The hardships of a housecat

Illustration by Ethan Coyne

I woke up to the sun baking my fur. It was a pleasant warmth, but one I knew would hurt after a while. I hadn’t been unconscious, but in a quieter place- part of the ambience. The sounds came rushing back in: birds reciting pedantic songs, the clamorous mess that humans dance to, and the low growl that could only be the dog. I tried to ignore that last sound.

There were smells too. Many were bad but, being an optimist, I focused on the good ones. The neighbours were having a barbecue. The scent of sizzling meat wafted over and I could smell sausage, fillet steaks and my favourite- roast chicken. I caught myself purring at the thought. Invigorated, I scrambled down from the roof and crossed the garden. My human saw me and muttered a half-hearted greeting. I ignored him.

The dog was sleeping by the fence, using his crippled legs as a pillow. The smell from his rancid fur was powerful, and I couldn’t help but grimace. His bloody eyes opened and instantly locked on to me, as if he had been plotting this in his sleep. We entered a tense standoff, each of us waiting for the other to make the first move. I felt the wound on my tail throb as I remembered our last encounter. I wouldn’t let him hurt me again. I charged, puffing up my fur to appear larger than I was. This caught him off guard, and the beast stared at me incredulously. At the last second I dashed to the side, bounding on to the barbecue. My pursuer had caught on now, and he clawed at the metal beneath me, producing an excruciating sound. I leapt over him, and turned in mid air. His eyes were manic with bloodlust. I scaled the fence just in time and heard furious barking behind me. I had won this round.

I sauntered into the neighbours’ garden- one step closer to heaven. The smells were stronger now, and I couldn’t help biting the air as I imagined the taste. I ran towards the source, my paws touching pebbles, then stone, then wood. I was excited as I approached the neighbours, so I called out to them. One of them responded in a high-pitched voice, as if I were a kitten. This would normally annoy me, but my mind was focused elsewhere. I was welcomed with a thorough neck stroke, sending a tingle down my spine. There would be time for cuddles later.

I turned my attention to the plump, steaming chicken on the counter. One of the humans was standing guard, gouging pieces out with a large blade. I needed a taste. I tentatively climbed on to the counter and moved towards the chicken. Only a few steps more. I was within pouncing distance when firm hands seized me and lifted me into the air. I tried to remain calm, but that vital connection to the earth had been lost. My world went spinning and my paws flailed, reaching out for anything to grab on to. I couldn’t bear it any longer, so I squirmed until the hands released me. I fell to the earth and was grounded once more. Rough fingers stroked my head- a sorry apology.

My torment had only begun. I was forced to watch the humans devour the tasty chicken; each gob and smack of their mouths was a taunt, and rage spread like a fire within me. I would punish them for their insolence. As soon as one of them got up to wipe their grubby hands, I would pounce on the chicken. They didn’t need all that food, they were fat already; surely it would be put to better use feeding me. 

I tried to climb on the table a few times, but was shoved off on each occasion. The rage transformed into an overwhelming helplessness. The suffering consumed me, and I could not remember a time when I wasn’t hungry. Humans are cruel: affectionate in one moment, apathetic in the next. They are kind only when it suits them.

I had almost lost all hope when I was tossed a morsel of chicken. It was a succulent piece of breast, and for a moment I questioned its existence. I sniffed it, then ate it whole. I went to a place outside of reality, one with no loud noises or bad smells; here, I could sleep undisturbed. I stayed there for a while, and let the taste of the chicken make me whole. I knew this place was transient, so I savoured every moment. 

Slowly, reality returned, and so did hunger. I felt lost, like I’d been swept away from my true home. I needed another piece more than I needed air. I begged and pleaded, to no avail. I dug my claws into the ground and pulled, trying to tear the world apart. I wished I had never gone to that place, as reality was now painfully inadequate. Whoever instilled this ravenous hunger within me had done so as a punishment, to torture me for a lifetime. 

Some time passed, and the dream world faded until it became a distant memory. I wasn’t hungry anymore, and I began to notice the world around me. A butterfly with crimson wings flew past, glimmering in the evening sun. The smoke of a pinewood fire enveloped me like an earthy blanket. This was the real world, but it felt different. A human approached me and I winced, expecting more pain. Instead, I was coddled. They scratched me in just the right place on my neck, easing out knots that had been there for weeks. I rolled over and they rubbed my belly, massaging me into a state of tranquillity. I lay back and kneaded the warm air with my paws; this wasn’t so bad.

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