I am writing this after my first 48 hours of kitten-rearing. As yet, she does not have a name. I wanted something that fits her personality but couldn’t find anything that translates as “carpet destroyer”; and my plan to honour her Persian heritage and magisterial ruff with something regal seemed silly given she is 15cm tall. (Although it would be funny to name her Genghis just to hear the vet call: “Genghis Khan?”)
It has been emotional. When she arrived she fled under the sofa. There she remained, trembling in the shadows, invisible except for the glassy flash of two blue eyes, refusing to be coaxed. I paced, I fretted, I Googled: “Have I traumatised my cat by adopting it?” I did not sleep.
But the internet said to give her time, try sitting (to seem less intimidating), reading aloud (to let her hear my voice) and play soothing music (to drown out unfamiliar sound). After only a few hours of lying on the floor listening to classical music and reading Crime And Punishment, an entirely new girl emerged – spirited, yet calm enough to be guided by curiosity, not fear. And the kitten liked it, too.
I needed help reassuring a nervous cat but in the end it was me whose nerves were calmed. That is the magic of pets. We can try to assign them roles (dogs are a man’s best friend; cats don’t have owners, only staff) but our relationship to them is boundless. They are at once dependants, rulers, therapists, teachers and friends: we help them grow, they return the favour.
The next morning, the timid feline had gone and in her place was an adorable terror, purring and shredding the cushions. “Is this my next learning, o wise kitty?” I asked. “To emotionally divest from material objects?” Who knows what lessons lie ahead, or if one name could do them justice.