sure.
So it seems I have a housemate. Her name (for now) is simply Cat because to call her anything else would be to try to own her and that doesn’t feel right to me. Every time she goes outside I wonder if she’ll come back, and every time she comes back it’s like Christmas morning. It’s a constant reminder to practice non-attachment. All I want to do is hold her tiny paws and say, “Promise me you’ll never leave! You’re here for good, yes? Are you mine? Are you? ARE YOU REALLY?” But I can’t. And I’m reminded of every time I’ve held on to something or someone out of the fear I’d lose them. And we all know how effective THAT is. There was that one day a few weeks back when she didn’t show up at all and I mournfully looked out the window for her before checking out the Cats Protection League website. But since then she seems to have settled in even more, with her going from sleeping under the bed for four weeks to now sleeping ON the bed and in the bathroom (underfloor heating!) and anywhere else she feels cosy. We’ve got a routine!
I’m surrendering to this cat and giving her a home and I’m surrendering to the fact that she may leave at any time. I plan to move house next year so whether she will factor into that, I don’t know. So much is unknown! But I do know this: I’m currently 50% less productive but 98% more content. Everything I own is covered in white cat hair and right now she is snoring on my bed (right in the middle, leaning against my pillows). There’s another heartbeat in the house and it all suddenly makes sense.
November 17th, 2017
I finally plucked up the courage to talk to the pub owner last week and he was really nice about it all and seemed unconcerned that she was spending her time here. I don’t think he quite realises HOW much time she spends here — she’s practically moved in — but for now everything is friendly and above board. I’ve been wondering if perhaps her age is a factor in her wanting a quieter life with me over the rowdier energy of a pub. She certainly seems to be relishing the predictable routine of my days. Perhaps it’s in her nature to go from home to home because she started out as a stray, I don’t know. She spends all day sleeping on my bed, very graciously tolerating my frequent visits, then comes downstairs in the early evening for dinner and snuggles. At night she’s in and out the house like a yoyo. As always I keep the bathroom window open so she can do as she pleases. My most favourite sound in the world is the gentle duh-dum as she jumps down from the window ledge.
December 12th, 2017
Guess who got to meet the vet today! We had a home visit as I felt that would be much calmer for her — she is a healthy weight with no fleas or lumps and bumps. Eyes are NOT infected (I was concerned) just a bit of discharge I can gently clean away when she needs it. Teeth and gums all healthy. Lungs sound clear, heartbeat strong. I’m feeding her the right amount of food. Flea/worming drops administered. Discovered she DOESN’T have a microchip. Still need to have another chat with the pub landlord about me officially taking over as her owner but for now, we’re good.
June 15th, 2018
This week I discovered the pub owner has sold up and moved away, which means she is officially mine!
The day before I found out I’d had her microchipped (she was such a champ!) but to have this bit of news has made my heart so happy. I’d decided after eight months of her living here — and no word from the pub — she was effectively mine but now I can see it’s all worked out in such a harmonious way. According to the grapevine the pub owner had been ready to move on to other ventures for some time and I’m sure not having to worry about the cat must have helped. So in the end he got his freedom, Cat got her forever human and I found my furry soulmate.
The last few days she has been extra affectionate with me and I wonder if perhaps she can tell something’s changed. I think I’ve finally exhaled now that I know for sure that I’m not doing something wrong by taking on someone else’s cat. My love for this small creature is as great as my love for my family. She IS my family.
June 29th 2018
And just like that we are now in our new house.
June 15th 2022
Over the last four years we’ve made the house into our home. She’s snuggled up to me while I’ve nursed romantic disappointments and dragged myself through burnout and the joys of perimenopause. Heck, we got through an entire pandemic together!
I did not think she — Baba, for that became her name — would be with me forever. I know she’s a cat whose age we could never know for sure, but I’d hoped we would have longer than we’ll get. At the end of April I noticed a lump on her lower belly. In the space of two weeks we got a referral to a veterinary hospital, a CT scan, a cancer diagnosis and big surgery to remove the tumour, lymph nodes and one strip of mammary glands. I stayed up for a week to stop her chewing the stitches that ran from her chest to her groin as she refused to keep a bodysuit on, and forget about the cone of shame. She’s a calico through and through.
It’s been an incredibly anxious time, only for us to come out the other end with confirmation that the cancer has spread and she has six months to live, if we are lucky. I thought I’d shed all my tears in May, but no, there are still plenty more. We are living in a sacred liminal space and every morning I hold my breath until I’ve assessed how she’s doing. For now she is doing well, but how long that will last I do not know.
Her climbing through the bathroom window in September 2017 was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m so grateful we have a little bit more time left even in my devastation. I’ve lived every day with her so presently, so consciously, but now it’s gone into overdrive.
She is a deeply loved cat.
She is my Baba.