Emotional Support Beast

I have always enjoyed cats. They are pretty, a touch mysterious, lithe, soft, ruthless, and very protective of their young. And they purr–what’s not to like? From earliest childhood, I’ve known the sensation of soft paws landing on the bed in the dark, followed by a deliberate circling and settling in on the covers. When you are a child terrified of the dark, that self-possessed, warm presence feels like the visitation of an angel.

My family knows of my feline inclinations, and thus in the middle of the pandemic, a relative who was also in the middle of a divorce (what fun–NOT) called me. “Can  you take Augustus? I’m really sorry to ask, because he’s not an easy cat, but we can’t come up with a plan for him, given that we’re both moving we know not where, and Gus doesn’t like upheaval.”

Gus is a mature, neutered male cat, but he does not take the neutered part very seriously. He loathes other cats, dogs, alterations of routine, changes of diet, noise, the scary out of doors, and birds who dare flutter past the window. Had he ever met squirrels, rabbits, or mice, he’d probably take dim view of them too.

Gus expresses his frequent displeasure by peeing–on everything. If another cat approaches him, Gus delivers a sound drubbing and then goes on a ram-pee-ge. The walls, the floors, and if he’s vexed beyond all bearing, upholstery. Gus has taught the universe many urinary lessons, and no vet has been able to find a medical cause for this charming behavior.

He’s a beautiful cat to look at–one quarter Siamese, big innocent eyes, lovely brindle and white markings (that’s him in the top photo), and I swear a hair analysis would reveal him to be a male tricolor (virtually impossible). Because he is gorgeous, but also a man of such particulars, he has several failed adoptions on his resume.

The pandemic filled up shelters, and this contrary cat had no good options. “Send him to me. I have some ideas.”

Gus arrived shortly thereafter, looking ready to visit pee-magedon on any who touched him. It took a little while, but he’s now king of the whole upstairs, which he rules in solitary splendor, but for my regular intrusions. He has a litter box in every room, the run of two big permanent-access balconies, five cat towers, and–from me–an embarrassment of affection.  Should any feline fool breach the citadel, Gus sorts ’em out with much noise and batting of paws, and–I think–he delights in doing so.

He hasn’t taken a rage-whiz in ages. A happily ever after for one wee beast. But what about for his personal body guard, chamber maid, chief cook, personal shopper, and chin-scratcher?

In recent days, I’ve found the news upsetting–seems like the news has been upsetting for years now. My usual wind-down routine at the end of the day is to read Golden Age British detective mysteries. Ye gods, the prose… the humor… the world building. But even my cherished Ngaio Marsh series hasn’t been disconnecting me from my worries lately.

Enter Gus. Now that he’s happily in charge of his world, he allows of the occasional frolic, and, lordy, that cat can frolic. If I get out the squeaky-feathers toy at the end of the day, Gus will fly around the bedroom, killing it to death, performing airs above the carpet, and generally being ridiculous.

Five minutes of Feathers, and I have usually laughed out loud, engaged in silly talk with my cat, and become completely absorbed in one variety of fun. If  I do this (and read my storiestoo, of course), I can let the day go much more easily. The cat who couldn’t find a home has made my home a happier place for me.

How are you managing worry and fretfulness these days? Any new coping mechanisms presenting themselves?

PS: Lady Violet Pays a Call is now on sale in print, and from the web store in ebook!

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13 comments on “Emotional Support Beast

  1. It sounds like you and Gus are fortunate to have found each other.

    I have always had cats and dogs, but I am down to only one cat now – but she has the sweetest nature. She likes to sit in my lap and if I don’t pet her quickly enough, she reaches up and rubs her paws across my cheeks. I know she is asking me to pet her, but it feels like she is petting me. She is the perfect companion for this time in my life and a HUGE part of my coping mechanisms.

  2. I would love to find a dog savvy cat with a zen purr. Right now I have 2 dogs without whom I or at least my sanity would not have survived.
    One is the “cat dog” she hops onto the back of my chair and settles to watch out the window. The other one is available for endless hugs as long as I repay with belly rubs.

  3. Whoo-HOO! I just purchased one of my coping mechanisms aka a Burrowes Book. Lady Vi will be a good companion.

    I’ve spent much of my life firmly under paw, but cannot in good conscience take in a child in fur under current circumstances. So I make do with music (Amazon hides Bollywood soundtracks unless you specifically ask for them on the streaming side of Prime), my county’s online library offerings, & YouTube where I can stuff my brain with everything from live space shots to new archaeological discoveries to DIY how to videos. I also have a good friend who calls while she’s getting her morning walk & we can talk things through while we start our day. Plus my treadmill where I walk off my own stress at the end of the day while watching videos, listening to audiobooks, or yakking on Clubhouse with an international group who share an interest.

  4. I completely agree about the ability of our cats to wash away all our worries and cares. When we moved to this house 5+ years ago, we had 3 cats and a black lab (a Guiding Eyes for the Blind dropout). Oddly, the youngest cat and the last to join our household, Tippy, was the fiercest, regularly swatting the other cats and our mush of a dog. Tippy was a stray who was brought into the hospital where my daughter worked as a veterinary technician. Our daughter mentioned that a young black cat had been left with them (my husband has a thing for black cats). When we met her she was walking around in circles in the exam room, due to massive ear infections and suspected neurological disorders. Afraid that if we didn’t take her, no one else would, we brought her home. My husband named her “Tippy” inspired by the permanent head tilt that her ear infections left her with. We had her and loved her for over 15 years. She developed diabetes at around age 7, so we made sure we were always home at 8:30 am & pm to give her insulin shots (or made arrangements to shift her shots 30 minutes at a time for a week or two to better accommodate a special occasion). She was definitely my husband’s cat, spending her evenings sprawled on his chest, reminding him that he’d stopped petting her by nudging his neck with her head. Who could be stressed with a cat purring on your chest?

