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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Cone of Shame

5 min read

This is a story about being mute...

Kitten

I suppose my beautiful baby girl is not mute, per se, because she's actually a very vocal cat; she makes a much bigger variety of cat noises than I've ever heard - everything from growling deeply, like a big wild cat, to sweetly mewing like a tiny kitten.

I often play a game when I'm making myself a sandwich at lunchtime, where I will say to her "meow if you would like some ham", to which she always replies with a meow, indicating that, yes, she would very much like a little ham.

My bengal - heartbreakingly still missing after 3+ months - didn't really have manners, shall we say. If she wanted something she would grab it, and if I didn't let go, she would have a tug-of-war competition with me. Of course, that kind of behaviour is intrinsic to the bengal breed, and part of the appeal: they are incredibly intelligent and determined animals, who will always do what they want; get what they want.

My ragdoll - pictured - had to wear the cone of shame for a couple of weeks. It's a common misconception that bengals are smart and ragdolls aren't. In fact, my ragdoll will play fetch, open doors and copy other stuff she sees me doing, or just figure things out for herself because she's smart. She is, however, a lot less prone to getting bored and becoming destructive. My house is in need of a number of bengal-related repairs, and that's even after cat-proofing my entire home.

I used to have to wash my duvet and bed linen at least 3 times a week, because my bengal would get into my bedroom and urinate on my bed. If she couldn't get in my bedroom, she'd urinate on anything of mine she could find: clothes, bags, blankets, tea towels, bath mats... whatever. She had no fewer than *FIVE* litter trays to choose from, and I used the special pheromone spray to try to help calm her down, but she basically was on a one-cat mission to urinate on everything I own.

I would not get another bengal, although of course I am desperate to be re-united with my poor lost baby.

My ragdoll is the perfect cat: she's very entertaining, just like a bengal, because she's smart and wants to play fetch and other games; she can be trained to do stuff. But, the main thing is, she doesn't urinate on any of my stuff. Well, actually, there was one time, which is the point of this essay.

Every time I go in the bathroom, my cats have always wanted to be in there with me, playing. I got into the habit of shutting the door with my bengal, otherwise she would shred all the toilet rolls, pull all the towels and bath mats onto the floor and urinate on everything. So, I kept the door shut. However, the cats love being in there with me, for some reason.

With my ragdoll, whenever I'm in the bathroom, she wants to be in the bath for some reason. I suppose it's like a hidey-hole or something for her. We even play a game where she thinks I can't see her, as she's poking her head over the edge of the bath. When she notices I'm looking at her, she ducks her head down, but her ears are still poking up. If I peer over the edge, she ducks even lower.

My ragdoll's love of the bath is immense, it would seem. So much so, that when I picked her up, because - instinctively - I didn't want to leave her in the bathroom, given the habit I'd gotten into with my bengal - when I carried her through to the bedroom and put her down on the bed, she urinated on it... first time and last time she's ever done that.

I guess it must be hard, not being able to communicate effectively. I try my best to figure out what's going on in my cats' head, but - as all cat owners will tell you - the mind of a cat is quite impenetrable. However, I let my ragdoll play in the bath whenever she wants now. In fact, I pretty much let her do whatever she wants, because she's such a gorgeous affectionate loving creature, who just wants to eat, sleep and snuggle, with the occasional mad moment where she wants to play rough, or just run around like a lunatic.

So, I'm sure you didn't come here for cat breed advice, or indeed an essay on the subject of my hit-and-miss experiences of cats who like to urinate on everything - bengals - versus the "perfect" domestic cat - my gorgeous ragdoll girl.

No matter how much I might moan and complain about how miserable and pointless life is, cats are the best.

 

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Electronicat

5 min read

This is a story about technical stuff...

Electronics

Of all the hobbies I thought about getting into, most of them were sedentary; indoors. I thought about getting some kind of retro games console. I thought about getting a new games console. I thought about getting a gaming PC. Then, I thought about maybe doing something really geeky. I started looking into software-defined radio, with the intention of making a home-made radar, perhaps, or doing my own mobile phone base station. All of this, I decided, was expensive and wouldn't help me with my need to get outside and exercise.

