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"Aww, look...this one is called Breadbun...what a brilliant name for a cat," I squealed, reading the adoption pages of a local cat and dog shelter.
It was time. The carpets were down, I had topped up the electric key, I'd put some milk in the fridge and the cheap Asda kettle worked. My new flat. I was so excited to be living on my own; years of flat-shares, albeit wonderful ones, had left me craving peace, silence, and the option of walking from the bathroom to the bedroom after a shower without that embarrassed little walk you have to do in the hallways. This, I had promised myself, would be the year I would finally do it; I would get myself a little furry, purring flatmate who didn't steal the shampoo, come in blazing drunk and shrieking or get locked out and call you at 3 AM.
Little did I know what I was letting myself in for.
His name was Simba. He looked so small in such an empty house, and so well-behaved. His owner left in a sorry state; unable to keep him in her flat she had called out for help and I had responded. I couldn't believe he was mine. His little red collar which clashed horribly against his ginger fur made me laugh; I was going to buy him a bowtie, and he would be dapper as hell.
The weeks passed, and I waited patiently for him to trust me; slowly he started accepting treats, sleeping at the foot of the bed, and became a permanent attachment to my lap when watching TV.
Several weeks in, he went downhill. Wouldn't eat. Wouldn't move. Couldn't pee. I watched him weakly try to drag himself to the litter tray only to fall into it crying weakly. I hurriedly called the nearest vet who told me in no uncertain terms that he had a urine blockage and if I couldn't pay £1000 immediately for an operation, he would die.
I tried the RSPCA but they couldn't help me as I wasn't jobless. I tried one more, tears rolling down my cheek as I stroked this lifeless little cat. I took to Facebook for advice; a friend sent money towards the operation, and a new vet was found. He recovered, and I sobbed in the waiting room when they told me he was okay.
Three weeks of owning this cat and I was already in love, and had almost lost him. I knew then and there that I would do anything to care for him, and gave up my wages to a small jam jar, which I called his "emergency fund."
Over the next few weeks, he became bolder and morphed into the weirdest cat I had ever encountered. He realized I was stuck with him now and so was no longer on his best behaviour. His fear of the litter tray had now manifested in him vertically pooing up the wall directly into a plug socket. He destroyed my yoga mat. He tried and failed to meow, and so just made strange bird noises. He upturned every single bin in frantic searches for food now his appetite had returned, and I realized very quickly how fat he was becoming.
At Christmas, he ripped directly into the leftover beef, and swallowed the entire thing, with a bit of tinfoil included. He developed a menacing hiss that would make David Attenborough run a mile, and growled and bit people at every opportunity. He took the fridge hostage and made it his domain. He licked mashed potato off my finger and added jam, tomatoes, beans, avocado, cups of tea, Jammy Dodgers and toast to the list of foods he preferred. He was brilliant.
The Turning Point
One day, I was very poorly and came home from work. I lay at the top of the stairs shivering, unable to go any further, and he came and lay next to me and purred. He stayed there all night. I knew I had a friend after that.
The next day, he came to greet me with an enormous headbutt, right on the nose, and a wet little lick. The very next day, he did the same, and whenever I came home, there he was, waiting with the same headbutt. He started sleeping not only on the bed, but directly on me—my face, my throat, the space behind my knees. He demanded attention—whoever came in was subjected to an increasingly large furry lump plonked down upon your person as soon as you'd sat anywhere. He started kneading on me like a little kitten does to its mother.
I found myself trapped whilst trying to exercise, with the only option to admit defeat and attempt 'downward dog' with a cat clinging on to your back for dear life. He didn't like it when I had to work, and would walk back and forth across the laptop until eventually his chubby little paws started to cause severe deterioration to the keyboard and I would give him his space back and watch him purr and purr.
He is, without a doubt, the neediest cat there has ever been. He's still a complete menace, and he still takes the fridge hostage. He still growls, and he gets fatter every day. He is also my best mate, who curls up on me immediately if I am unwell, or unhappy.
His alarming lack of skill in anything means he is a source of constant hilarity and his antics entertain many on social media. Although he's a pain in the neck, he's also the best thing that I ever did. He's the first one I miss when I go away and the first thing I'm excited to come home for.
When I'm really sad, he is my therapy. People can call me a crazy cat lady if they like; I wouldn't blame them. Those little paws padding along the carpet to greet me every evening are the reason I can call this flat a home. I still haven't gotten him his bow tie, but he would probably eat it anyway.
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