The long boring one, about my cat!
Sasha was never the cat I would have picked.
He was one of two cats owned by the previous owner of our house. I had a complicated relationship with his owner. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t pre-disposed to welcome into my life things that were his. When he left, he left behind two cats — Sasha and Souma.
Sasha and Souma were siblings, big, black bruisers, neurotic and awkward, and I did not want them. We tried for months to find new homes for them.
Kittens are easy to get rid of. Adult cats, less so. Especially when you’re hard-pressed to explain why somebody should want to take them. They weren’t beautiful. They weren’t well socialized. They tried to be affectionate, but more often than not failed in ways that were more annoying than cute. I found them both unloveable, and managed to convey that to everybody we offered them to.
Souma, in particular, had the unfortunate habit of peeing when she was nervous. Since she was nervous all the time, this led to constant “accidents”. We decided to try her as an “outdoor” cat, and within a week, a neighbour had adopted her. We found flyers all about the neighbourhood, declaring a “pleasant”, “loveable” black cat found, inexplicably with her photo. If they found her loveable, we weren’t about to disabuse them of the notion. Of any notion. They’ve had her for almost 10 years now, and I only feel the slightest twinge of guilt when I think about it. Souma & I do not make eye contact, when we pass on the street. We’re both happier with this arrangement.
Sasha, on the other hand, I found I could live with, and we eventually stopped looking for his new home.
Some cats connect with people, and some cats connect with places. The Boy had Stupid (an inseparable pair), and I had the (fickle) affections of the Demon Lord, but Sasha was the house’s cat. We the People looked after his physical needs, but Sasha seemed more attached to the physical space of the house than with anybody who was actually in it. When we first moved in, he haunted the rooms, drifting vaguely towards any activity that happened in the house, but staying apart from it. We used to joke that he was the house’s spirit. We assumed that was just Sasha’s way. It was his way, for several years.
Shortly after the Demon Lord left us (to return to his heart’s first, true love), Sasha choose me. Cat’s do that, of course. Talk to any cat fancier, and they’ll tell you about a cat who choose them. Not the other way around.
Sasha always slept with us at night. Usually draped across my torso, and tucked behind my knees. But he started sniffing my face instead. He’d stand directly in front of me, and spend several minutes sniffing my cheeks and forehead, before laying down with his front paws on my shoulder, and his face pressed closed to mine. He’d stay there until I moved.
Its always a production, for Sasha to lay down. He’s never certain it will go well, so he eases into it, ready to abort should something not go as expected. Its excruciating to watch; you have to keep very still. But when it works out, its like nothing else. If he stays down long enough to start purring, bliss!
For Sasha, I’ve learned to lay still(-er) at night.
At about the same time, he started coming to me during the day, with his concerns.
He is a very anxious cat. We always knew that. As the Americans say, he has “issues”. He worries about everything, constantly. He used to just worry in silence, though. Now, he comes to me with these worries, and we’ll try to work them out. But he’s a cat, and I’m a person, and we do not speak the same language. He’ll cry, lead me to some random location in the house, and I’ll try to divine what’s on his mind. Some are obvious: if he leads me to the kitchen, he has complaint about his food. If he leads me to the litter box, he has a complaint about cleanliness. If he leads me to the bedroom, he wants a snuggle. If he leads me to the bathroom, he wants to drink from the tub. I have no idea what it means when he leads me to the library. Or the dining room. Or when he cries, but doesn’t lead me anywhere.
When it first started, I tried ignoring his cries. I’m well aware that cats try to train us, just as much as we try to train them. I’m also aware that they are better at it than we are. Sasha had learned the secrets of inappropriate peeing from a master. Its worth taking a few minutes to try and understand this cat, if it means not having to do extra loads of laundry.
When in doubt, I assume he wants love.
Loving Sasha has become more complicated, since he decided to get “up front and personal” with us. When he was the House Cat, we could pet him from across the room. A hand, sliding through the air, mimicking a caress from 6 feet away, was all he wanted. He would begin to purr before your hand reached the end of the stroke.
But now, he wants to be touched. He likes the pressure of a hand flattening his ears, pressing firmly down his neck and back. Likes it more than anything. He just can’t stand to see that hand coming. If we didn’t know his entire life history, I would assume he’d been physically abused before we got him. But no; he’s just weird. He faces you, when he wants to be stroked, so you have to wrap your arm around his body, so that he doesn’t see it coming. But when you get it just right, when he actually relaxes into the pleasure of touch, it is so much more gratifying than getting any of the other cats to snuggle and purr.
Loving Sasha is hard work, but its worth it.
One of the first battles Sasha & I had was over the tub. He loves water, almost as much as he’s particular about it. It must be cold. It must be fresh. It should be free flowing. A perpetually leaking tub offers the best water in the house.
Sasha can be stubborn about his water. If you don’t offer acceptable water choices — for instance, if you have merely fill his water bowl — he will refuse to drink it until dehydration leads to an expansive vet visit. This happened once, and is the spector which prompts The Boy to leave the tub faucet on.
I don’t like a leaky faucet. I don’t like having the clean the tub of cat hair before every bath. I don’t like the raising water bill. I don’t like Sasha joining me every time I go to the bathroom, wide-eyed and expectant. I’ve spent the better part of 10 years attempting to train Sasha and The Boy out of this.
We’ve gone through 3 “cat fountains”, with varying success. We “accidentally” leave cups of water on the floor, where Sasha can find them (illicit water is apparently more refreshing). We fill his water bowl only when he’s watching, so he can be sure of the freshness. All of these have worked in keeping him healthy & hydrated, but he still loves tub water above all else. Although we keep the tub off now, he’ll still accompany us to the bathroom every time. He’ll hop in the tub, and cry. The Boy occasionally relent. I never do.
The past several months, Sasha’s leap into the tub hasn’t been as effortless. It takes him a few tries before he can jump, and sometimes that jump doesn’t clear the side of the tub.
Sasha, my mighty hunter. Sasha, who could jump 5 feet, to land in the narrow space between the forest of potted plants on the shelf, a space he couldn’t even see from the floor.
It breaks my heart.
Last week, I watched as he tried to work up to a jump into the tub, and a gave up.
Sasha does not give up on tub water.
He turned, and walked away.
Every day this week, he’s followed me into the bathroom. He’s looked at the tub, and he’s walked out without even trying.
Which is how it is that this morning, I found myself lifting Sasha into the tub, and turning the faucet on for him.