My Long, Arduous Effort to Make My Cat's Life Better

My Long, Arduous Effort to Make My Cat's Life Better
She’s yearning for freedom, and yet. Photo:Megan Reynolds

Daisy, the 11-year-old, slightly overweight, black and white cat that lives in my home, is the light of my life. Though she is indifferent to me unless I have food in my hand, I like to think that she loves me. Truthfully, I understand that this is projection on my part, and that our relationship is that of two ships passing in the night, or, more accurately, two older women cohabitating peacefully. Sometimes when she sits on my person, I feel the depths of her love, even though it is really her claws kneading the tender flesh of my stomach, or that one time, my right boob. That tiny spark, which I chase like a high, is infrequent enough to train me to want more. But at what cost?

The honest answer is that I haven’t a clue how much money I’ve spent to improve her life, though I do know that the PetCube surveillance camera that I use to check to see if she’s breathing or if there is a ghost in my house when I’m away was worth every penny. Arguably, she got a new lease on life when, in 2010, I adopted her from a woman named Eva in the outer reaches of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she was living with a fair amount of rescues, including two Russian blues that were quarantined in the restroom and I was not able to see. Even if those slinky minxes caught my eye, I still would’ve left with Daisy because her tail was fluffy and I liked that her back paws look like go-go boots. But, for the past 10 years, she lived under a reign of terror at the paws of Crusty, the boy cat that belongs to my sister, who was also my roommate. Her life surely improved when we both moved out, but in the absence of her friend, nemesis, and occasional lover, I wonder about her interior life: Could she be happier, and if so, what can I do to help?

I wonder about her interior life: Could she be happier, and if so, what can I do to help?

Under the coffee table lies a veritable cornucopia of toys that she mostly ignores, save for the Jackson Pollock-inspired catnip fish that she seems to enjoy. A play tunnel that I found at Target lives in a storage basket, after I presented it to her after a weekend away only for her to look at it, look at me, and then leave. Other objects that I’ve spent money on include a laser pointer that I’ve misplaced and a variety of cat wand toys that she likes for about five minutes before tiring of them. Once I made her a bed out of some old sheets and a very nice scarf that I knit for myself but set aside after realizing I do not like scarves. She enjoyed the bed for a while, but has since cast it aside for her favorite thing in the apartment—the ancient Ikea POANG chair that sits in the corner, covered in a blanket that is also covered in her hair. (It’s worth noting that the chair in question is my preferred therapy chair, but the last time I sat in it, Daisy intimidated me until I got up and moved to the sofa. It’s hers now and will be forever.)

Recently, her attentions have turned away from the chair and towards the windows of my apartment, which look out onto trees and birds. In her old home, Daisy summered on the radiator, screaming at the birds on the roof, and occasionally, when her bones could make it, the top of the cat tree. I did not take the cat tree when I left my old apartment, but I hear it was donated to a shelter. I do hope those cats are happy, but I also wish that I had had the foresight to take that with me. Because there are no clear vantage points in my apartment as it stands, the cat has taken to digging her claws into the windowsill as she works out whether or not all of her body can make it up there and fit. (From where I sit, the answer is no, but bless her for trying.)

I have considered the vast array of aesthetically pleasing cat trees, inspired in part by this insanely beautiful, avant-basic cat tree that was DIY-ed by Mi-Anne Chen. I know my own limits, and doing this in my own home exceeds them by a lot, but I’ve found some contenders, including this one that looks like a sunflower that might crumple under her weight and this thing, which is admittedly adorable and costs too much money. My precious angel deserves this, too, but I also do not want to pay this much money. I will eventually get over myself and set my newfound desire for aesthetics aside in favor of practicality, but to be frank, I am now not interested in ruining the vibes of my bedroom with something ugly. As ever, I just want it to be cheap.

Earlier this morning, Daisy was despondent (I think). After vomiting her breakfast on my duvet cover while I was in the middle of an ineffectual workout, she stood in the corner of the bedroom by the window, hanging from the sill like a cat on one of those motivational posters seen in guidance counselor’s offices on television. Sensing her distress, I carried her in my arms to the kitchen window so that she could look at the birds and scream. This was fine for both of us, but eventually, I had to work, and also, she’s a little plump. When I put her down, she returned to her silent vigil, meowing pathetically. I fashioned an ersatz cat perch using an ottoman that I forgot I kept, placing it under the window and arranging my plants around it so she could feel at ease. It’s not perfect, but neither am I. For now, it will work.

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