The cat lives her whole life in four rooms plus bath and cellarish basement.
She has food, water, snacks, toys, and a place to pee and poop. The cat has companionship when we are home. She has my chair to climb and scratch with impunity and no consequences. I only know what the cat does when we are not home when she leaves evidence: torn scraps of paper, cupboards thrown open, laundry strewn, those sorts of things. Do we keep putting magnets and homework on the front of the fridge so that she can pull it all down for fun, or does she dislike magnets and papers on the fridge, and we’re just making more work for this busy cat?
The small person constructs elaborate habitats out of tables and chairs and sheets. We make chains of pipe cleaners to drape around these cat-centered places. Special rugs, the cat’s rugs, always line the little homes.
We try to make this a good life for the good cat.
Still, the cat rushes out the door and onto the hot sidewalk at every opportunity. Grass doesn’t grow in the house. Sun doesn’t warm the carpet or the linoleum the way it warms the walks. Outside, she would find too many moths to ever catch, at last, and squirrels to chase with her whole body, not just her heart.
My fear of a coyote or the dogs next door making lunch of the cat keeps her imprisoned. I tell the small person that maybe the next place we live will have a fence and fewer wild things, and they can go outside together. Cats who live an indoor life are safer and healthier, but how can anything stay sane with no way to go outside and play?
In four rooms plus bath and basement, she lives alongside us and participates in everything we do.
Last night, she helped to make the bed by trying to kill the mattress, then the fitted sheet, then the top sheet. Once they seemed sufficiently dead and immobile, she allowed me to float one blanket after another on top of her as she made sure those sheets didn’t wake up and cause more trouble with their billowing. She stayed a lump under the quilts until I made her move. Sliding my feet under the sheets would have incited another round of sheet-killing.
This morning, she helped with the laundry by supervising every step of the complicated process of washing with the world’s second tiniest washing machine, which lives in the bathroom. Then, she helped with mopping the floor after she slipped off the edge of the sink by peeking too far over the side to watch the water slosh in the washing tub, and sloshed herself halfway into the toilet. Every fall in the bathroom seems to end up with the cat in the toilet.
She might sometimes curl up nearby, and always sleeps at the foot of the bed. We hope that this winter, our first one together, she will curl up on a lap now and then. Right now, still lingering at the end of kittenhood, she is far too busy to sleep during the day. There is laundry to do, after all, and sheets to subdue, and rugs to rumple, and moths and homework to eat, and beads to fetch, but only the special strand of beads from her former life. Only those will ever be worthy of her fetching, and only when she offers to fetch by plopping them at our feet. I wake up with beads dropped at the bottom of the bed some mornings, a failed attempt at nighttime games.
I think we make a good life for her. I think she would tell us if we weren’t.