My soul cat died eight months before I brought Sparkle home. Sparkle wasn’t meant to replace Harlot, of course. Sparkle joined our family because I needed a cat that was my very own and bonded to me, not any other member of the household — a best friend and partner in crime. The other two cats in our household were not going to fit that bill. Binga is a very special, social cat that loves everybody equally, and Boodie is a cat’s cat; while she has adjusted to and accepted me and my fiancé as family members, she will always favor other cats over humans. I needed a cat that would be my buddy before considering anyone else, which is why I drove two hours one way to fetch Sparkle. The Somali breed is known (among other things) for single-human bonding. I knew she would not be my soul cat. That was a once-in-a-lifetime relationship and I’d already had it.
What they don’t tell you in breed descriptions is that the definition of bonding is far broader than one’s expectations, and Sparkle bonded with me the way a 13-year-old girl bonds with her mother: I hate you, I don’t need you, I know what’s best for me — can you do this and that for me, don’t leave the house, I need you now, you are mine, mine, mine! It’s half-demanding, half needy and half fiercely independent (and yes, it does not add up at all). She hates being held. She loves her tummy rubbed. She looks at me accusingly when she does not think I am paying enough attention to her. When she wants something, she sits on my desk, right next to the MacBook and stares at me, inches from my face. She hates it when I’m the one who solicits attention. She is moody, picks at her food and frankly, is not an easy cat to live with.
As a result, sometimes I take Sparkle for granted. Harlot was my loyal friend, no matter what. Even when she hated me, like the time I wouldn’t allow her outside in the rain (she latched onto my cowboy boot so fiercely, she chipped a tooth), there was no doubt she loved me. We were a team, always, and she was happiest when it was just the two of us and she did not have to share me with any other cat or human. Sometimes Sparkle does not seem to like or need me at all. There are many times when she is annoyed by my attention. I can’t lie — it hurts my feelings. So I go through periods, sadly, when I treat her like more of a duty than a companion. Here — taste these four cans of food and let me know which one you like today. I’ll sit here playing solitaire on my phone while you decide.
But when I’ve fallen into that sort of benign neglect, I forget something: Sparkle may not be my soul cat, and she may not even like me all the time, but I am her only human. And for better or for worse, she does need me. She does not do well when I am out of town. My fiancé or a pet sitter will take care of her basic necessities, but they won’t know when she wants someone to blame or be annoyed by. They won’t know which combination of four cans to open. They aren’t worth asking for playtime because they won’t know about the secret stash of toys that only we share. Sparkle often can’t live with me, but she can’t live without me – and she knows it. And sometimes it slips my mind. But then I look in my office doorway and see her standing there, her little face staring up at me with big eyes. Big demanding eyes. And I know without me, her world would fall apart.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether she is your soul cat — if you belong to your cat, then you both have everything.