By Sonia Mariam Thomas Oct. 22, 2021
In an age, especially one ravaged by the pandemic, where human relationships have become harder to hold and keep my cat has anchored my otherwise unhinged life, by simply becoming the subject of my love and care.
It’s 11.45 pm on a Tuesday night and I’m staring out the window of our ground floor apartment, waiting for her. I am covered in sweat and my heart is starting to feel the heaviness of anxiety set in. Cats, unlike us, have a mind and a map of their own. Where they wander is none of our business and as I have learned the hard way, never will be.
Rani, like her name, rules this house. She decides when she walks in and when she doesn’t. Over time she has also come to rule a bit of my life, anchoring it in times of crises and existential dread.
I discovered Rani as a stray in our neighbourhood. She stayed with me for a day, and as is her personality, disappeared the next morning on a whim. I have seen and dismissed multiple calls for adoption over the years. I didn’t have the heart to raise something that would leave me someday.
If my love is everlasting, why can’t the object of my love last forever too? It didn’t make sense. It was almost a commitment I was bound to end up losing. It was the same with Rani. Until she showed up again a few months later. On her own Feline Standard Time.
I didn’t have the heart to raise something that would leave me someday.
It’s strange now that I think of it, that I was so afraid to attach myself to an animal who is stereotyped as a non-committal asshole. An animal who wants to destroy your furniture and eat your food. And that’s usually why people are told to not pick cats as pets over dogs, don’t they? Cats don’t care. But the fact that gets you, and is perhaps the reason why I fell in love with Rani, was that she made me care.
We live in an age of social dissonance, relationships that have become extensions of social media chats. There is little that can be felt or remembered, which means I have been inured not just to the concept of expecting love and care, but also giving it. All that was changed by this purry little friend who came from nowhere and changed my life.
As I spent time alone in the pandemic, every day became a pursuit of the moment she’d jump onto the grill of my window and meowed for me. Having her as part of my routine gave me a reason to wake up every morning. She didn’t have to spend all her time in the same room as me, but knowing she was in the house made it easier to get through the day as I took breaks to pet her or disturb her nap. It’s almost as if she became my purpose in a time when everyone was striving to look for one – other than basic survival.
It’s strange now that I think of it, that I was so afraid to attach myself to an animal who is stereotyped as a non-committal asshole.
In July 2020, we had spent enough time together for a normal pet parent to have noticed that she was quite visibly pregnant. A cat pregnancy lasts only 60 days. I was in denial for at least 40 of those, even as I prepared for her to sleep in the laundry basket that she would eventually give birth in. I decided to live in denial because accepting the truth meant getting attached.
On the day of her delivery, she came home heaving and exhausted. From 12 pm that afternoon to 10 pm, I watched over her and her children. Worried that I was going to fuck this up. As I wiped her with a warm cloth after her delivery, she held my hand with her two paws and licked me. I’d like to think she was trying to thank me.
In April of this year, at the cusp of the second wave, Rani didn’t show up at my window for over a day. This wasn’t unusual. She’d leave for more than a day, sometimes, leaving me in a spiral because she was too busy having fun. I could have lived without the anxiety. But the joy of having her home made me forget why I was worried at all.
It’s perhaps the anxiety the lust for her companionship that makes our bond stronger. Even when she pisses me off, she is only pulling me closer to her. Except for the time she got stuck on the balcony of a third-floor apartment only to be rescued by firefighters.
It’s almost as if she became my purpose in a time when everyone was striving to look for one – other than basic survival.
Every time Rani has gone missing from my life, I have, I have had her return by just wishing her back. It’s a cycle at times, but it is one that remains there, ever-present with all its twists and turns, like a constant. It’s the one that I look forward to in an unpredictably volatile world that is increasingly becoming harder to predict and live through.
If the pandemic has done anything it has made me care for Rani even more than ever before. During these two tough years, when everyone needed help I found my peace in caring for her, fearing for her and waiting to see her grow, come back to me after she leaves. It’s almost as if she leaves me, just so she can come back home to me. And I chase her so she can do it again and again. We crave reunions, both of us, and I am glad we create that moment to look forward to, together.
Sonia is a writer who doesn't write as much as she wishes to. When she is not working for the internet, she is spending time on it anyway because that's where she was meant to be.