I did some of the projects on the cheap. I managed to turn my 5 year old laptop into a pretty decent retro console, with nothing more than a cheap game controller pad. I got a whole buttload of electronics experiments I could do with a super cheap tiny little computer (pictured). I managed to make a home-made sonar. Not quite radar, but not too bad for a bodger.

Still, I found myself spending most of my time looking at a screen, indoors.

Also, although the projects have provided some intellectual challenge, they haven't really opened up any social avenues. I'm sure that if I got really involved in - for example - the software defined radio community, online, then I would kinda get 'social' contact out of that, but I already get more than enough online social contact. The thing I'm missing is real world social contact.

I know from past experience that when I've done something ridiculous, like suddenly deciding to get into kitesurfing, it's taken my life in a brilliant direction. I've travelled the world, in search of the best wind and waves, and made lifelong friends along the way.

My life is very nice - enviable - in a lot of ways. My beautiful cat keeps me company, and she likes company too; always wants to be nearby, getting involved with everything I'm doing, which is not always ideal when working on a microelectronics project, for example. For sure, I have options and opportunities which a lot of people can only dream of.

However.

I am also more socially isolated than you can possibly imagine. Estranged from my family, far from friends, without a support network. The litmus test is this: if you're hospitalised for a major medical emergency, who's there for you? I can answer that question. I can answer that question very well, and the answer is not good, although mercifully I did have a work colleague and a friend who happened to be visiting from abroad, who were kind enough to visit me, hooked up to a dialysis machine for 4 hours a day; a hospital stay of more than 2 weeks; a medical emergency that pretty much nearly killed me.

That's not a dig at my friends, of course. They've become used to leaving me sleeping rough or otherwise homeless. They've become used to leaving me in hospital, dying, alone. That's fine. I've come to terms with that.

I do have some VERY good friends. I am lucky enough to have one or two friends who would help me, if I asked. The rest... I'm not sure if I can even call them friends... more just people who I used to know, but now they're just strangers who I happen to see updates from on Facebook. They might as well be celebrities who I read about in tabloid newspapers or gossip magazines.

This wasn't supposed to be a dig at my acquaintances [former friends]. This is about what I'm doing to sort my life out, to make it bearable.

Possibly, by getting back into mountain biking, I have opened up the possibility of making some friends and building a support network; having a social life. We'll have to see. "Social life" might just be something which I'll never regain; I'm too old to be able to [re]build one now, having lost my old one. Anyway, I remain optimistic.

For the first time in forever, I felt motivated to start to plan for the future, in a way that's not just planning for my suicide. I've been planning what to do when my backside isn't so sore, and I can ride my new mountain bike again - where am I going to go?

Suddenly, winter doesn't look quite so bleak. I have good winter clothes and a reason to be outdoors, in the wind, the rain, and the mud. Not many people have the strange twisted kind of brain that I do, where I love extreme weather: keeps the fair-weather tourists away. On the bike ride I went on, on Saturday, there was not a single other soul on the mountain. I'd hardly describe it as "perfect conditions" but in the forests around the summit of the mountain, I hardly noticed the rain; I was going to get covered in mud anyway. It was delightful; ecstatic; euphoric... to be hammering down deserted mountain tracks, without having to worry about crashing into anybody. A far cry from the queues to get into shops, which seems to be something that the ordinary folks are spending their time doing.

Of course, everything's more fun when there's a social aspect, so I'm hoping to find some people to go mountain biking with, but people are already contacting me (which is unheard of) to arrange some biking trips, which is a good sign; a sign that I might get the healthy habits which I need in my life, along with a truckload of fun and adventure.

 

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Betrayal

4 min read

This is a story about the saddest girl in the world...

Cone of shame

My beautiful, gentle, little baby girl, has suffered a dreadful betrayal. I can't tell you exactly what the first 12 weeks of her life were like. I know that she had to contend with a house full of small children, dogs and other cats, which can't have been easy. When I got her home, she explored the whole house very cautiously, as if expecting that the place would be stuffed full of creatures which would manhandle her; a tiny placid little kitten, picked up like a toy, or jostled by the over-excited play of bigger animals. I don't think she was abused but she certainly wasn't used to being her own self, unmolested.

