Oct 09, 2014, 07:04AM

Cats and Change

He meows anytime he is not within a foot of me, unless he’s sleeping.

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My cat is eight years old. I've had him since he was a kitten, just a little ball of black fur with giant ears and giant paws. I adopted him with my then fiancé, just a short time before our wedding. The cat has witnessed every single change in my adult life. He’s seen relationships end, relationships begin and has moved with me five times. I often joke that my cat has abandonment issues.

He spent the first two years of his life living with my then-husband and me. We moved once in that time, from one apartment to another, a similarly sized place. But soon, my poor cat experienced his first abandonment. I left my husband and came out as a lesbian. My husband left within a week, moving most of his belongings in one day, leaving a mess behind in our apartment. My cat was confused, walking around the apartment meowing, looking in familiar places. Not even a week later, I went out of town for work, and left my new girlfriend to cat-sit. I think my cat thought I was never coming back. She told me that he was anxious, meowing and constantly needing physical contact. I can only assume that he thought the two people he had lived with all of his life were gone forever.

That particular girlfriend never really liked my cat. She complained about him being loud, meowing at all hours of the night, waking her up, while I slept through it, completely used to this behavior. He was sometimes mean to my other, timid, shy cat. He once tripped my girlfriend, causing her to fall into a corner and almost dislocate her shoulder. But no matter how little she liked him, he was pretty attached to her. She never officially lived with me, but was almost always at my apartment, and he was often sitting in her lap when I got home from work.

When we broke up, and she was no longer at my apartment, he seemed to have another case of abandonment anxiety. Again, he needed to be in physical contact all the time. He was always underfoot, following me around like he was afraid if I left his sight, I might never come back. He started some bad kitty habits, like chewing on plugged-in power cords, and eating way more than he needed. My friends and I joked that he was engaging in eating disorder behavior and self-injury.

The next woman I dated became my wife. She lived about an hour away, and when we first started seeing each other, she’d spend extended periods of time at my apartment, going home for a few days, and then coming back. My cat moved with me temporarily into my mother's basement, along with my other cat and my dog. My girlfriend and her cat also "lived" there most of the time. He struggled with the significant reduction in space and the addition of another cat. Two people, three cats and a Golden Retriever in what amounted to a studio apartment was a little crowded, and we quickly found a large apartment to move into.

After a few years in that apartment, I found a new job in my future wife's hometown. By that time, we’d gotten another kitten, who my cat educated on hunting bugs and wrestling. We packed up our belongings and moved an hour away. My cat spent some time adjusting to the new place, but overall didn't seem to have any problems.

After about a year, we had to put our dog to sleep. She’d been pretty sick, and we could no longer justify her suffering for our own desire to have her around. All of our cats had reacted to having a sick animal in different ways, from becoming clingy, to eating more or less. When one day we left with the dog and came back without her, they all continued their varied reactions. My cat again became somewhat confused, chewing cords and looking for her around the apartment. He recovered quickly, and was back to his old, cuddly but independent self.

Since that time, we also put my other, shy, timid cat, to sleep. My cat seemed to react to this in a similar way, becoming temporarily clingy but overall acting his normal self. We also got a puppy, who overwhelmed my cat at first, but they eventually became playmates, even though they did often ignore each other.

Recently, my wife and I split up. It wasn't as quick as my first divorce, and we spent about a month dividing time in our shared apartment. When she was there, I’d stay with a friend. When I was there, she stayed at her mother’s house. My cat was a little confused, but overall he didn't react much.

Last week, I officially moved out of the apartment and into the second bedroom of a friend's two-bedroom house. I’ve decided not to let my cat into the rest of the house, for various and unimportant reasons. But of our four pets, I took only my cat, that I've had for over seven years. He’s needed to adjust to a small bedroom as his only space. He no longer has two other cats and a dog to play with when no people are home.

He doesn’t have my wife of less than a year, girlfriend of five. He no longer has our roommate. He’s confused and anxious. My new roommate tells me that he meows almost non-stop whenever I’m not home. When I am home, if I’m not in my bedroom, I can hear him meowing. If I’m sitting, he’s next to me or in my lap. He sleeps at my feet, something he stopped doing years ago. He meows anytime he is not within a foot of me, unless he’s sleeping.

I know he’ll adjust like he always has. He must be confused, wondering why he’s suddenly alone with me, something that he’s never experienced. I know he is a cat, and I can't explain things to him with words. And I know that on some level, I am placing my own feelings of being lost, lonely and confused onto him. He's been through it all with me, and I know he’ll be fine, just like I know I’ll be fine. After we've both had time to adjust. 


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