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One more time with feeling


I’d intended to change my life this year, all of it, to yank my life out by the roots, leaving nothing standing, to start over from scratch, in fact, but I got a cat instead.

It was enough.

My house, you know it was a coffin. Since Astro’s come here, two weeks ago – so hard to believe just two weeks – I’ve opened up the curtains. Let in light. Dusted rooms I never use. I’ve picked up paper clips from dark corners, and thumb tacks, and gift cards, old packets of cold medicine, spare change, the tops from contact lens cases, and those little plastic things you shove into collars of dress shirts to keep them sharp and straight.

It was a lot.

I did it for the cat.

Still I wound up saying, “Hey! What do you have? What are you eating?” A lot. Practically all the time. Way more often than I’d have believed possible.

I was sitting in my rocking chair Friday night and I was reading a book with my feet propped up on the bed. It was typical. And I had gotten to the part of the book where Angela Carter is finally successful and she’s selling books and has a kid and is winning prizes but she gets inoperable cancer and that’s when Astro came over to me. This cat came over to me, you see, crossed over from the bed using my legs like a sort of bridge, sauntered right up my stomach and my chest, then nestled his head up into my neck and proceeded to purring. He was so warm.

Well, I burst into bawling. I don’t know why. It was ridiculous.

I did not cry when my grandfather died. I did not cry when Jamie left. I did not cry when my father had a stroke.

After years of emotional distance – distance even from myself, whom I cannot get away from despite considerable effort – it was ridiculous, unacceptably so, that I found myself crying at the touch of a housecat I’d known barely two weeks and who, let us face it, was probably only trying to determine could he eat me. This troubled me. I set to thinking about it.

Finally what I came to was this: My defense mechanisms, which were good defense mechanisms, well-honed and entirely subconscious as it were, knew that caring for a cat held less emotional risk for me than would caring about life and death. Success and failure. Romantic love. All the biggies.

So it was that I’d allowed myself to cry about a cat snuggling.

Or perhaps I was just over-thinking the whole thing.

At any rate, Astro celebrated my emotional breakthrough by going downstairs and dumping a 26-pound bag of kitty litter into the bathroom sink.

It was a whole new world. 

Comments

  1. I feel happy for u and astro.oh really pets r a great stress buster and unlike humans they make us feel the thing called love.i love this post.especially the line where u say u have not cried when Jamie left.it's great that cat changed ur life as u r a highly aloof person before

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    1. Hi, Arun! Well, so far so good with Astro. I am told I am behaving a lot less crazy than normal, so I'll consider the new cat to be a win for me.

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  2. From what I've heard, cats don't always take to their humans, looks like you passed the test.

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    1. My ex had a couple cats who, like Astro, had been taken away from their mothers too soon but ended up a lot more lingering issues. One was afraid of all people and the other was overly aggressive. I'm lucky that Astro seems to adjust pretty easily.

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    1. Oops, I screwed that one up. Try again:
      Be careful:
      I'm on my second cat in this iteration of my existence. Hadn't had a pet since the cats I had when I was nineteen.
      Moved into this place in '16 and there was already a cat here. Before I knew what was up, the cat was napping on a box next to this chair and occasionally sauntering across this keyboard and stepping on the "airplane mode" button, following me around the back yard as I walked the laps I walk every day, and napping on my bed while I was sleeping.
      Then one day she was gone.
      "Has anyone seen Kitters today?"
      That was July.
      You know those "lost cat" posters you sometimes see? We made those posters with Kitters' picture on them. We know all of our neighbors now.

      It was just before Halloween when the black cat wandered into the back yard and began meowing until Briana went to investigate.
      He was skinny then, but is sorta plump now, and curled up napping on the black chair behind the drum.
      He seems somewhat braver than Kitters, who used to scramble into the storage loft in the garage whenever Zsuzs brought her big, goofy, pit bull over for a visit. The black cat usually just climbs onto the back of the couch and watches the dog intently, but I did catch them sniffing each other's noses when we weren't looking.
      Having a cat around has been one of the best parts of this already very good situation. He has left claw marks in John's furniture, and vomited a couple of times in inconvenient places, and he will most likely wander off some day, the same way he wandered up, but while he's here, I love him.

      -Doug in Oakland

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    2. Astro doesn't seem like an escape artist so far. Jamie had a cat who wandered off and never came back when she lived with me, and it was frustrating. I kept wanting to continue looking for the cat (even though he was an awful cat) because it felt wrong to give up.