I can tell you exactly what every single day of her life has been like since July 3rd, 2020, because we have been inseparable. I've hardly left the house. Wherever I've been - in bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, in my office, in my lounge - she's been right there, next to me. We've been two peas in a pod. We've been constant companions for each other.

Ragdoll cats are very placid. They are famous for going limp when you pick them up. Obviously, I've wanted to fuss and cuddle my gorgeous fur baby all the time, but I try to respect her independence too. I tried, from the very moment I got her home, to give her space to do whatever she wants to do, whenever she wants to do it: she's the queen of the castle, and she's got the run of the place; she can go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, and I try not to interfere.

Over the course of us bonding, her trust has grown. To begin with, she always quietly tolerated my desire to pick her up and stroke her. She always wanted to be nearby, but never obviously sought affection. Slowly, more and more, she will decide that she wants attention and affection, and she will stand on my chest and headbutt my head, or rub herself on me. She drapes herself across me and 'makes biscuits' - kneading me and suckling on me, in a very relaxed and kittenish way. She's clearly been very fond of her human.

Now I have betrayed her.

She's so trusting that this third visit to the vet, she didn't make much effort to hide when I got her cat carrier out. She didn't put up much of a protest about me putting her into her cat carrier. She didn't make a sound when I drove her to the vet. Apparently, she was very friendly, playful and relaxed before her operation.

Her trust has been broken.

She woke up from her operation, and she was upset with the vet's assistant, because of the betrayal. My poor little baby was trembling when I picked her up.

I had to put her 'cone of shame' on when I got her home, to stop her from licking her stitches, so that the wound heals well and doesn't get infected. She's really had a very bad day, because of me and other humans, who've betrayed her trust.

I really hope she gets over it, in time, and will trust me again. It's really sad, because I think she'd been having a really nice life up until this point, and she really thought that her human was a super nice person who she could trust.

Now she's trying to figure out how to eat with her cone on. She's got the frustration of having to wear it for weeks, and I have to be the cruel human who forces her to keep it on. I'm the cruel human who put it on her.

 

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Slob

3 min read

This is a story about mess...

Kitten

I realised I haven't written about my adorable furry companion in a while. My phone contains nothing but pictures of cats; mainly my cat(s). My bengal seems to be lost forever, heartbreakingly - I suspect she was stolen, because there has been a spate of cat and dog thefts recently. My ragdoll, pictured above, is an amazing cat; she's healed my broken heart.

If you look carefully at the photo, and I really wish you wouldn't, then you'll see various bits of detritus - mostly crumbs and other bits of food; dirt. I've been a real slob for quite a long time.

I've got a demanding job, plus lockdown has meant being under the same roof 24 x 7, for many months. Of course, we're all in the same boat, but I've been struggling with my physical and mental health all year. I tried to kick the couch potato habit, but August has been incredibly punishing at work, and I've all but ceased doing anything besides working, sleeping and eating.

The one happy constant in my life - the stable part - is my cat. Of course, I had the heartbreak of losing my last cat quite recently, but my new cat is delightful. It's fantastic to have my fluffy friend to keep me company. Life would be intolerably miserable without a cat.

A plumber came to fix something in my bathroom, which prompted me to quickly clean. I don't really have many visitors, so why bother to keep my house clean and tidy? I hardly make any mess, except for a few dirty dishes, but I suppose the general dirt and grime builds up, which depresses me but not enough to do anything about it. The messiest thing is my cat, who regularly kicks her litter onto the floor. It sounds like she's trying to dig to the centre of the earth sometimes.

I guess I'll probably hire a cleaner, once this pandemic is over. Seems lazy and wasteful, but it's good for me, and it's good for them - I get a clean house and they get paid, which seems like a win:win situation.

