My Fear of Abandonment

My worries that my cat will die is triggering anxiety about being left alone.

Posted Dec 20, 2014

They didn’t always get along as I had hoped. Zoe weighed about thirteen pounds and Lucy weighed about eight at her heaviest. Sometimes I’d hear the most God-awful screeching and then I’d see Zoe almost riding Lucy and this strange arrangement of cats would dash into the living room. I’d have to get the squirt bottle and aim the stream of water at the both of them to break it up.

One day in 2010, Lucy crawled into my closet and nestled in among my shoes. She refused to come out to eat, drink or use the litter box. She had always been the first one to jump on my lap when I sat down on the couch or to jump on the bed and get under the covers with me when I crawled into bed at night. I knew something was terribly wrong. The vet felt a mass in her belly and tests revealed that she had pancreatic cancer, the same illness that my mother died from. I put her to sleep the next day. She was suffering beyond what was humane.

I never got another cat. Zoe and I have been alone these past four years. She likes being queen of the roost and having all the attention. For the first year after Lucy was gone, Zoe occasionally wondered into the closet and sat down. I thinking she was looking for her sister.

Zoe is fourteen now and I know that cats can live a long time past that. But Zoe and I have gotten closer since my suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalizations this past winter. When I came home from the hospital, the second time (I was gone a week and had a cat sitter come to my home twice a day to feed her and clean the litter box), she expressed her anger at me by biting my calves — hard — below my yoga pants as I lay down to go to sleep the first night.

Now we have a bedtime ritual; as soon as I start closing the lights in the living room, she runs into the bedroom and jumps up on the bed and waits for me to get in. We lie down together, her body pressed up against mine. As I drift off, she gets up and goes to sleep in her bed. Invariably when I wake up in the morning — or when she wakes me, impatient to be fed, she has been sleeping with me since some time during the night.

I love her. I have no children, I live alone. She greets me each evening as I come through the door, tired from a long day at work and a long commute home. I feed her and talk to her as I put food in her bowl, then when she has had her fill, I pick her up and hug her and give her little kisses.

I can’t imagine when she is finally gone, coming home to an empty apartment. I had a scare with her last month. She ate very little for several days and I made an appointment with the vet. She was drinking and using the litter box. She was active and not lethargic. Then her appetite returned to normal and I cancelled the vet appointment. She’s been fine since.

But one night when she wasn’t eating I cried myself to sleep. Thoughts filled my mind that this was the beginning of the end, that she was terminally ill and that’s why she wasn’t eating. That I was going to lose her.

How do these little creatures become so important to us, so crucial to our physical and mental health and well-being? I don’t know. They steal their way into our hearts, whisker by whisker and take hold of our souls with a steel grip that is never loosened.

Zoe, have I said thank you?