      I hope your black cat sticks around for a while. If he's okay with a pit bull, he's probably got the right temperament to be a long-term companion.

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  4. Aww bless so Harry is smitten with Astro, and Astro seems to be smitten with Harry too. Now I miss our cats. I'm glad you have him in your life and your heart.

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    1. I'm almost embarrassed by how simple and cliche this was. I mean, middle-aged bachelor. Lives alone and keeps to himself a lot. Has a cat who seems to be the only one he can connect with emotionally. Oh well.

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  5. The joys of animal companionship. Simple love with simple conditions, perfect for the weary mind. This is a super comfy post. (:

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    1. Haha... I'd had a couple "What did I just read?"-type posts back-to-back, so if nothing else, this varied things up.

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  6. My Coco, a tux like Astro, is very compassionate and caring. Yesterday, when I was in bed with a cold, she spent the entire day on my chest, purring. Possibly she was just trying to steal my body heat AND induce me to get up and giver her some treats though.

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    1. I've been accused of being manipulative, so I can recognize a good manipulator when I see one. Cats are master manipulators. I'm pretty much okay with that, though.

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  7. That was beautiful, my man. Damn near made me cry, too.

    Looks like all you needed to change your life, to yank it out by the roots, to start over from scratch, was Astro. The simplest things can make us reexamine everything else. Absolutely stirring. Thank you, Harry!

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    1. Hi, Tom. The truth is, I probably need to do more to change things than just get the cat. But it's a sign for me that little steps can make a big difference. It seems like some other people have been able to relate!

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  8. He looks a lot like our bad good boy Rocky.....seems he's found the key to your heart. Once that doors been opened who knows what else will walk on in. Tears, by the way, are good for the soul. They are cleansing.

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    1. I have an internet friend in Chicago I was talking to a while back and I mentioned I was probably emotionally closed off.

      "I haven't cried in six years," I said at the time. How often do normal people cry?"

      "I cry every day," he responded.

      "Well, that just sounds like you might be a little..." I searched for a term that didn't make me sound like a jerk... "weepy."

      But maybe crying more than once a decade might be a sign of good mental health?

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  9. I'm glad that my operative Astro has arrived in your home and is now engaged in training you properly. Relinquish your will and submit. Serve Astro unquestioningly. You will be happier, human. Now go buy some cat treats.

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    1. Ha! Astro pretty much has the run of the house at this point. I don't use my ground floor very often (just the kitchen) and Astro uses ALL of the house. I'm not sure how a cat can get this spoiled in two weeks...

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  10. I love this post. I know exactly how you feel. I can't imagine life without a cat. I tell mine everything. Like, bare my soul to this creature. She's my companion during the day while the wife is gone and I'm left to stew on a brain melting project that's working me to the bone, so sometimes it's nice to vent. Especially when your conversational partner can't vent back, and is just happy to hear you talk.

    She's even got her own office chair next to mine, because she likes to give me advice throughout the day.

    https://i.imgur.com/FpqSxtO.jpg

    I didn't say it was good advice.

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    1. That is a good-looking cat.

      Be careful about the advice cats give. I know a guy who lost his life's savings by taking a cat's advice about how to invest. Big mistake.

      Also, they never should have let Toonses drive.

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  11. My cat, my psychiatrist. That's why I have ten. Or they have me to do their bidding. I guess it's a symbiotic relationship and it seems to work for all of us. Especially during nap time.

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    1. When I lived with my ex, she consistently had a lot of pets. I noticed that two cats seemed like a lot more than 100% more cats than 1. I can't imagine 10. I imagine they would completely seize control of the house and enslave the population.

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  12. Awww Harry! This is so precious! Animals are smart, especially cats! That little video is so cute! Does Astro not meow yet?

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    1. Hi, Stacy! He meows but not very loud. The noise in the video is his hunting noise, apparently, which uses when he sees a bird outside or when I turn on the laser pointer.

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  13. Had a couple of pets growing up. Then tried having a dog when starting out as a new family - didn't work - gave the dog away. Many years later with our last child we got a dog. It worked. She became part of the family then in her old dog age passed away. Never had a cat. I don't want another dog. But we have two "grand" dogs so if I really feel like walking a dog it's possible. They (people who publish studies?) say pets increase your health and lifespan. I don't have any cat advice except stock up on cat liter.