My cat eats individually packaged pouches of cat food, which seems like a big waste of packaging, but she's super fussy about her food going 'stale' in her bowl, so I can't imagine she'd love food from a tin which has been open for days and days - she's only got a tiny appetite. I eat gourmet soups, which also seems crazy when it seems relatively easy to make a big batch of soup and freeze it, but I want and need simplicity in my life. I can feed my cat and I in the blink of an eye, which is what's needed when I'm working so hard.

Living in a clean house, or eating a freshly cooked homemade meal are things I enjoy, but I'm not prepared to do the work, when I'm already working super hard. Seems profligate and lazy, but I don't care - it's allowing me to be functional and stable.

Apologies for boring you with the rather domestic and uninteresting minutiae of my existence, but I wanted to try and write about something other than the agony of existence.

 

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Lockdown Improvements

5 min read

This is a story about the Coronavirus pandemic...

Lighthouse

Many people planned to come out of lockdown with new hobbies, fitter, healthier, happier and myriad other unachievable unrealistic things. I think that we have mostly come out of lockdown fatter, more unfit, poorer, more insecure, lonely, isolated, bored and generally worse off.

I started the lockdown drinking very heavily and eating McDonald's breakfast every morning. I decided that if we were going to be suffering the misery of being under house arrest, then I would treat myself. Quickly I realised that I was going to end up with clogged arteries and morbidly obese. I was eating takeaway several nights a week and not doing any exercise.

I started the lockdown physically dependent on sleeping pills to get to sleep, and using two different tranquillising sedatives to cope with unbearable anxiety. I decided it was too much hassle to try to keep stocked up with the medications I needed during the lockdown, and I calculated that I have enough left to be able to taper myself off. I didn't want to run out of medication suddenly in the middle of a pandemic.

I started the lockdown working on my sofa, fully reclined. I realised that my posture and back would be ruined by working in such a position for 8 hours a day, followed by many more hours on the sofa after finishing work.

Things had to change.

I thought the lockdown would last a month or two, but I must admit that I didn't think it would drag on beyond a quarter of the year. I tried my best to psychologically prepare myself for the lockdown lasting for months, but I was hopeful it'd be all over after 6 to 8 weeks.

I bought a desk and an office chair.

I weaned myself off the sleeping pills and tranquillisers.

I cut down my drinking, and even went teetotal for 6 or 7 weeks.

I started exercising. Not, like, exercising exercising. Just going for a 10km walk every day. Enough to keep me a little bit active, but nothing crazy.

I stopped getting takeaways. All those takeaways were costing quite a lot of money, when they were all added up. Sure, I felt like I could justify spending the money to enjoy some nice food, as compensation for the doom and gloom of the hundreds of thousands of people dying all over the world, and the restrictions to our freedom... but it wasn't healthy and it was costing a packet.

I paid off all my debt. This wasn't so much a planned thing. It was something that just happened to co-incide with the lockdown. However, it feels pretty damn good to have some savings now. I have a net worth again, which feels good. I have some financial security, even if it is pretty negligible. It had been a very long time which I'd been struggling to get my finances sorted, and it's a big relief to be back in the black.

My life is extremely austere and simple. I have my house, my job, my cat, my car; that's it. My health is probably OK. My weight is OK, although I am carrying some extra weight I'd like to shift, as a consequence of lockdown. My finances are OK. My job seems OK. My housing situation is sort of OK. My kitten is great, although my cat is lost... overall OK. My car has a big dent where an idiot crashed into it during lockdown, in a virtually empty car park, but there are more important things in life than having a shiny perfect car.

All things considered, I think I'm one of the lockdown winners - I'm emerging in far better shape than I went into lockdown. Some people have lost their job, or are about to lose their job. Some people have struggled with alcohol and food. Some people have struggled with mental health. In almost every area of my life, things have improved; I look reasonably well positioned to weather a difficult autumn and winter.

Although losing my cat was the worst thing that happened, it has forced me to connect with my neighbours and the wider community, so I have even managed to live a far less isolated and lonely existence under lockdown, than I was living before - I speak to far more people; I'm more connected and socially engaged.

