PARTING SHOT: I learned about self-quarantining from Tobias, the cat

PARTING SHOT: I learned about self-quarantining from Tobias, the cat


I learned plenty from Tobias, a cat who knows a thing or two about self-quarantine.

Last Tuesday I had to look at the calendar just make sure it wasn’t Friday.

So much had been packed into the week I was sure I was ready for another birthday.

Like you, I don’t know what to make of all this social distancing but I do know I’ll try anything if it gets us back to some kind of normal.

At home, I have ironed everything that could possibly use ironing. I’ve sorted closets I gave up on months ago and I’ve binged so many series I feel like I could start a 12-step Netflix program.

While I wasn’t one of the famed toilet paper hoarders, I am guilty of buying extra quantities of food I don’t think I can live without. (If the day comes when you can’t find M&Ms, give me a call. I can hook you up.)

I’m jittery. I’m tired. I’m looking for answers.

Two weeks ago, I agreed to check in on my friends’ cat, Tobias, while they were on vacation.

Initially, he had a good approach to being home alone: “Oh, are you here? I didn’t hear you.”

Most of those first days, he was just getting up from a nap. He was fine and mildly pleased to see me.

As the week wore on, he wasn’t sleeping on a bed or resting under a dining room chair. He was near the door when I entered: “Hello!” Eager for attention, he didn’t walk away but watched as I checked his water dish and his automatic feeder.

When I left early one night because I needed to get to a concert, he growled. I stuck around a bit longer, found the treats and all was good.

The next day, Tobias started talking the minute I arrived and wouldn’t stop. I thought he was trying to tell me something, but I realized he was just lonesome. We visited quite a bit. I gave him a few treats and he tried to show me where I could find a Coke.

The next day, he was much better. When I got ready to leave, he cat-blocked me by the door. Again, I realized it was loneliness.

I pulled out my phone and had him do a series of portraits (we talked about an extended career in Hollywood, if only I could hook him up) and, this time, I made him execute tricks in order to get treats.

The night before his owners came home, Tobias and I had a long talk. I told him they weren’t going away anytime soon and he’d be fine. I gave him a couple more treats and told him everything was going to be all right.

He listened. I learned.

Keeping a distance from friends and family doesn’t seem right, but it’s what we need to do.

Sure, a treat every now and then can divert our attention. But what we really need is a connection.

So, if you’re climbing the furniture, baring your claws or licking your Purell-chapped hands, reach out to someone else – someone you may not know, someone who could use a little treat. Send a note to someone in a retirement home. Read to a child. Shoot a dumb video.

Who knows? Someone might help you get a job in Hollywood.

Or, at the very least, you could get a stray M&M.

Stay tuned in

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