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.