I thought that if I retreated inwards, living and communicating through my blog and social media, then I would find it impossible to get through the lockdown. It looks like a reasonably good decision, to have taken a break.

It helps that it's summer - of course - which lifts my mood and generally creates a more pleasant and favourable backdrop for life, but I feel hopeful that I've got a decent position of health and financial stability to fight through the autumn and winter. I just need to book some holidays now... I've worked non-stop since early January, when I was discharged from hospital.

 

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Positive Spin

3 min read

This is a story about bereavement...

Kitten in a box

You can order anything on Amazon dot com these days. I needed a new kitten; same-day delivery. Prime membership equals free shipping too - bonus!

My cat has been missing for two weeks. Was it premature to get a new kitten? Who sets the rules on how long we have to live in cat-free torment, alone with our sadness and grief? Who decides how long is the authorised, legal, respectable amount of time which somebody has to suffer without a feline friend for company? When were these things decided? Why were these rules and regulations put in place? Who benefits from these draconian laws?

Anyway, I broke the rules.

I got a new kitten.

Of course I miss my cat and I desperately want to know what's happened to her, but perhaps I never will. She's microchipped, so I have a better chance of being reunited, but it's perfectly possible that it will always remain a mystery, sadly and frustratingly.

I don't think it would be a good idea to be grief-stricken, heartbroken and isolated all alone, without a furry feline friend. I got a new kitten. Sue me.

It's hard to put into words the sheer joy of unboxing my little bundle of fluff. Seeing her gorgeous blue eyes, soft white fur and that greyish smokey point colouration on her nose, ears, paws and tail, is a joy. She's the living embodiment of adorable cuteness.

Obviously I don't know the fate of my cat, so I can't really grieve. I'm trapped, not knowing whether she's alive or dead. I've been trapped for two weeks. I could be trapped for two months, two years, or the rest of my life. I strongly suspect the latter. Obviously I hope that she's reunited with me alive and well, but nobody has spotted her; she's disappeared without a trace. It's quite possible that she's alive and well somewhere, but nobody's coming forward to tell me that, and they might keep her away from me for the rest of our lives, and I'll never know her fate.

Yes, I have a new kitten and she's gorgeous. Yes, I'm happy to have a new kitten. Yes, having a furry feline friend is important to me. Yes, it makes my life better; more bearable; happier. Yes, my life is better now I have a cat in my home; in my life.

Sorry. Was I supposed to be miserable and suicidal?

Was I supposed to be suffering?

I'm still suffering. I've lost a cat which I love very dearly.

Sorry not sorry. I do what's right for me. I do whatever it takes to cling onto life.

So sue me.

Another way to look at it might be to consider how long you deliberately made yourself miserable for, and to ask yourself why you put yourself through that. If you needed a kitten but you didn't get one, then you got one after a long wait, ask yourself why you waited. Wasn't it unnecessary to wait? Wasn't it unnecessary to suffer? Why would you deliberately make yourself suffer?

I'm finished with unnecessary waits. Pointless. Waste of time.

I needed and wanted a kitten, so I ordered one on Amazon dot com same day Prime delivery.

True story.

 

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Tabula Rasa

5 min read

This is a story about starting over...

Missing cat

My cat is missing. She's been missing since 26 June. I've posted leaflets through the door of hundreds of homes in the vicinity. I've posted all over social media. I've alerted all my neighbours through private messaging groups. I've spent countless hours walking around, calling her name, shaking her food. I've put her litter, her blanket and her favourite toys around outside my house, in the hope that she'd smell the scent.

All to no avail.

She's gone.

Was she stolen? Was she hit by a car or a train, and the incident didn't get reported; her body wasn't found? Has somebody started feeding her and taken her in as their own? Was she stolen for profit by an unscrupulous rogue? Is she out there somewhere, lost and hungry?

Whatever has happened - and I'll probably never know - she's gone.

