I have a cat. His name is Sandokan. He’s a big, fat tabby that weighs in at around 8kg with a temper to match his size. Everyone’s scared of him, including me. Despite his unexpected swipes and frequent hand mauls, I really do love him. And miss him a lot… because, you see, he doesn’t live with me.
I got him in 2009 when he was just a tiny kitten with big ears, big eyes and a tiny belly and I was in the last phase of writing my thesis. For about six months we lived in bliss, him frequently launching his mini feline body across the room and skidding along the highlighted pages carefully arranged on my bed or desk; me, in turn, insisting on constant cuddles that would cramp his tiny style. We got on each other’s nerves, but always made up just in time for him to find a cozy spot on my head/face/neck to sleep while I lay in meditative shavasana so as not to disturb his delicate rest.
At the end of that year I got an amazing internship opportunity that would send me careering off across the country – from Cape Town to Joburg to Port Elizabeth, and back to Joburg and Cape Town again – for the whole of 2010. There was (and still is) nothing Sandokan hates more than a road trip, so it became obvious that our paths would have to split for those twelve months. I put him in foster care with my parents in Betty’s Bay, comforting myself with the knowledge that he had a huge backyard to play around in, fynbos to explore, field mice to pester and birds to dream of catching.
Well, six years later and guess what… he’s still living there. Not because I don’t want him here, just because the quality of his life there seems to be a helluvalot better than it would be in my tiny, balconyless apartment (but, really, it’s just because my parents have grown so attached to him, as you can see in the photo above).
Despite the fact that we haven’t really lived in the same place for six years, I often find myself instinctively doing/feeling things I would with Sandokan around. I’ve come to call this phantom cat syndrome.
These are my main symptoms:
1.Tucking my toes in under the duvet in the morning
It’s 4:30 am and Sandokan has had enough of this nap. He wants a snack. He wants a staring contest. And he wants me to scratch his head. The prostrate human has been ignoring his sweet morning purrs (read his incessant surging miaauws) and has pulled the duvet over her head, making caring forehead strokes (read clawy mouth taps) impossible. Time to pull out the big gun: the loving morning foot caress combined with kisses (read the anxiety-inducing foot attack, culminating in toe chewing).
This was how I pretty much woke up every morning during the kitten days… and still sometimes do when visiting my parents in Betty’s Bay, although it rarely happens now. Funnily enough, I got into the habit of tucking any limbs, especially feet and toes under the duvet in the morning and I’ve never been able to shake it! I still find myself doing it almost every morning in that weird phase before waking up.
2. Mistaking my backpack for a cat (ALL THE TIME)
I have a leather backpack that I use as a handbag quite often. When full of my miscellany, it has exactly the same shape as my very round Sandokan has from behind when sitting. From the corner of my eye, I sometimes see the bag perched on a chair or propped up against a wall, and almost instinctively walk over to give it a chin scratch.
3. Feeling another presence O_o
You know how when you’re home alone, working or cleaning or doing something mundane and you suddenly become aware of the comforting presence of another being… usually your cat or your dog? Well, I get that sometimes. Once or twice I’ve found one of my neighbour’s cats sitting on the windowsill, staring out at the starlings or napping on the couch after, slipping in through the door… but other times it’s just me. Ca-reepy, I know.
4. Creature comfort craving after a bad day
There’s nothing like the comfort of a warm, furry body curled up on your lap. Especially after a tough day. I often find myself craving a little creature comfort when those monthly debit order notifications come through from the bank, or when I’m battling with a story intro, or just feeling a little off. Even though most cuddles with Sandokan end in an unceremonious exit to the next lap (at the best of times) or an annoyed swipe (at the worst of times), his weight and his warmth always bring a lot of comfort.
So, yes, I really do miss him a lot, but a the same time I’m eternally grateful to my parents for taking him under their wing, looking after him like their own, feeding him only the choicest tuna, cuddling him, loving him and just being the best!
Do other cat lovers out there relate to these PCS symptoms when away from your kitty? Or is it just me?