• Megan Rose

Hey, There's a Cat

"God sent you a cat."

That's what my mom always says. She's probably right. During the worst part of my illness - when I was crying almost as often as breathing and stuck up all night either from hypomania or medication side effects, the cat next door kept escaping from my neighbor's home.

This cat had been given to my neighbor by her daughter when he was a kitten. My mom saw him when they first brought him home - tiny as a chicken nugget.

I always thought that wasn't a great gift to give someone like your mother - another thing she has to take care of. I'm sure she loved cats and was excited to have a kitten, but I feel like the gift was more for the daughter than the mother, who already had an older cat living in her home. But they really did seem to love the little guy, and all seemed well with him.

Once the weather changed and the sun started poking through the clouds, the cat discovered that there was life beyond the apartment he was living in, and he wanted to be a part of it. Every time a family member would open the front door he would come bounding out, scaling up trees, pouncing on leaves, zooming around like a wind-up toy. They would then spend the next few minutes trying to catch him and bring him inside.

Once in a while we would be out there at the same time and we would try to help them catch him. A few times he escaped and hid and the only clue we had as to where he was, was the sound of the bell on his collar. Almost any time any of us would go out or come home we would wind up looking for the little guy, listening for the tinkle of the bell.

At one point, the family got tired of this charade and didn't make as much of an effort to keep track of him. I came outside one day and heard the bell but didn't see anybody. I found the cat, picked him up, knocked on my neighbor's door, and handed him the cat without a word.

The cat was becoming a problem for my neighbor. He didn't really get along with their older cat and he kept escaping. They were considering bringing him back to the shelter. My family wouldn't let that happen, so we said we'd take the cat and look for a home for him.

I went to their house to pick up his papers, and there was this little furry guy playing happily by himself with a pile full of toys, and I thought "How could you even think about bringing him back to the shelter?"

I'm not judging them for their decision - I was not in their shoes. But I just didn't see how such a good little cat could cause so much trouble that he would wind up being sent back to the shelter.

We took the cat. When my neighbors got him he was named Prince but they renamed him Charlie, which suited him very well. When he arrived at our house, he lounged around our home, he jumped on top of our washing machine, he played with individual pieces of dry food. My other cats tolerated him. My mom came to my room the first night we had him, after posting about him on Facebook hoping to find him a home, and said, "Megan...I love Charlie."

That was it. We kept him.

I, of course, loved him too. And over time he became my unofficial therapy cat. Anytime I cried he climbed up on my lap. He let me pick him up and pet him and stroke him and scratch him, and he was a loyal defender of my happiness. He knew just what I needed - when to hop on my lap and purr, when to roll around on the floor and make me laugh, when to attack me and force me to get up to play with him...

We've had Charlie for about 9 years now. He's still feisty, although he's calmed down a little bit in his older age. I tried to take him for a walk outside (we got a dog and he looked jealous of her walks) - I put a leash on him and carried him out into the hallway of our building by the door. I set him down on the ground and he frantically ran back to our apartment door. He no longer wishes to be in the wild. He likes his home with his rocking chair and his bowl full of dry food and his people. He still comforts me when I need it, and although I need him less now, I still love him the same. He needs less attention from me as well - now that he's older he likes to be on his own a little more, but I think we both know that we're there for each other whenever one of us needs the other one.

And, to be fair, he does need me every morning when I go in the bathroom to wash up. He makes me sit down on the toilet so he can hop on my lap and force me to pet him for 10 minutes.

And, to be fair, I do need him to always be within arm's reach in case depression takes over and I need my comfort cat to cheer me up.

I entered a contest for a scholarship to a lyric-writing course a few years ago. I wrote three songs to send in. I didn't get the scholarship. Looking back at the songs, they weren't that great, but I was proud of them at the time. The ballad I wrote was about Charlie. It's called "Hey, There's a Cat" and it's written below.

I want to encourage anyone out there suffering from any sort of mental disorder to consider getting a pet or even a plant. Having something to take care of gives you purpose, and having something that loves you unconditionally brings you unending joy. If you can't take care of a dog, get a cat. If you can't take care of a cat, get a hamster. If you can't take care of a hamster, get a fish. If you can't take care of a fish, get a plant. If you can't take care of a plant, get a succulent. Get something that gives you responsibility - it makes you feel good that you are able to take care of something other than yourself (and sometimes better than yourself) and it makes you feel good that there's someone in this world that will love you forever no matter what you do.

Find a friend with fur. Or a dependent with leaves. Take care of them and they'll take care of you.

- Megan

Lyrics Hey There's a Cat

I can’t see anything through the window anymore

It’s been night for days and there’s no promise of the sun

I walk a mile just to get to my bedroom door

And my checklist sits unchecked while nothing gets done

Tears come easier than anything I’ve ever known

Emotionally opposite extremes

And I laugh sometimes when I feel the most alone

I wake up crying from my dreams

Just when I think there’s nothing left

I buckle under nighttime’s heft

Just when I think the sun has died

I open up my eyes

Hey, there’s a cat

He’s pretty cute

Hey, look at that

He’s so astute

Curls up on me just when life has broken me in half

Kneads me back together with his paws and then I laugh

Looks at me with big round eyes, brings me his toy rat

Hey, there’s a cat

And he’s my cat

And hey there’s me

It’s overdramatic, the way the tears flow accompanied by gasps

The happiness that I should know just slips out of my grasp

And then his whiskers brush against me and I forget all that

Hey, there’s a cat

And he’s my cat

And hey there’s me

Some people like a good cry

But they don’t wish they could die

Some people like a late night

But they don’t really mean all night

Some people think happiness is a choice

But it’s like a lightswitch that my brain has to turn on

And after sitting through an evening filled with fun and noise

There’s a piece of me that feels like it might be gone

And then there’s a cat

And he’s my cat

And hey there’s me

I don’t clip his claws

Don’t want to cause

undue stress

I don’t care if he scratches me

And love bites are the best

I feed him nums, his meow hums

Echo in the hall

I scratch his bum, he always comes

Right to me when I call

Hey, there’s a cat

And he’s my cat

And hey there’s me

He doesn’t care that I take pills

Or that my seizures cause me spills

He doesn’t mind that I cry sometimes at night

I spoil him just because

He touches me with little paws

And usually he lets me hold him tight

Hey, there’s a cat

And he’s my cat

And hey there’s me

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