  5. I love the image of Gus flying about the room chasing after the feathers. One of my cats adored our feathers on the string. The other simply wants to groom them, but not actually chase them. Hehe.

    Meditation is a tried and true coping mechanism. It’s too hot now for a soothing warm bath, unfortunately. CBD gummies (no THC, just the legal CBD for my state) work a treat, but I try to save them for truly stressful situations and not garden variety stress.

  6. Well, THAT rang a bell with me. Ah, yes. The pee-venge. I won’t bore you with our own cat tales regarding the above mentioned issues, just commiserating and understanding where you come from. Yeah, we’re cat peeps.

    The paper was full of crappy news today, well when hasn’t it been? But why did I torture myself today when I have plenty of other stuff to get done today before we go celebrate the 4th on the 3rd, with family.

    What have I been doing to relieve the stress of the world these days? When even reading is failing me. When I’m jumpy and feeling like doom is falling on me any minute. When I’m trying to be a good do-bee and get my work-outs in. Keep the scale going in the downward direction instead of up. I’m not much of a T.V. watcher these days and haven’t been for years, now. That was just purely accidental by way of logistics and happenstance. In the past 5yrs I’ve read more than the previous 60 and prefer it that way. But during the height of the pandemic I started watching Youtube videos of crafts-making. And desperately wanting something different to focus on and needing something different than the many needlework things I used to do when my hands cooperated (drat aging) I started pulling together supplies to do what they call junk journaling. Which looked very creative, doable for me, somewhat economical (ha! Tools [read-toys]) and could go in so many directions. Also fed my whole recycling/reuse/etc., desires. In a round-about way it got me to keep working on unpacking the stuff we moved with us but shouldn’t have but didn’t have the time to weed through before we moved. Don’t get me started. I’m sllllooowwwly getting to the actual creative stuff, but in the meantime it gives me something to think about other than lost reproductive rights and the emergency election that took place here last week and our candidate lost. It gives me people to watch on YT that don’t talk about the things I already overthink. They inspire because of artistic creativeness and attitude. It also gives me something other than the already mentioned subjects to interact with my Hubby about (the technical computer stuff that comes up.) It’s all good. I’m getting my basement in order. I’m getting rid of stuff I need to get rid of. I’m letting my art wanna-be flag fly.

    And yesterday a different craft: I finally had all the materials together to make the blue and yellow sunflowers wreath for my front door. My nod to Ukraine and the struggle for independence another nation is fighting for.

    And I’ll go to bed tonight petting our senior citizen who will be stressed that we left the house for hours, not to mention the sound of fireworks.

  7. I am also a cat person! My 3 “kids” help me remember that, while the world goes mad, there are things to enjoy: a good meal, a walk around the house, playing madly and zooming around like crazy. And, yes, the feather toy! The adored and beloved feather toy! They all love it. And, when they’re happy, I’m happy. When they are rubbing around my legs and purring, that is the most calming thing I can think of.
    Reading is also a big coping mechanism. I ADORED “Miss Desirable”! Xavier and Catherine’s story was so lovely, so calming, so hopeful. It is a treasure!!!
    Sometimes I just let myself be sad and hope that a good night’s sleep will reset the worry and fretting.
    My other coping strategies aren’t “healthy” (e.g. shopping), so I try to minimize that as much as possible. 🙂

  8. The term “support beast” caught my attention.

    I had a meltdown on vacation in San Diego this winter when I couldn’t get into my bra. I’d been wearing “comfort” underthings through the pandemic. My family was wonderful. I changed my clothes and we got on with our day.

    We then tracked down a wonderful lingerie store that was open, San Diego County being better-check-first at that point, caring fitters and a very, very wide range of stock in spite of supply chain shortages. They took my old bras for a shelter program and fitted me with some well-fitting undergarments. My “support beasts.”

    As I have crept into life post-pandemic, I am secure and my underwear fits.

  9. Bless you for taking in that baby. It is one of the marvelous things about cats that they usually turn out to be a joy to have around. Except for the weeing! I read somewhere that your relationship with cats is that of parent to child, whereas with dogs, you are their pack leader. I believe that.

    My best coping method is to read. I am having balance issues (ears) and taking walks is out, which I hate. When you are reading, your focus is on the story and not on your troubles.

  10. Ditto to that last comment about Grace being our coping mechanism, along with other tried and true writers whom I trust to never steer me wrong, give me something to think about AND make me sigh with pleasure when they reach their hard won HEAs. I find I have to reread and re-re-read my favorite authors for comfort late at night when the news gets me down. Also I spend a lot of time on my porch staring at the trees, and I go to the gym! I find that sweating out my stress is helpful, not that I am such an athlete, but a good hour makes me much less anxious. No cats right now though. Mine died and I haven’t yet recovered, although I do love them.

  11. Unfortunately, I am allergic to cats but I agree there is not much that can compete with a purring cat. Instead I lean heavy into reading to soothe. I have a love of the Netflix show Nailed It! Reliably I end up laughing out loud. It is a good way to bring my kids into a better mood too.

  12. My cat, and your books, have been my lifesaving device for the past two years. I say, your books, not to be obsequious but in earnest. I couldn’t read anything stressful at all so mysteries other than Agatha Christie were shelved. The Duke’s Disaster was my most frequent reread. Noah’s humor got me through. I’ve read it 17 times.