A brief update on a cat

She's making big moves

A gray cat laying on her side on a hardwood floor.
My cat Masha enjoying some hardwood floor time.

I moved to a new apartment this past weekend. It's my first move since coming to Minneapolis five and a half years ago.

Mid February 2019 I drove two days – from upstate New York, crossing into Canada across the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, crossing back into the US at the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia, up the glove of Michigan's lower peninsula, crossing the Mackinac Bridge, across the upper peninsula, Wisconsin, and finally Minnesota. Going into Canada I was pulled aside and had my Honda Fit packed with everything I owned in the world inspected by Mounties with M16s because I couldn't prove I was going to Minnesota and not seeking asylum. They let me go after quickly ascertaining that I was just some dummy. There was no issue at Sarnia.

I crashed on my sister's couch, endured a blizzard, got my car towed, and after a few weeks signed a carpeted one bedroom at $900/month. I was just starting out in media and figured that my job might not last very long. I'd heard that sort of thing happened a lot in the industry, and if I was going to be out on my ass, I should make my landing spot pretty cheap. I thought I had six months. The job (at Massive) lasted three years.

A small gray cat sitting on the armrest of a red easy chair.
Masha as a new adoptee.

Needing friends and literally anything to do with my spare time, I volunteered at a cat shelter. I asked if I could play with the cats but it turns out shelters have plenty of people for that. They asked me to do social media for them, something under ordinary circumstances I'd prefer to not do. But I couldn't stare blankly at the wall any longer. At my first meeting with the president of the rescue, she leaned conspiratorially across her desk, pushing towards me a piece of paper she'd printed off:

A meme image of a cat holding their paw up, with the text "as god as my witness, I no eated da cookie"

"Can you do something like that?" she asked. I nodded.

"Okay great. Do you want to go meet some of the new cats we just got in?" I nodded. That's literally the only reason I'm here. Obviously my cat now named Masha was one of the new intakes, and yes it was love at first sight (she was initially named Velveteen; I asked a staffer if it was okay to change the name. "Dude, the cat does not care," was his response). There was a wait-list a dozen people deep by the time I applied for her, but because I was a volunteer (for all of one day) they put me at the top of the list. I emailed a resignation letter the day after I got her home.

This isn't really so much a story of how a cat named Masha saved my life or anything (if you want that you can read this book about how a different cat named Masha saved some guy's life). I wanted to move for a number of reasons – I hated the carpeting, I thought I deserved a place where my desk wasn't crammed in the corner of the living room, the millennial's learned itch from being forced to move every year or two, etc. But more than anything I wanted to give the cat some more room to roam.

A gray cat sitting on a cat tree.
Five years later in the second home Masha's ever known.

I have misread her needs and discomfort before. A few years ago I thought she was lonely and needed a friend, right up until she starting mercilessly bullying the second cat I adopted (who I eventually gave to a friend). She had most of her teeth pulled out a few years ago, an incident that left me in tears, imagining her close to death, as I wiped blood from her mouth and watched her bump into furniture still mildly anesthetized. 12 hours later she was back to normal.

I can't really say what Masha does for my emotional well-being. She doesn't come to me when I'm upset or speak words of wisdom when I'm down. Over the last few months, as I grew weary of my old apartment, I began to feel stuck, sclerotic, static; anxious my life is going nowhere. My apartment was a small and dusty trap, closing in around me.

Although freaked out for about the first day, Masha has not seemed any different since the move. She is as happy, annoying, carefree, loving, sleepy, and mischievous as always. She eats and plays as normal, and has found all her new perching spots.

A cat sitting in a cat tree grooming herself.

This is not an update on a cat because she is constant. If she is the same as always, I can be too. The trap is not real, I am not stuck, life is life as it always has been, the same tomorrow as it was yesterday, free from any terror or joy I do not supply myself. She has no yardstick to measure herself, and if she is free, so am I.

A gray cat lit from behind by the sun.

Hope you like your new home, Masha.