Tuesday, 20 August 2013

For I will consider my Cat Elliott

Most people think that Elliott is named after T.S. Eliot, the author of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. This is untrue. Elliott ("two ls, two ts") is the name that was assigned to him by the Mayhew Animal Home, "Obviously," we were told as we took him away, "you'll want to come up with your own name for him." Why? Elliott is a perfect name.

Elliott and I share many character traits. We are both scruffy, bad-tempered, lazy, cowardly and habit-driven. Like me, he is stoical and avoids confrontations at every cost. Like him, I am both introverted and attention-seeking. 

It is probably no coincidence that we're so alike. I am his principal role model, and I can see myself reflected in him. In some ways he is the truest reflection of me there is. Unlike self-portraits that I consciously construct myself, he doesn't seek to flatter me. The status relationship is coolly practical rather than emotional. His affection for me is entirely on his terms rather than mine. I have far more to learn from him about what I will put up with than he from me.

He was born on New Year's Day 2008, making him, in cat years, almost exactly the same age as me.  When he was little, he was skittish and shy, but he is entering a more comfortable middle age. His reputation among local cats is now assured, this having been achieved not through screeching fights and growling stand-offs, but rather by having the patience to simply wait until he was the largest cat in the neighbourhood.

Although he remains just as messy and grumpy as he was when he was a kitten, he has lately taken up some new hobbies. He spends much more of his time on windowsills, showing himself off and keeping a close eye on the weather. When out and about, he is more active now than when he was a younger. He catches birds, plays with string and goes on adventures. By far the most remarkable of his new achievements is his sudden enthusiasm for climbing, which has really taken off in the last three months. Although he doesn't have the physique for lithe verticalism, he will propel himself up fences and trees like an unguided rocket.

Seeing myself reflected in Elliott, I find it encouraging that it is not too late to learn fresh skills and adopt new habits, while simultaneously reaping the rewards of apathy.

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