I often say that there is nothing like the bond between an Aspie and her pet. This is true for a lot of people I know and it is also true for me. Autistic people, and especially Autistic women, often have a strong affinity to animals and the natural world. Different people have different preferences for which animal they feel closest to. I have friends who love their horse, their dog, their guinea pigs and their snakes. For me it has always been cats. I have shad a few cats over the years, My first was Smokey – a less-then-imaginaively-named grey tortoiseshell kitty girl who was not particularly affectionate but loved playing and was quite good at keeping down the mouse population on my dad’s market garden. When I moved out of home, I acquired a Russian forrest cat called Sensei (I was doing martial arts at he time, hence the name). Sensei was regal and impressively intelligent. She became my little witch’s familiar and took on whatever mood I was experiencing. I loved Sensei more than anything and I still miss her now, twenty years after she passed away. I also had Tilly – a tabby cat who would go and visit everyone in the flats where I lived. She was authoritative and clever. She would wake me up using a variety of methods, from jumping off the wardrobe onto my bed to staring at me until I woke up, aware of the eyes boring into me and terrified that there was a seri a killer in my house.
I moved to Canberra in 2007 to start work as a graduate in the Australian Public Service. For the first eighteen months I shared a house. The woman I shared with was a very challenging person. She was quite controlling and patronising. Despite her identifying as have a disability, she was still kinda ableist around Autism, on one occasion telling me that Autistic people couldn’t manage staff and that I should stay in a junior level at work because of this. (Interestingly her own practices as a manager were perhaps not too effective. A lot of micromanagement was going on and she wouldn’t let her staff do the work for fear they would mess it up). She came across as immature and focussed on unimportant things. I disliked this woman immensely. She is the reason I bought Whimsy Manor – I longed to escape her controlling and petty clutches. This woman had two cats. Now I love cats and always have but my housemate’s cats were horrible. If they were humans I would probably describe them as arrogant and snooty. They had no affection, even for their owner. Neither of them liked pats or cuddles. I thought my housemate’s character must have influenced her cats behaviour and attitude.
Given this experience of snooty and unpleasant cats, I ‘went off’ cats for a couple of years. I decided that I didn’t want one. Sow hen I moved to my current home – the wonderful Whimsy Manor – I was determined not to get myself a title feline companion. Years ant by and I got quite unwell with mental illness. I was depressed and confused and I felt very lonely. Through my work I had befriended the Canberra cat rescue lady. She encouraged me to get a cat to help improve my mood but I made every possible excuse not to.
One day I had taken the day off work because I was depressed. I went outside to put the garbage out and found a little cat sitting on a wall. I patted him and he purred and purred. When I got back inside I realised that when I was patting the cat I didn’t feel depressed. The next day I called my cat rescue lady friend and said ‘Please get me a cat.’ That weekend my friend arrived with four carriers full of kittens. I had about ten little kittens running around my house but none of them seemed to be the cat for me. The last carrier had just one cat in it – a big black tomcat who apparently didn’t get along with the other cats at my friend’s house. He was almost an adult at ten months old. I picked him up and held him close to my chest. He started to emit deep, loud purrs and cuddled up. “Can I have this one?’ I asked and he has been with me ever since.
I called my black cat Mr Ronnie (short for Hieronymous Bosch, the medieval painter), but he soon became Mr Kitty. My mental health improved pretty much the instant I got Mr Kitty. Instead of coming home to a col and empty house, I now come home to a happy (and hungry) beautiful black cat. Mr Kitty is incredibly affectionate and is a real character. Anyone who has visited my house will have been roundly sniffed and examined by Mr Kitty. He has an amusing habit of trying to get inside people’s handbags. Mr Kitty is as much an important part of my life as my human family members and close friends. I have never loved a cat as much as I love my little furry boy. Even my mum, whom isn’t usually a fan of cats and dogs due to allergies, says that Mr Kitty is a gift from God (and I like that God is dispensing kitties – sounds like a good thing to me). Mr Kitty was a stray and my rescue lady friend only got him a few days before he became my little man, He had been wandering around farms north of Canberra. I don’t know how much cats remember but his closeness to me suggests that he somehow associates life with me to being an vast improvement on being a stray and is thankful for that, hence the affection. I rescued Mr Kitty but he also rescued me. He sleeps in my bed at night and cuddles up next to me. I usually put my arm around him and hold his little paw. So yes, there is nothing like the bond between this Aspie and her cat. Nothing at all.