My cats are the first thing I see after I get up and the last thing I see before I go to sleep.
It was not always that way. When I started to feed a colony of feral cats in the shared garden of the house where we lived, the cats were the first thing I saw when I opened the front door and the first thing I saw when I came home from work. The cats got used to me and all the food I provided and I fell in love with them. I have learned so much from them. They were the unparalleled inspiration that enticed me to research behaviourism, to learn about animal behavioural and eventually apply for a place on a Psychology course. I was always looking forward to seeing the cats. They gave me purpose and motivation. I would sit with them outside on summer evenings as watching them was very calming after a stressful day.
Little did I know that we were eventually to be evicted. My boyfriend started to exhibit mental health problems and confused his finances. The place also need reconstruction as well due to lack of repairs. I was still able to find a new place for us and the two kittens we took in from the colony as they were too vulnerable to stay outside during winter. It was truly heart breaking to move out and leave the colony behind, despite the new place being cosier for the two kittens.
As I started a Psychology course at university, the cats were my motivation. I believed that I need to do really well in order to get a good well payed job afterwards. I would see always in my dreams a nice big flat with a garden, so my cats could have lots of fun and I could take in some more from the colony as well.
I kept coming to the old place to feed the cats. However, I have not able to go there more than twice a week. Lots of the cats have moved away or disappeared during that time.
However my kittens at home were thriving. My male cat Tiger always waited for me on the window to come home. That gave me a sense of comfort and reassurance. My boyfriend who was later diagnosed with adult ADHD and Autism got really close to the cat during the long days I was spending at the university library. He was also out of work at the time and the cats kept him occupied. The cats gave him a sense of security and provided a distraction from distressing symptoms of his ill mental health. When he had, what I later learnt, were autistic outbursts, I would pick a cat and put it into his arms and he would just melt and mellow as it calmed him down. It always worked.
They would also keep him company and kept him motivated on occasions when I needed to go away to visit my parents, who live very far away from us. Looking after the cats gave a structure and routine to his day. I also felt reassured when I knew they were taking care of each other as the cats seem to understand where people need their attention and give love and attention back.
But the challenges continued. Just as I was completing my Psychology course we were got evicted again under a section 21, no fault eviction. It happened too quickly for me to be able to find the great new job I envisaged. And with no job to speak off, we were not able to find a new home. This now meant big worries about my two house cats as well. It was really hard to find a foster home for them, but we managed in the end.
As my kitties were fostered out I was not able to see them. But I could still go to see my colony cats. I would travel to see them and feed them once a week even when we were put further away outside of the borough. Spending time with the cats gave me piece, calm and reassurance. They were always there. They always came when I rattled a box of Whiskas or opened a tin.
Then just before the spring started we got into new temporary accommodation. The fostering for our cats ended but we were just delighted to take them home as we missed them very much. It was like a miracle to have them back. I was also able to go to see the colony. Things were getting happy again and we were settling down. My boyfriend was much calmer when the cats were with us, despite the fact that sharing one small room was stressful and we felt on the top of each other. Also my boyfriend who developed heart issues, could actually feel how cuddling a cat would lower his heart rate and slow down his breath.
But then we were told by the temporary accommodation provider that we were not allowed to have our cats there with us. I searched frantically for a new fostering for the cats. It was the lowest point in my life. But I was not willing to give in. At the end I managed to find somebody willing to keep them for a fee if I could come to help take care of them. This was difficult, but I was just happy to be able to see them.
But my boyfriend was deteriorating. Times were stressful as we were nearly evicted again. He was having outbursts and rages and nothing would calm him down. My release was going to see the colony as well as our cats. But I could not go there without planning. When my boyfriend was raging, I would leave the room and walk around the block no matter what the weather. There was this long haired cat always there in snow, rain, always. She looked like a pedigree cat but she also looked abandoned. I later realised she was well known and loved in the neighbourhood and fed by many. But nobody would take her in as she had an owner who had to move somewhere else without her and she also fought ferociously with all other cats.
I started to stroke and cuddle this cat. We become friends. I saw her nearly every day and she kept me sane. She was always there. She loved to sit on my lap as I sat on the stairs leading to the front door. Her coddles were so warm and calming. It was so reassuring when I missed all the other cats who were far away. This pedigree cat also made me feel less anxious despite my boyfriend’s unpredictable moods. She would always light up my day.
Then we had to move again. Shortly before that this lovely kitty disappeared. It was heart breaking as she helped me so much and I felt I had let her down. But now the colony kitties were giving me respite and I was eventually able to take in my house cats. This was really helpful to all of us. Then we finally moved again, this time into a place that is more suitable for my house cats and I can even take my male kitty outside for walks. This mean a lot to us all. The kitty loves his outings and I enjoy going for walks with him especially on nice sunny days.
And now again my cats are the first thing I see after I get up and the last thing I see before I go to sleep.