My emotional support animal bit me.

It’s a joke that doesn’t need making. Wait, it gets worse (or better, if you’re in it for the humour.) My emotional support animal ran away, and when I tried to bring her home, she bit me.

It was the early hours of the morning, and I had done my fair share of weeping for the day, when the indoor cat, recognising a lost cause when she saw one, decided it was time to become an outdoor cat.

I had never heard of an indoor cat before I moved continents. I mean, I knew someone who kept cats in her flat but I always worried it was somehow cruel. We live on the second floor with no direct access to the ground. My partner’s got the heart of a Valentine’s Day teddy bear and he’s never known the fickle love of a cat before. So he was deeply concerned that we’d be trapping an animal if we got an ‘outdoor cat’ that couldn’t get to the Great Outdoors of a London suburb from our flat. So, when it became clear that cat charities, including the RSPCA, endorse the idea of an indoor cat, it seemed like a gift from Bast.

Bast has been generous with me before. Twice, when I’ve had my heart broken (by the same man because you know…I’m stubborn), I’ve gotten a kitten. And the tiny balls of fur who do things like thinking your bra is a jungle gym or sitting on another bigger kitten’s face until you choose him worked their slow, enchanting magic. As the teddy bear said after watching one of these two miracle workers discover a leaf, and then discover the same leaf again, with the same degree of delight, it is hard not to feel a little bit better. Even my almost-not-a-teenager brother recognises this – although he has reversed the correlation. He says when the cat starts to hang out with you, you know you’re due for a breakdown. For me, my cats remain the best antidote for my panic attacks.

The problem is: they don’t live here yet. I do. Annoyingly, my panic disorder seems to be an Anglophile. So, we got a cat.

She’s not actually great at emotional support. I mean, if she could talk, we could probably compare PTSD. As it is, she changes her mind mid-stroke about whether she wants to be stroked; and she’s jumpier than me. Teddy bear dropped a dish – me and cat are in the other room, quivering. She’s also lopsided, so her backside knocks things over without her front end realising – inducing major panic. She also has the temperament of that old guy in the pub (see, I’m learning British things?) Things make her angry that have been there all along. She wakes up on a Thursday and finds the chair suspicious-looking, so she hisses at it. She rolls over on a Monday and the colouring book has become a source of ire. The Wednesday before last, she made it clear that that tail of hers is a traitor.

But you know, she’s company in a foreign place when I can’t go out much or you know, talk to people. She cuddles next to me on the couch, took up residence on our bed, and stroking her, or listening to her small shuffling snore, stabilises my breathing.

And then she ran away, taking our peace of mind along with her. She has a bell around her neck. Do you know how many everyday sounds could be a bell? Your keys are jangling, you dropped some coins…suddenly, for the first time when the mental health nurse asks “Are you hearing things?” I consider saying yes. The one time I actually spotted her, drenched and cross about it in a storm, I made a bad grab and we ended up in Accidents & Emergency for four hours.

It’s been just over a week. We’ve done everything we, the charity, the neighbour, our moms, and the internet, can think of. Frankly, I’m not even sure if it would be right to keep her inside now, since she clearly wants to be a tiger (there go all those assurances about how she was a happily indoor cat) despite seeming pretty damn happy before (other than her usual existential rage). So now I do the work of trying to accept she might not want to live with us anymore (you can’t be forcing a cat to do jack), and try to be mature and think maybe she came to me when I really needed her and that’s all. But each day, there’s a moment when I hold a small breath, hoping the phone is ringing because someone has seen our poster and knows where she is.


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