My apartment is called Whimsy Manor and is filled with art and pretty things, silk flowers, books by friends and by me (and many other books), photos of friends and family, a fair number of awards and the usual stuff you find in houses – furniture, a TV and a laptop. I have owned my home since 2009 but it did not get a name until 2013. Here is the story of Whimsy Manor and it’s most lovely – and naughty – inhabitant who is a person of the black cat persuasion and a very close friend and ally against those demons my brain tends to create.
Whimsy Manor started out as a compromise. I bought it because my housemate at the time was a controlling bully and I had no assertiveness at all. I thought that she would think me buying my own place was not a personal slight against as moving to another rental would have been. My budget meant I needed to buy the cheapest apartment I could in Canberra and near a bus route. The apartment I picked had been built the month I was born. The flats were initially built as public housing for low income people but had been sold to private owners in the 1980s. The walls were sturdy concrete and probably built to withstand the end of the world but it soon became apparent the plumbing was less so. I had a number of expensive and stressful plumbing issues, the worst of which being the need to replace the leaking shower.
My anxiety about the maintenance, trustworthiness of tradies – or not – and expenses took over my life. I thought my walls would collapse while I was asleep. As can happen for me, all this stress turned into psychosis. I had a very unpleasant few years.
Now, to the bit about the cat. I am a cat lady. I was a cat lady when I was five years old. Like many Autistic people I have an affinity with animals which surpasses almost anything else. I know cats and up until moving to Canberra I have always had a cat. The controlling former housemate had two cats and they were the most unpleasant felines I have ever met. If they were children at the time I was growing up, they would have been described a ’spoilt’. These unpleasant cats and my association of them with their unpleasant human owner did something I would never have thought possible in that it put me off having a cat!
When I was unwell and worrying about the structural integrity of my house along with my mental health, several friends suggested quite strongly I would be better off with a cat but I just responded with a list of reasons it wouldn’t be a good idea. I thought that if I couldn’t look after myself, how could I care for a cat? All this changed one day I was off work. I went up to put out the garbage and as I was about to enter my house I saw a little tabby cat sitting on the wall. I gave him a scratch behind he ears and he purred. It was lovely. When I got inside I realised that when I was patting the cat I did not feel unwell. Actually I had felt quite good. ‘I need a cat.’ I thought – and what a wonderful realisation that was! I was very fortunate that I had a friend at the time who was the local cat rescue person. I called her and said ’I need a cat!’ She came the next day with four cat carriers. The first three were full of very cute kittens, filled with mischief and curiosity. They were lovely but I didn’t want one of them. The last carrier had an adult cat, a big black one who my friend said didn’t get along with the other cats. The cat, who had been given a generic black cat name like Shadow or something, let out a sad yowl. In response I did something which anyone who knows cats knows you shouldn’t do: I picked up the grouchy cat and held him to me. He just snuggled in and started purring. He has been purring – on and off – ever since. At that moment he became Mr Kitty. In that moment my life actually changed.
My friend took all her kittens home – including the two feral ones which has got stuck under the washing machine and needed rescuing apparently for a second time! The black cat stayed wiht me. I loved him from the moment we connected and I always have,
Mr Kitty was the most challenging cat I ever had. He destroyed furniture and carpet and his way of asking for anything – food, attention etc – was to bite my feet! But this was just how he was. I think both of us knew that we belonged to one another and that would never leave him or given him up. He had been a stray for some time before I got him and his anxiety around food broke my heart. I would leave a bowl full of cat biscuits for him but when I got home from work he wouldn’t have touched them. As soon as I got in he would finish the food. I think he was worried I wouldn’t come home and he would need to ration the food. He doesn’t do that anymore. In fact he is one of the happiest cats I know. I often find him in the hallway just sitting there and purring for no apparent reason.
My mum does not share that strong bond with animals I have. She is allergic to cats but even she knows he is very important to me. She says he is a gift from God (which always makes me smile as I imagine God dispensing kitties for people who need them).
The biggest difference Mr Kitty has made is in my attitude about my home. A few months after I got him I started thinking of my home as a positive thing, In the past I had wished I could live at my workplace after hours but then I started looking forward to the little furry person waiting for me at home with cuddles and purrs. My house became known as Whimsy Manor and I started on my work to make it a home with as much character as a small apartment could have. People now come to Whimsy Manor and many say it is a very warm and positive place. Some of my friends tell me how Mr Kitty is like another friend, not just my cat. To me he is certainly much more than ‘just’ a pet. He really did change my life. I always say that I rescued Mr KItty and he rescued me. (And he is nibbling my left foot so I’d better give him some biscuits….)
This blog was recently named one of the top Autism resources on the Internet by The Art of Autism. The author is very happy about this although Mr kitty isn’t all that fussed 🙂