Chapter 1: The Cat For Me
That was when I discovered that the cat was a shapeshifter. At first I suspected him to be a werecat. You know, a hominid that turns into a cat, perhaps by being bitten/scratched/enchanted by another werecat, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!
I’ve always thought that having chronic fatigue makes me the ideal cat owner, requiring as I do about sixteen hours sleep daily, broken into many “cat-naps”. Pan thought so too. It’s just one of the reasons he chose me as his human companion.
This was not because he also needed to sleep the day away; rather he wanted to be able to slip out, unseen, with me as his unsuspecting alibi. Not that he was ever up to anything nefarious. It was his duty, his mission, the very survival of his species!
When Pan and I first met he was cowering at the back of a box in the cattery whilst his kennel mates were doing all a cat can do to ingratiate themselves with a human. Plaintive meows, escalating purrs and much leg-rubbing from half a dozen felines, all vying for my attention! And then my first glimpse. Two big yellow eyes glowing from the box, fixed on me with a nervous curiosity.
“Who’s that hiding in the box?” I asked the owner of the re-homing centre, “His name’s Smoky. Not sure he’s really the cat for you! Never comes out of hiding when there are people around. He may end up becoming a permanent resident.” she replied. “What’s his story?” I said, still caught firmly in the beam of his gaze, “We can’t be certain, but he came to us after reports of a cat being tormented by this woman’s grandchildren and being locked out of the house for days on end. She handed him over to us quick enough! He’ll be an indoor cat, agoraphobia you know?”
It seemed as if he spoke to me then, through his eyes; all that pain, the loneliness, the desertion. I’ve been there too. It took doctors years to diagnose my illnesses. I was a pariah both at home and at school. I was in such pain and felt so let down by adults and professionals. After my diagnosis with Crohn’s my social circle quickly shrank! More desertion. More pain, both physical and emotional.
I cautiously approached the box, speaking softly with encouragement. Then he came to me. It was one of those moments that almost become frozen in time. Gently he touched his nose to mine and claimed me. “He’s most definitely the cat for me” I said, and that was that! Apart from a name change that is.
Have you ever pretended to still be asleep, to a family member, partner or pet? Except you weren’t, perhaps because you’re just too exhausted to interact? I know, it sounds awful and deceitful, but there are many times that I’m so fatigued I can barely open my eyes, yet my brain just won’t switch off. All I can do is lie down and try to get some kind of rest.
That particular afternoon I’d been stuck in bed for ages, sleeping on and off and suffering from the usual terrifying dreams. Pan had been tucked up beside me, providing some much-needed comfort. As was his norm, upon awaking he slunk up the bed and started to make a nest from the pillow around my head. This is one of the many subtle cat tricks used to rouse a sleeping human and garner some attention. Or food!
If my current state of fatigue is really bad I just can’t react to these prompts beyond, perhaps, a pathetic groan. After a short while he gave up and headed for his perch on the windowsill. He may not like being out in the big wide world but he certainly enjoys watching the world go by. That and growling at the pigeons!
That’s when I thought my dream-world had reclaimed me. The squeal of the hinge as the window creaked open, a rise in the ambient sounds of distant traffic, bird-song, children laughing together on the walk home from school. I struggled to open my eyes, raise my head and turn toward this fresh intrusion upon my rest.
And there was Pan, exiting the window!