Of course, I can play the coulda woulda shoulda game. In the course of my search for her, I've found out that there are lots of cats just like her which are living quite happily in this safe neighbourhood. We live in a leafy, wealthy suburb, plus the streets have been extra quiet and safe because of the Coronavirus lockdown. Perhaps I could have turned my house into some kind of maximum-security cat prison, but why did I need to worry? I live in a nice place and I have nice neighbours; plenty of cats just like her live very happily in this area.

Whatever has happened, she's gone and I can't do anything about it now.

I don't have a time machine. If I did, would I go back and change anything? It's not realistic to put a metal grille over your windows. It's not realistic to install air-lock style security doors. It's not realistic to secure every skylight, window, door and air-vent, which your determined would-be escapee might use in their bid for freedom. I'm trying to live my life, not become a prison warden to a cat, living in some kind of concrete bunker with bars on the windows and heavy metal cell doors.

If I was messing around with time travel, maybe I should go back further and not get the cat.

Maybe I should go back further in time and not give my first cat to my parents, during the messy divorce.

Maybe I should go back further and fix my marriage.

Maybe I should go back further and not even get with that girl who I later married.

Maybe I should go back further... and not even be born.

This reductio ad absurdum reasoning leads me to conclude that it's futile to start wishing to change things in the past, not least because it's impossible anyway. It's futile and unproductive, and it leads nowhere good.

Maybe I'm just covering my ass because my cat is lost and I feel bad about that; somehow responsible. OK so my decision has led to my cat becoming lost. There. I said it. Does that bring my cat back? No.

Anyway, as is often my way, I'm making another point: there are heaps of things which are less-than-ideal in my past, but I can't do anything about them. I've had a really rough bunch of years, and it's caused me a whole heap of problems, but I can't expunge those unfortunate events from history so I'm going to have to live with everything that's happened.

I had a lengthy break from blogging and social media. I felt like it wouldn't be good to be writing every day during lockdown. I thought that the time would pass incredibly slowly if I was writing my blog during the repetitive and monotonous stay-at-home period, where I've been cooped up under the same roof for more than 3 months, with no company except my cat... who has now disappeared.

My intention is to begin writing regularly again, but I hope that my improved mental health, finances and a generally improved outlook to my life - much more stable than in recent years - will provide a backdrop for a period of writing which seems more like a normal happy life; less full of disaster and violent mood swings; less full of powerful negative emotions and terrible memories; less full of bitterness and hate.

Of course, my writing is therapy for me, and part of therapy is venting - catharsis - so I shall no doubt be launching myself into the occasional angry rant from time to time, but I'm hoping to somewhat turn over a new leaf and start with a clean slate as much as possible... although I can never escape my past, and doubly so because I intend to leave this blog in place unedited, containing all the difficulties I've been through in the 5 years I've been writing it.

I'm hoping that by writing a load of new material which is coming from a much more secure and happy place, it will put some time, space and distance between me and the bad stuff in my past.

 

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Someone to Look After

4 min read

This is a story about nurturing...

Kitty

My cat routine starts pre-dawn, being kicked and having my feet attacked. Then my cat shoves her head into my hands, forcing me to stroke her, while I struggle to sleep. In the shower, she wails outside the bathroom unless I let her in, in which case she will destroy the toilet rolls. As I get dressed she repeatedly attempts to go into my wardrobe to urinate. I go downstairs to feed her, and she desperately attempts to trip me up. She charges around crazily, whether I've fed her or not. She occasionally decides that she wants to play rough, and starts attacking my arms and legs.

Throughout all this human-cat interaction, I talk to her. Mostly "no!" and "stop that!" and other cries of shock and pain as she attacks me unexpectedly, but also I meow back whenever she is around. She seems to forget that I'm at home, and she meows forlornly in some distant part of the house and comes running when she hears me meow back.

If I'm pottering around doing chores, I generally chat to the cat, who is my constant companion.

I would be lonely, alone in my big house, but my cat is very entertaining.

I was very stressed about my sleep being disturbed, but I've become used to her being crazy late at night and early in the morning. She can be very annoying and make a lot of noise, attacking things and me, and zooming around at high speed - the drum beat of her paws sounding very loud at unsociable hours of the day - but it's become more normal and routine now. I can cope. It's almost nice, especially in the brief moments when she calms down and wants to be affectionate.

