She loves me over anything; just like I learned to
Have you ever heard of the stereotype that all pets resemble their owner?
Have you ever heard of the stereotype that all pets resemble their owner? Well, it might be truer than we believe. That’s what I came to realize after reflecting on the past nine years with my cat Miri- a beautiful, fluffy, stubborn ball of fur.
Every morning I hear the click clacks of Miri’s paws on the hardwood floor as she approaches the closed door of my bedroom. She sits; and after a few seconds of blissful silence, she relentlessly glides the tips of her claws down the door. Most days this will go on until I finally decide that I am more awake than asleep; but some days she’ll add a symphony of wails, you know, to mix it up a little. When I finally open the door, she guides me to her partially empty bowl of food and nudges me to pet her while she eats what is already there. After this unusual ritual, I make breakfast and she spends the rest of the morning rolled up like a croissant in the exact place I slept the night before. I’ve been told by past lovers that I don’t have much of a scent. I like to believe that she can sense something humans can’t; that it feels like a safe space for her.
The story of how I adopted Miri is probably not uncommon to many women in their twenties. Girl meets boy. Boy paints a fairy-tale future. Girl falls for it. Boy was seeing other people the whole time. Girl is a mess. Girl gets a breakup cat.
That’s what Miri was- at the beginning- a breakup cat. I got her because I craved being wanted. I had just faced the harsh reality of what dating is in our modern era: situationships, ghosting, avoidance and everyone being overwhelmed with too many options; afraid of missing out on someone cuter, better or more successful.
It was just me and her for a while. I even brought her back home to France with me for the summer. Everyone fell in love with her immediately. She was curious without being overwhelming; she was needy in the sweetest way; and she was stubborn. All traits that I know I also have. It didn’t take long for my mom to refer to Miri as her granddaughter; partially as a joke, but maybe also because she saw that Miri was very much like me in many ways.
When Miri was just 6 months old, I met the man that would be my first long term boyfriend. Miri loved him; almost as much as I did. At times, it seemed like she loved him more than she loved me. Strangely enough, I felt no animosity. I understood her need for his touch and his approval. When he broke up with me claiming that he wanted to be single; I was devastated. I remember staring at the shelves directly across from our bed and feeling sucked into an abyss. I recall trying to collect myself by looking into the future; a future where the pain would be over; but everything came up blank. As the panic rose, I felt nauseous. The waves of emotions were so strong and quickly changing that I didn’t have time to process one before another one came crashing down. I felt like I couldn’t breathe; like I was drowning. In the midst of this chaos going on in my head, I remember feeling a tap on my leg, then a tap tap, then a tap tap tap. I looked down and there was Miri. She walked ever so slowly and gently onto my lap. She then rolled up into a ball-much like a safety ring. Although it only lasted a few seconds at first, the waves of emotions subsided and my entire focus was on this tiny being that had known exactly what I needed to stop spiraling and be anchored back to reality.
For the second time, it was just me and her. Living together by ourselves, I started to realize that Miri wasn’t as anxious as she used to be. The scabs that would form on her neck when she was overwhelmed started to heal, and so did my eczema.
Miri had always been a vocal cat, but she started to communicate more. She became loud and obnoxious when she wanted something. It would happen when she was hungry; but at times, it was simply because she wanted affection. She started expressing her needs, and so did I. She knew that I would never walk away from her and I knew that she would also be there for me.
Slowly, we established a new routine. When I would watch a movie on the couch, it was almost like she could sense it from another room; she’d jump up and curl up onto my lap and attentively study my face. If the movie was particularly rousing and I mistakenly let out a gasp, she’d stand up, get in front of my face, and meow in concern. The louder and more frequent the gasps, the louder and more concerned she became. It always fascinated me how quickly she could tell when my anxiety rose, and how good she was at bringing me back to reality. I’d even catch myself apologizing profusely for upsetting her when all she wanted to do was Netflix and sleep on my lap.
While I was healing from losing the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, I started going out more. I’ve always had a wonderful group of friends; but it was during my lowest times that some of these friends became instrumental to my healing. When I would get home from the bar, or a particularly inebriated dinner, I’d walk through the door and not be ready for the silence that living alone entails. I wanted the happy bustling to continue just for a little while longer. Therefore, more often than not, I’d put on my headphones and dance in front of my mirror like no one was watching- like I wish I could when I was out in public. I’d marvel at how confident my reflection looked. That person in the mirror was a version of me, and she seemed fun, happy and free. Miri would jump onto the dining table and watch in silence while I let myself be consumed by these positive emotions and express them through movement. I’d eventually catch a glimpse of her patiently watching through the mirror and immediately be overcome with gratitude. I’d pick her up and place her two front paws on my shoulder and we would dance together while she gently purred into my ear.
One night, my friend Bonnie took me out to a bar I love. At the Tequila bar, Bonnie introduced me to Stephane; an old high school friend of hers that she thought I’d get along with. That night I wasn’t in a particularly chipper mood and definitely not in the right mind space to chit chat with someone I didn’t know. The idea of flirting didn’t even cross my mind. Much to my surprise, I remember finding him strikingly handsome. He was covered in tattoos, and I had also recently started to express myself in the same way. Our conversations were engaging; we talked about our passions and my PhD research, and we bonded over the mutual pain of our failed relationships. With Stephane, it felt finally safe to open up. This time, Miri was cautious. She was intrigued but mostly stayed away. She enjoyed having him around, but early in our encounters, she would hop on the bed at night and try to sleep close to me. I like to believe that she was trying to protect me in the only way she knew. It took me months to be open to the idea of Stephane and I dating. When we finally decided to give our relationship a go, it moved quickly. Around the time I decided to go all in, so did Miri.
As our relationship grew and I started being open to new adventures such as traveling to Cuba, and moving in together; Miri also had an awakening of sorts. She maintained her obsession for me, but she added to her vocabulary. She started to vary the sounds she makes when she meows. At times, she would squeak like a duck to get our attention; other times, she’d make a strange raspy sound that came from the depths of her gut. The first time I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I call these sounds her “pterodactyl” meows. I have learned that she makes these when she is overcome by comfort and happiness; they often come after we tell her we love her.
Today, Miri still sleeps in my scent and rolls up on my lap. She loves me over anything; just like I learned to. My relationship with Miri is different than any I have ever experienced. Her wellbeing and love for me is a direct reflection of the love I have for myself. When I named Miri, I wanted to choose a name that was beautiful and meaningful to me. Miri means “wonderful” in Latin, and another word couldn’t have described her better.