My flatmates are horrible.
They eat my food, they don’t use the toilet, they destroy my clothes, and they never say sorry for the carnage they inflict.
And the worst part is…I let them get away with it.
When I moved to Berlin I knew I was going to end up getting a pet. I wanted a dachshund, but really didn’t think it was fair to leave a teeny puppy all alone in my flat all day, and for the past four years, my cats at home have been my trusty companions. I didn’t know how I was going to cope living alone, so within a fortnight of arriving, I was contacting Berlin animal shelters looking for a kitty to call my own.
That’s when I met Pepe (left) and Toby (right).
Originally born on Malaga, these two were orphaned strays, rescued and brought to Germany by a charity that works to rehome the many feral cats on the numerous Spanish islands. Two tiny balls of fluff not much bigger than my forearm when I met them, it was love at first sight, even though I could ill afford it, and hadn’t really planned on two new arrivals. But the heart wants what it wants, and soon enough, the new arrivals were coming home.
I renamed them Jesse and Walt almost immediately after the main characters in my favourite television show, and despite numerous teething problems (peeing on my bed, pooing on the bookshelf, jumping on my head from the top of the wardrobe) we got used to each other pretty quickly.
I’ve had room mates for the past two years at university, but made the decision to live alone in Berlin because I just wanted, to quote Virigina Woolf, a room of one’s own. It’s true I value my privacy and like my own space, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to loneliness. In fact, my depression means if I’m left to my own devices, sometimes I don’t get out of bed for a week. Or a month. Animals are great for depression. Not only does stroking them release endorphins and their unconditional love often break through the numbness, but also they provide a routine. Feeding and cleaning up after them might not be glamorous, but it gives me purpose, and sometimes that’s really, really important.
I’ve always said I prefer animals to people, though since coming to Berlin, I’m not sure how true that is. Not to say Walt and Jesse aren’t excellent company. I’m not an affectionate person (ask anyone that knows me how difficult I find it to instigate a hug) but there’s something different about a cat curling up in your lap and declaring it’s time to have a cuddle. They’re also incredibly dim-witted most of the time: from jumping in when I’m taking a bath only to discover an immense dislike of being wet, to eating egg shells and then being violently sick, raising kittens is a bit like raising a child who has short-term memory loss.
Of course, moving to a foreign country and immediately adopting two cats isn’t the most…normal thing to do. And I have become known as ‘the girl with the cats’ locally, though I suppose there’s worse things to be remembered by. Everyone that comes over adores them, even the ones with allergies, and I’m the first to admit how charming the boys can be when they want to be. When they’re not biting my shins or stealing my toast right off the plate.
In May the terrible twosome will be a year old (I got them when they were four months) and in August they’ll be making the journey back to England with me for the next part of their grand adventure.
Perhaps I am a crazy cat lady, but I’m really grateful to these two little fuzzballs. They’e infuriating and have reduced me to tears on occasion, but also are the best thing to come home to, and waking up with them curled up on MY pillow always makes me smile. They’re family now. And family sticks together.