I live in a cave with my cat, Louis, named for King Louis XIV of France. Our cave is actually a suburban garden apartment. Louis is a domesticated animal in the most ancient sense. He has the dignity and pride of a wild lion, and we are two animals cohabitating, as unnaturally as cats and dogs.

He doesn't like to be stroked and coddled like a baby, but instead prefers to be scratched under the chin and about his ears. He likes me to admire his stately mane with my fingers. At times like these, I have thought that he is capable of even deeper vanities than I am, and then I realize that this is absurd, and a deeply vain conceit, itself.

Our Best Days

Louis respects the life I provide for myself, and appreciates that I invite him to share it. I respect his instinct, his acute senses, and his nervous system. I am humbled by his empathy and nobility. On our best days, he reminds me that I am an animal. I chose his royal name when I was still a boy, and I have often wished I could remember my thinking from that time.

Odd Couple Grooming

Louis is a Himalayan cat, with long hair in a cool, gray color. He grooms himself meticulously, but his mane sometimes develops mats because he can't reach it with his mouth. I think if he were with other cats in nature, in a pack or a pride, that he and his companions would groom one another's manes. I try to brush Louis' mane sometimes, but he is a man, and likes to mix it up in the neighborhood, so it gets matted anyway. And so, from time to time, I end up cutting big chunks out of his mane.

At first I imagined Louis resented this practice because it wounded his vanity, but now I believe that he appreciates it. I am his companion animal swooping in with a scissor, an ingenious tool, to remove his unhygenic mats.

An Unnatural Love

Even though most of the time I feel like a caveman living with a noble animal, sometimes I treat Louis like a person. I think this is because I'm lonely. I lay on my bed with him and talk to him for hours, saying things like "I love you so much it hurts." And it's true. Sometimes I feel love for him so full that my throat closes up and I feel a painful aching in my chest as it swells. Sometimes this leaves me feeling guilty: I feel as if I'm abusing him with an unnatural love he can't understand or defend himself against. And I feel betrayed by a world that struggles against my animalness.

Vulnerable, Fraudulent, Lonely

A couple times when Louis and I have been lying with some strange girl in our bed (mine and Louis'), I've kissed him on the forehead or whispered to him of my love, just as I do when he and I are alone together. And these strange girls have invariably cooed over this behavior, leaving me feeling saddened and ashamed.

A Living Thing

One time when I was worried that Louis might be sick, I put my ear up to his flank and listened to his pounding heart, his inflating lungs, his racing blood. I think Louis really was sick, and that he was worried about his own health. He seemed to understand my purpose, and was grateful for my concern. But listening to this marvelous organism, this living, breathing, beating mess of fluids and tissues was shamefully exhilirating. I flooded with love and adoration. Since that sickness, I've often put my ear up to Louis' flank to listen just because I want to, and after the exhiliration passes, I am left feeling guilty, like a lonely exploiter, because what's happening is I'm lying in my bed, very alone, listening to my cat's heart beat.

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