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Sunday Lifestyle

This cat gave me love & comfort while I was quarantined

Joy Virata - The Philippine Star
This cat gave me love & comfort while I was quarantined
Everyone should have a Peco.

Like Grizabella of Cats fame, she was homeless. For eight years she roamed the back alleys of Serendra Piazza trying to stay away from the cruel eyes of the guards determined to rid the area of stray cats. Her parentage is, of course, indeterminate but there is a big, good-looking cat with reddish fur that visits my patio once in a while and I am almost certain he is her father.  She has reddish fur mixed in with her black and gray — the only cat I’ve seen in the neighborhood with this kind of coloring.  The big cat, I’ve been told, is not a stray but a house cat allowed to roam the gardens of Serendra. 

In the eight years of her homelessness she had one benefactor — a kind, cat-loving gentleman — a resident of the condominium complex. He would feed all the cats in the piazza. Residents had to pay a hefty fine if they were caught feeding the cats inside the complex.  That went on for eight years.

Then one day a Japanese lady decided to adopt one of the cats. She named her “Peco.” Peco had a good life, brought regularly to the vet, as her record book attests. A little cut on her right ear proves that she was spayed and serves as her identification mark.  But good things must come to an end, and the Japanese lady had to go back to Japan.

A comfort cat.

All was not lost, though, because the kind gentleman decided to adopt Peco for his aging mother. Once again Peco was loved and cared for — cat toys, a scratching pad and a bed are evidence of this care.

I met the gentleman’s aging mother one day — although I didn’t know who she was at the time — on one of her daily walks around the swimming pool. She had stopped to admire a pot of roses on my patio. She didn’t say anything but smiled at me and her caregiver said she was admiring the roses. I didn’t ask her name. I usually eat my breakfast on my patio, and for many years we would wave at each other as she took her walk. I would say hello and she would pause in her walk and smile at me.

One day a friend sent me a photo of a stray cat that needed a home and asked if I would take him in.  I love cats but I hadn’t had a cat, or any pet, for years. I decided I would take him in.  He was a sweet thing and I named him Socrates after a character in a play I was directing.

A family medical emergency required me to leave for the United States and while I was gone, Sockie, whom I had discovered was quite old and not well, died. The death of a pet always affects me, and this was no exception.

I came back from the United States but had to leave again for the same medical reason. One day I opened my email and saw a notice in the neighborhood chat group that a 97-year-old lady had died, leaving a cat that was now in need of a home. The cat’s name was Peco. Still hurting from Sookie’s death, I emailed my husband to find out if I could adopt her. He did and said the family was very glad for me to have her. And so Peco came to live at our house. I didn’t see Peco for months since I could not leave the United States. She was cared for by (yes!) my husband and my grandson. My husband was not necessarily a cat lover. In fact, it was years into our marriage before I could convince him that pets were not bringers of disease and could bring a lot of happiness to a home. He was kind to our pets, but not necessarily as affectionate to them as my three children and I were, and he certainly never talked to them.

All that changed with Peco. When I finally came home and met Peco, she and my husband had developed a strong bond and he actually talked to her! She would sleep on his tummy when he slept in his La-Z-Boy, sit on his electric transporter that was parked just outside our bedroom door, waiting to be let in. 

In the morning, wherever she slept (she seemed to try out different little nooks every night), she would come out and curl around his legs as he ate breakfast, waiting for her tummy to be scratched. 

Peco had also developed a bond with my grandson. He would usually come home late at night so she would wait for him on top of our little bar just inside the front door and then sleep with him.

But the most heartwarming, although sad, discovery I made when I got home was that Peco had belonged to the little old lady with whom I had exchanged so many early-morning greetings. Peco was her cat. How glad I was that I had decided to adopt her. My friend had obviously loved her and I was so glad I could continue giving her that love.

Peco is an old cat. She doesn’t run and play with her toys. She mostly sleeps. But she is a cat that gives love and a cat that craves love. She will climb on my lap when I am sitting on the sofa, purring and rubbing her face on my chest, sometimes stretching her arms almost around my neck. She sleeps on my bed, on my lap, anywhere to be with me. Or she sits beside my husband.  When I bring her to the vet for a shot, she will hide her face on my chest until the shot is given.

Peco and I don’t speak the same language, but we understand each other. She’ll tell me when she’s hungry or thirsty, or when she wants me to put down my book and pay attention to her. She definitely does not like my singing. Actually she is not overly fond of music, maybe because she knows I am listening to the music and thus am not giving her my undivided attention.  When she does something wrong, she’ll pretend not to understand my scolding, but when I tell her that I know she understands, she will sheepishly turn away. She knows her name and will usually come when called.

This is why, when I was diagnosed as being positive for the COVID-19 virus and was confined to my little room, it was only Peco who could give me companionship and affection. I couldn’t even be in the same room with my husband and had to eat alone in my room. I left my door open just enough so she could come and go, but aside from going out to eat or to use her litter box, she stayed with me.  

At first I thought I should not be with her. It made me very sad because I missed her, but also because I knew she was wondering why neither my husband, who had just come back from a three-week stay in the hospital with COVID-19, nor I was giving her love. She would wait on his electric transporter and at night she would wait in her usual place for my grandson, who was prohibited from entering our home. But then I asked my doctor son and he said there was no reason not to be with her. So that night I took her into my room. She scolded and scolded — what was going on, why were we ignoring her, where was Diggy — she went on and on, mewing and mewing. Finally she rubbed her head on me, still mewing, and I knew that meant she wanted to be stroked. So I did and finally she fell asleep and so did I. She must have gone out of the room sometime in the night — probably to go to her litter box — but the next morning when I opened the door of my room, she was waiting.  She scolded me for being so late and jumped immediately on my bed. 

The days stretched into weeks — four of them. I had a second test and for some reason it was still positive.  My son told me that sometimes there would be remnants of the virus that, although no longer infectious, would still show up as positive. That meant another two weeks in isolation, although I had been asymptomatic for four weeks and was still asymptomatic. 

I don’t know what I would have done without Peco. She was (and still is) demanding, picky about her food and greedy for her “treats,” but she hardly left my side. She would curl up on me even if I was working on my computer. And she was the only one I could talk to.

After the sixth week, my son told me I could leave my room as long as I stayed two meters away from everyone. So I could eat with my husband because our dining table is two meters in diameter. I could work on my computer or read on a sofa, which is more than two meters away from where my husband sits and reads all the books he never had time to read before. 

So Peco divides her attention between him and me. In the morning she sunbathes with me and sleeps in my room or on the sofa as I write on my computer. In the afternoon she sleeps on my husband’s lap. She has gone back to sitting with him while he eats and lately has decided that she wants to eat at the same time. We had to move her dish from the kitchen to the dining room. At night she sleeps with me, usually on my tummy or in the crook of my arm. 

Everyone should have a Peco, a cat who wants love and gives love. A comfort cat.

PECO

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