The two cats I've had before have mostly enjoyed sleeping. I've never had a cat with such an interesting personality; so entertaining. She's a nightmare, but I've gotten used to all the new rules I have to follow: I can't leave any paper or cardboard out, or it will get shredded. I can't have nice plants, or else they will get chewed. I can't have floor-standing paper lamps. I can't leave coats, jumpers or blankets lying on the floor, or else they will get peed on. It's kind of like having a puppy, I guess.

I take far more enjoyment out of feeding my cat than I do myself. I put more effort into choosing something that I think she'd like to eat than I do for myself. In fact, I spend far more time doing things for her than I do on self-care. I was thinking to myself about what toys I should buy for her. I have plenty of motivation to look after her, even though I'm neglecting myself.

Her cries are not quite as baby-like as a Siamese, but I was thinking how much her cries elicit an immediate desire to rush to her aid. She's definitely a child substitute, although not one that's going to grow up traumatised and tell me that I was a terrible father. She has a good life and she will be dead long before climate change makes the planet inhospitable, and she can't have any children. She is not tormented by existential angst. She is not deprived; she's spoiled.

If I was forced to leave Cardiff in order to take a contract in London, I would have to rehome her, which would be heartbreaking. Living without a cat again would be a major blow to my quality of life. However heartless it might sound, I still need to get another year of good earning and savings under my belt, to give me that all-important financial security I have worked so hard to get. It'd be awful, losing my kitty, but it's impossible to get a landlord to agree to having a pet in London. Hopefully I can extend my current contract or find another local contract, but I always plan for the worst.

Having a cat has helped me so much during this difficult period, where I'm having relationship problems, and I'm under enormous stress and pressure at work.

 

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Cat Fancier

4 min read

This is a story about my fur baby...

Cone of shame

My job is incredibly intense at the moment and I'm at risk of becoming excessively obsessive, but when I see my cat's cute face greeting me when I get home from the office, I'm able to switch off and relax a little. There are things which are causing me a lot of stress at the moment, like an uncertain financial and housing situation, but it's all a little easier to bear in the company of my lovely cat.

I wondered whether I had made a big mistake, getting a very intelligent breed of cat, because her personality is so different to the moggy I had before. Repeatedly wetting the bed as well as being relentlessly hyperactive, I felt that I was getting far more of the downsides of pet ownership, with only a very limited amount of upsides: it seemed very rare that she wanted to sit and be stroked. I wondered whether I had taken on a bigger responsibility than I had expected - and been used to in the past with cats - with none of the rewards that I was used to from my previous cat.

She is very annoying.

However, I have gotten used to how annoying she is. Now I have begun to enjoy her character.

At least once a night, she will have a manic episode where she will decide that she's going to attack me. For a period of 15 minutes to an hour, she will attack my hands, arms, feet or indeed anything that she fancies, such as my legs, knees, or simply my torso. She will bite, scratch and kick me. She will jump on me and wind me. However, it's all rough play and she doesn't mean to hurt me, although she does draw blood. If I want her to stop, she does... but not for long.

Multiple times per day she will attack my houseplants and other fragile things, such as some tall lamps which have paper shades, now utterly destroyed. She does not attack these things when I'm not around. Not wanting to anthropomorphise, but she wants to provoke me: she annoys me for her own amusement. It's a game to her. It used to stress me out but now it's become kind of funny... since I've accepted that I can't have nice things anymore and I've given up being precious about my stuff.

She wants to be with my, wherever I am. It's very nice having a little shadow, following me around. She meows and I meow back. Sometimes she wanders off and then feels lonely, so she meows and then comes rushing to find me when she hears me. She's a very sociable animal.

Since she's been wearing her cone she's not been able to scratch behind her ears, which is something she gets me to do for her. She has an insatiable appetite for behind-the-ears scratching.

