Murphy minced his way through the front door, his rubbery legs crisscrossing in a delicate cat walk strut. He sat down at my feet, curled his tail neatly around his butt and stared up at me. A sphinx-like black statue. He meowed delicately – a quiet, meek squeak. His eyes widened, apparently surprised by his pathetic feline performance. He got back up on his paws, stretched lazily and padded around me, rubbing provocatively all around my legs with his black tail stuck up at ninety degrees like a flagpole. Sat down in front of me again. Stared up at me. Then let loose a loud, grating yowl.
It occurred to me that Murphy doesn’t care much about anything. He can eat stinky cheap cat food at any time of the day or night. He couldn’t give a monkey’s uncle about meal times or his weight. He has no issues with eating week-old leftovers from the kitchen dustbin. He doesn’t care if his bed is covered in hair, and is a nocturnal nomad – he will even swap sleeping places all night without losing his sense of well-being. He rolls in the dust when he feels like it, licks himself clean and starts again. I want to be a cat.
Best of all, he doesn’t care. Nor does he love anyone. No care, no love…. no regrets. No existential dilemmas. No feeling bad about scratching a kid who tried to impose a hug on him. No angst. Just food, sleep and leisure on his own terms. The simplest possible way to exist. We are just the hands who feed him. When he decides. Stroke him. When he decides. He doesn’t have any feelings for us, or for anyone else. I am the cat that walks alone. Feed me, and I will tolerate you. Stop feeding me, and I’ll go elsewhere. He only shows emotion when other animals venture into his territory. Then he renews his vows with the dog and chases the intruder off the property before returning and asking for food.
Murphy demands again. The yowl has developed into a gravelly and insistent miniature roar that is edged with irritation. I comply. He throws himself at his bowl, and noisily wolfs down his food without the slightest sign of thanks or recognition. Animal instinct. Then he pads softly into the lounge; curls up in a neat ball on the armchair and transforms into a soft toy. He languorously licks his paws, and inspects me as I open the mail, tut, curse and shred the paper into confetti. His baleful eyes observe me from the depths of a compact black fur ball. Detached and free of emotion. He sniffles and snores as I make phone calls, press stars and hashtags and see my time go by as I wait for a stranger to reply. To give me a solution or to create a new problem.
Murphy’s paws twitch in his sleep. Does he dream? Does he awaken with his stomach flipping over like a greasy egg when he thinks about what lies in wait for him each day? Does he summon up his courage before stretching and stepping out? Does he decide again and again to be a new cat, to stop doing this and start doing that? No, he’s just true to himself. I want to be a cat. Eat. Sleep. Play. Meow.