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A pandemic of cat photos

Started: 2021-08-08 20:33:30

Submitted: 2021-08-09 00:13:32

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator reposts a bunch of cat pictures from the depths of the pandemic

In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic overtook my life, I started taking and posting pictures of my cat Willow to her new Twitter account @cats_willow, because we all know that the Internet wants more cat pictures.

Willow naps in the afternoon sun
Willow naps in the afternoon sun

Most of the pictures showed Willow napping, often in the sun. I kept the blinds open to let in as much sun as possible, and Willow took advantage of the new direct sunlight as much as she could, moving around the room as the sun did. I found in my photo archive two nearly-identical pictures of Willow in the sun from two consecutive days in the middle of March, as she followed the sun around the room through the day.

Willow naps in the morning sun
Willow naps in the morning sun

Sometimes I just couldn't shake the feeling that she was judging me and finding me wanting.

Willow is judging you
Willow is judging you

When I started working from my house Willow took advantage of the opportunity to jump up on my lap for a catnap. At first she tried to jump all the way up by herself, which usually didn't work very well: she usually couldn't stick the landing so she'd stick her claws into my legs and I'd have to pick her up and set her on my lap. Soon we came to an agreement where she'd just walk up to my chair and put her front paws on the edge of the chair and I'd pick her up and put her on my lap.

Willow sits on Jaeger's desk chair
Willow sits on Jaeger's desk chair

But sometimes she didn't want to wait for me to sit on the desk to jump up on my chair. More than once I came back to my desk and found her sitting on my chair.

Willow sits on Jaeger's desk chair
Willow sits on Jaeger's desk chair

Most of the time I'd have to move her so I could sit down; sometimes I'd try to share the chair with her.

Willow sits on Jaeger's chair
Willow sits on Jaeger's chair

This rarely worked well; she seemed to find it unfair that I wanted the chair back because she was clearly there first, but she usually acquiesced to my superior mass and grudgingly gave me my chair back.

Willow says,
Willow says, "No fair I was here first!"

Willow spent most of her time on my lap, but occasionally she'd sit on Kiesa's lap if I had a computer on my lap or I was otherwise unavailable.

Willow sits on Kiesa's lap
Willow sits on Kiesa's lap

Sometimes if she had to, if I insisted on a computer on my lap (often because I was on-call for my service), she'd sit right next to me and share the couch with me and my computer.

Willow on the couch with Jaeger and his Macbook
Willow on the couch with Jaeger and his Macbook

When we moved to California in the summer of 2020, Kiesa stayed with her mother for a couple of weeks after I started my job at Apple, and in this interval Willow came face-to-face with the cat statue my mother-in-law placed in front of her fireplace.

Willow is not sure what to make of the cat statue at Grandma's house
Willow is not sure what to make of the cat statue at Grandma's house

Willow had no real idea what to make of this cat-shaped inanimate statue at first, but after a week she'd made friends with the statue.

Willow with the cat statue at Grandma's
Willow with the cat statue at Grandma's

Kiesa drove to the Santa Cruz Mountains with Willow, and on her first night in the house Willow pushed through the screen covering one of the windows in the living room and escaped into the night. My brother Willy (who was staying with us while evacuated from the LNU Lightning Complex fire) texted me to let me know that Willow had escaped out the window, but I didn't see the message until the next morning, at which point Willow was nowhere to be found. Kiesa and I went out to look for her and found nothing, and we began to worry that she'd found out the hard way that she was no longer the apex predator in the neighborhood. That evening, as air quality began to plummet as the wind shifted and blew the smoke from the CZU Lightning Complex fire in our direction, I grabbed a flashlight to search under the deck one more time and found Willow perched under the furthest section of the deck, in a place where the ground rose and the deck covered a narrow strip about a foot high above the ground. It was dusty and uncomfortable under the deck, and I wondered what other hazards I might encounter. (For a brief moment I imagined that Willow was being used as the bait for a large malevolent predator trying to lure me into its jaws before devouring me whole; but that might just have been me listening to too much Pseudopod.) I briefed Kiesa, and she was able to rescue Willow. Even when she was back in the house, covered in dirt from below the deck, Willow seemed unimpressed by her experience, stalking back into the house as if she'd planned the whole thing all along.

Willow stalks in from outside, covered in dirt
Willow stalks in from outside, covered in dirt

The whole experience was strangely reminiscent of the first time we let Willow outside a decade ago while we were living in Longmont: Willow got herself stuck in a hole under the concrete steps under the back deck and we had to find and rescue her that night, dragging her out of the hole to the safety of the house.

We kept the window that she'd escaped through closed after that, but she kept us on our toes by jumping up onto the windowsill below that particular window, as if to test whether she could still get out that way.

Willow on the windowsill
Willow on the windowsill

We let Willow outside again, and sometimes she'd wallow in the dirt and come back inside looking guilty but not willing to admit to anything.

Willow denies any involvement in the matter at hand
Willow denies any involvement in the matter at hand

The house we were renting at Loma Prieta featured a large overhanging roof designed to block direct sunlight in the summer while allowing direct sunlight in the winter. As the season changed to fall, the sun dropped below the eaves and the windows admitted direct sunlight.

Willow glows in the sun on the windowsill
Willow glows in the sun on the windowsill

The changing seasons gave Willow the opportunity to nap in the sun; in my bedroom-office the sun was striped by the blinds on the door leading outside.

Willow naps in the striped sun
Willow naps in the striped sun

Sometimes the sun moved on before she woke up from her nap, leaving her in the wrong place on the carpet.

Willow naps by the window
Willow naps by the window

In January, an atmospheric river brought us the winter's biggest storm, several days of solid rain blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. Willow still wanted to go outside during the rain, but she was extremely disappointed that it was so wet outside. She seemed to blame me for this, as if I were responsible for the local climate.

Willow stalks in during the rain
Willow stalks in during the rain

Just as I began to think maybe it would be nice to see the sun again the storm lifted and the sun came out. Willow appreciated the sun outside but still thought the ground was too wet to be outside for very long.

Willow looks outside after the rain stops
Willow looks outside after the rain stops

When I got a standing desk, Willow felt personally offended that my lap was not as available for her use. She'd stick her paws up on my leg like she wanted to sit up in my lap, but I had no lap to offer.

Willow is not impressed by Jaeger's standing desk
Willow is not impressed by Jaeger's standing desk

Sometimes I'd pick her up and put her on my desk in the standing position, if I wasn't ready to sit down. (I quickly developed the habit of taking all of my video calls while standing; putting her up on the desk gave her the opportunity to photo-bomb some of my meetings.)

Willow on the standing desk
Willow on the standing desk

As I review the last 18 months of photos I took of Willow during the pandemic, I can identify the point where the skin cancer that eventually took her life started to advance again, in the scabs that formed on the tips of her ears. By spring the scabs had advanced enough that she was scratching her ears often enough that we put her in a cone to keep her from scratching (and reopening the scabs and getting blood all over everything); at that point I mostly stopped taking pictures of her. This is the last picture I have of her without the cone, when she decided to come back inside the house not long after I spotted a golden eagle circling lazily above the house.

Willow decides to come back inside
Willow decides to come back inside

During the onset of the pandemic, posting pictures of Willow helped me manage my stress and anxiety at the sudden disruption to my life as I knew it. Now reviewing and reposting those same pictures is helping me manage my grief at losing my cat.

You've reached a new low when you start naming your condiments.
- Bitscape, 13 December 2001