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    1. I live in an urban townhouse with no real front or backyard, and a dog would be tough. I see people walking up and down the streets with plastic bags over their hands to clean up after their dog and I don't know whether I'd be up for it.

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  14. Never had a cat while I was a kid. Really didn't care much for them until my wife brought home a kitten. Over the space of three months the kitten sort of adopted me and we've been best friends since.

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    1. That's cool. I never thought I was a cat person, either, but when my ex had them, they seemed less... needy than dogs. Little did I know I'd stumble on a kitten that acts more like a monkey than a cat.

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  15. Cats are magic. And yes, eating you was probably in the cat's menu. So the tears were completely justified.

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    1. I'm hoping that he considers me too big and potentially dangerous for a few more years. Byt the time he's old, though, I'm going to be old, so at some point, I might start to seem like a winnable fight to him.

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    2. Every ill, or failing entity - is target for predators.

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    3. I'm generally armed with a laser pointer, so I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

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  16. Yes, in my case it's two giant dogs, but I know exactly what you mean.

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    1. I''ve seen the pictures!

      I didn't really grow up around a lot of house pets (we had turtles and a parakeet), and Jamie's cats were pretty awful, so this is sort of new for me.

      I could get used to it, though.

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    2. Never underestimate felines - they are out there - roaming the country side - communicating with mmmmmm's. purrrrrrs, scrrrTTTch, and 'eye power'.

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  17. Astro looks like a lovely feline. My own cat, Raven, had some issues but she's become very cuddly now that she's on "calming" food. She likes to get under the covers and tuck up next to either Ken or me. I'd like to think she loves us, but she's probably just cold. Here's to cuddly kitties! (mydangblog)

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    1. Haha. I have discovered that i can't even tell the difference between actual care and dependency in humans, so there's little hope for my ever telling the difference in cats.

      When my ex lived here, she had a cat that went through calming food, then calming air fresheners, and then finally was put on female hormones to keep him from trying to kill me.

      That's my experience with cats. I'm on a bit of a learning curve right now.

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  18. I once had a cat. Once was enough for me. I'm not going to own anymore pets as long as I live in an urban environment.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I've never been big on pets. But I've lived alone for 6 years now and I read that cats and dogs are supposed to improve people's outlook. I'm giving it a try!

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  19. To borrow a line from "Casablanca": I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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    1. Hi, Mr. Shife! So far so good, for the most part. We've had an incident with a bag of kitty litter this week, and another involving my bamboo plant, but I'm chocking it up to beginner's mistake. Me being the beginner here, not poor Astro.

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  20. So the house really did need baby proofing. So much more intense than a Spring cleaning.

    Cat's aren't like boa constrictors. They don't measure you for fit when they are thinking about eating you. They flick their tails. I base this on when my cats are most likely to bite.

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    1. I'm having a very steep learning curve. The house has never been spo clean, and he's STILL walking up to me with mystery dust on him. Plus I haven't figured out how to interpret cat tail movements but I know that when I do, I'll know exactly what he's thinking at all times.

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    2. It's like living with toddlers. It's not so much that they learn your language as that your learn theirs.

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    3. He's definitely training me more than I'm training him, so that would make sense.

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    4. Only fur babies never grow out of it.

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  21. I came here from Joey's pad. My husband's cat saved his life. He was alone and drinking heavily because he was sad/angry/lonely. The neighbor girls found a half dead scrap of a kitten and he took it in, fed it, nursed it, cared for it. This was before I met my husband. He loves that cat, actually he loves all animals but I believe it's the cat that saved his life, not the other way around.

    And now, I have a sober, happy husband and a cat that adores him.

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    1. Hi, Lily. I believe that. I read up on having animals quite a bit before taking in Astro, and they're really able to make a difference for a lot of people. I've lived alone for a long time and have probably needed something to take care of and a reason to keep the house clean.

      I know not everyone responds in the same way to having a cat around, but stories like your husband's give me some hope...

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  22. You haven't lived until you've lived with a cat who just decided to stop using his litter box for urinating and to empty his bladder on your bath mats, instead.

    Every. Fucking. Night. That'll make you cry when you sit down at the toilet in your bare feet.

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  23. You haven't lived until you've lived with a cat who just decided to stop using his litter box for urinating and to empty his bladder on your bath mats, instead.

    Every. Fucking. Night. That'll make you cry when you sit down at the toilet in your bare feet.

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