Once or twice a day she will have a period where she is desperate to be stroked, and she will force her head into my hand, whatever I'm doing. Typing becomes impossible. Resting comfortably becomes impossible. Sleep becomes impossible. If I sit or lie on my hands, she will burrow furiously in order to push her head repeatedly into my hand, urging me to stroke her. It's so adorable and impossible to ignore.

She has started to enjoy sitting on my lap, or otherwise lying peacefully in contact with me. She has started to have some calmer periods, which are of course blissful.

Stroking her is immensely stress relieving. She also seems to know when I'm unhappy, and she cheers me up a lot. I think she's responsible for helping me to avoid complete capitulation during some recent stressful events.

In short: I'm really pleased I got her and I'm so happy she's part of my life.

 

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Proud Parent

5 min read

This is a story about vomit, excrement, snot, urine, blood and suchlike...

Litter trays

As a 39-year-old non-parent, I've had to suffer interminable anecdotes about the vile stuff that comes out of children, for over two decades, while working full-time in an office full of people who were incessantly breeding. I've heard everything that should never be uttered in a professional environment, where those who have decided not to completely dedicate their entire lives to their bestial destiny as preordained by their genes - those who have risen above the reproductive drive of a simple-minded animal - should not be subjected to interminable near-identical stories about babies and children.

However.

Now it's time for me to get my revenge.

My kitten likes to take a dump in the woodchips and she likes to urinate in the gravel. My kitten is extremely fussy about where she evacuates her bowel and bladder. Her absolute favourite thing to do is to urinate on my bed and defecate on my coat, but I banned her from both rooms where she was doing that.

In my presence, my kitten must have urinated on the duvet on my bed at least 10 times now. I know that my washing machine has been very busy indeed. I know that many parents can relate to having their washing machines full of items which have been covered in pooh, sick, urine, snot and other horrible substances. My own parents decided not to use proper nappies so that they'd have more money to spend on drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, so I definitely know that they can relate to having to put stuff covered in bodily waste into the washing machine.

Essentially, what I'm doing is potty training.

When I see my kitten about to take a wee on my duvet, I pick her up and move her to her litter tray. I have 4 litter trays - two downstairs in the kitchen, and two upstairs in my bedroom, so that she can be quickly manoevered into the one she seems to prefer for urination.

So far, I have managed to save my duvet from being soaked in kitten pee at least three times.

The first time I managed to move my kitten into the litter tray and saved my duvet, I felt like such a proud parent. I was so pleased to see her going to the toilet in the place that she's supposed to.

Another time, she went for a wee in her litter tray all on her own.

She's a kitten who's been raised in a good environment, and she has a very nice home where she's stimulated and not stressed; she has a nice balance between lots of fuss and attention, and quiet cosy places for her to retreat to as well. She's simply quite different from a regular domestic cat: she's 5 generations from an Asian leopard cat, which means that she's pretty wild. She deliberately saves up her pee as a scent marker, which is what many domestic tom cats do. She is also incredibly smart, so she pees to show her displeasure at any lack of fuss and attention from her humans. She expects things to be the way she wants them to be, or else she does a dirty protest.

Mercifully, she doesn't pee or poop anywhere she shouldn't except the duvet... and only when she wants to get a reaction out of her cat parents. She has [almost] complete freedom in a very large house, and aside from some houseplants which have taken a beating, she's been very well behaved.

She is a fusspot. It's taking a lot of effort to make sure her litter trays are in perfect and pristine conditions until she's fully settled and 'potty trained'. Of course - like all pet cats - she came from the breeder knowing how to take a poop in a litter tray, as well as knowing where to pee, but it was distressing for her to be adopted and taken away from her mother, brother and sisters, as well as all the other people and pets she knew in that house. I can be fully forgiving of the occasional dirty protest when she's not got things just the way she wants them.

So, hard work, but I'm still overjoyed to see her furry face, even if I just nip out to the shops for an hour and am pleasantly reminded that I have a beautiful kitten as a pet. She's inseperabale from me. She's sitting on my lap as I type this. She can't bear to be in a different room from her humans.

Probably pretty boring and gross stuff, but there we go - revenge for every story you ever told about dirty nappies and other childrearing anecdotes.

 

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