Matter, Energy, and Life of Michaela A. Castello.

Feline Obligations

A closeup image of a cat's face

Reluctantly, I must admit to the world that we have a cat. I have tried to reach this place of acceptance many times, beginning with a first draft of this post on October 3, 2018. I continued it in July of 2019 and again in February 2020. Now here we are, approximately three and a half years after pictures of the creature first appeared on my phone.

One of the first Bast images, circa November 2016.

It began with the everyday chore of taking out the trash, and a stray cat would occasionally rocket out from behind the dumpsters, startled by the impact. Perhaps motivated by a particularly meager week of scraps, the cat happened to come sniffing around the porch one afternoon. Rachel took pity on its gaunt, scraggly appearance, and started plying it with old lunch meats from the fridge.

Soon afterward, the begrimed cat was coming to the porch more regularly to avail itself of Rachel’s generosity. When the lunch meats ran out, Rachel purchased a bag of cat food in what would become a series of seemingly-innocuous escalations. Food and water bowls appeared on the porch along with a towel, the latter of which the cat immediately identified as the preferable place to sit.

A wet cat runs away from a porch
A very wet Bast heads into the warm sun.

By and by Rachel floated the idea of allowing the cat to come inside the house, a proposal I strongly opposed on the basis of filthy fur and the animal’s likely status as a flea carrier. I awoke the following morning to a rapidly-increasing volume of plaintive meowing. Rachel burst through the door of our bedroom in a swimsuit toting a vexed, furry towel-burrito. Before my sleep-addled brain could fully comprehend what was happening, she was in the shower soaping the cat with flea shampoo and combing out his fur.

“You’re giving that cat a bath‽” I exclaimed. “Yes,” Rachel replied matter-of-factly, “you were worried about dirt and fleas.”

After the washing, a drowned rat very disgruntled feline was released and made a beeline for the front door. Even Rachel was willing to accept that might be the end of our relationship with the animal. Lo and behold, not two hours later, who was spotted lurking around the porch but that cat, now sporting a much-fluffier coat.

A cat's head is seen emerging from a dark space.
Bast peers out from the safety of a blanket cave.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I was incredulous. Rachel was pleasantly surprised, and the cat was allowed to enter the house. At first it stayed in the little blanket caves Rachel made, but, lured by the promise of pets, it soon began purring by her side on the sofa. That purring was loud, a reverberating motor that could be heard throughout a room when fully engaged. We began to suspect that it was a former pet that had gotten lost: beneath a layer of wariness and suspicion, it clearly desired Rachel’s attention.

Cat's paws poke out from a blanket to touch Mardi Gras beads.
Bast ruins his hiding spot by needing to have a paw touch his beads.

I kept insisting that this cat was not going to become A Thing. Rachel responded by giving it a name. Unable to determine the cat’s sex, she settled on the gender-neutral “Bast,” after both the multi-talented Egyptian god of protection, warfare, pregnancy, children, and the arts, and the darkly charming Fae character from The Kingkiller Chronicle book series. A flea collar appeared around their neck, while a towel on the floor became their spot. Old Mardi Gras beads were turned into toys, and were so well-loved that Bast would guard them like a dragon’s hoard, sleeping on the towel with some part of their body touching each strand.

A cat lays on a UC Berkeley blanket
Bast loves Matt’s alma mater, UC Berkeley.

Along with Rachel, our housemate, Matt, took a liking to Bast as well that was quickly reciprocated. While I presented a far colder affect, Bast seemed to take it as a challenge. Everything I did to annoy them was reversed, leaving Bast in a superior position than before: Rachel bought some cat treats, Bast didn’t like them. So when they wanted a treat, I offered only those ones—and Bast decided they were tasty after all. Unlike Rachel, I wouldn’t let Bast on my lap, so if they wanted pets, they would have to balance on the arm of my chair—Bast became an expert at balancing while being petted. Rachel got Bast a brush, he hated it. I offered to brush him, and they decided they loved it.

A cat sits on the arm of an armchair making a judgemental expression.
Bast masters the armchair.

After Match Day, when we knew we were moving to San Diego, I entertained the idea of leaving Bast with Matt. Bast had lived in our neighborhood their whole life and enjoyed going in and out of the house. It was not to be so, however, and Rachel enlisted my help hauling a Very Sad Bast to the vet, where they determined that they were a male that had already been neutered, hence our difficulty identifying his sex. He was also very young despite his large size, consistent with his Maine Coon breed and explaining his predilection for human companionship. Vaccinations and a chip placement later, Bast was fully prepared to accompany us to a new city.

A sad-looking cat sits on a stainless steel veterinary table.
Sad Sack Bast gets his shots.

Bast has now been firmly entrenched into the Castello Household for quite some time, even motivating me to build not one, but two Maine Coon-sized structures for him to use. His curious and affectionate nature makes him very rewarding and easy to love. I suppose I should have expected this ending from the start: Rachel coaxing a cat with personality from the garbage is typical Disney Princess behavior.

  • A closeup image of a cat's face
  • A cat watches from a towel in a photo with heavy effects.
  • A cat sits on the arm of an armchair making a judgemental expression.
  • A cat lays on a UC Berkeley blanket

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One response to “Feline Obligations”

  1. […] Bast feels even worse than we do about the temporary move. […]

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