Cosmo the Wonder Cat
For years, I thought my allergies were so bad I couldn’t be around animals. It turns out my alcoholism was so bad I couldn’t be around animals. Six months into quitting drinking, a world opened for me that I had wanted for ages—to be able to live with and love a pet.
Fast forward several years, and Cosmo—a cat the color of a cow—came into my life through a partner, Trish. Cosmo had been described by the shelter as having “a lot of love to give,” but by the vet as being unable to receive certain treatments “due to temperament.”
While I’ve been called the “cat whisperer,” Cosmo and I had a rough time at first. In Trish’s then-apartment, which was a tiny one-bedroom in an attic, he was territorial. I was a little afraid of him. When I went to the bathroom at night, he would always be waiting in some corner to attack my feet. It didn’t seem playful when he did.
A year and a half into our relationship, Trish and I moved to a house together. I don’t know if it’s because Cosmo had more space to roam, or because he and I were suddenly spending double the amount of time together, but our relationship completely transformed.
Cosmo started following (and still follows) me everywhere, purring. I’ve taken videos where I pace back and forth so my friends can see the depth of his devotion; his little body sprints to go whatever direction I go.
My starting to work from home during COVID-19 only exacerbated Cosmo’s neediness, and my own. Trish works in healthcare, so she goes in every day, but I’m still working from home. When I’m upstairs in my office, he sits at the bottom of the steps and literally howls for attention. I play with him (he loves rolled-up receipts and a random ping-pong ball we found in the house), then go back up to work. Five minutes later he’s bereft from lack of attention.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when we didn’t know much, Trish going into work was terrifying. I was living in panic. Then, in the summer, I had a prolonged cancer scare that ended last October in surgery to remove a tumor. As I sat with the uncertainty of the early pandemic, and as I waited to find out whether I had cancer—while not being able to see my friends in person—Cosmo was there.
I started making videos of myself saying ridiculous things to him in a ridiculous voice, and it made me laugh. He made me laugh. He cuddled me, and I don’t want to anthropomorphize him too much, but I think he understood. After I had surgery, he avoided the area where I was healing—a place on my body he often sat—when he cuddled.
Four months after my surgery, Cosmo threw up a lot several days in a row. We brought him to the vet, and it turned out he was in renal failure. He hadn’t shown any obvious signs of being sick, like a lack of appetite or lethargy. When they got his levels of creatinine—a waste product typically removed from the body by the kidneys that can be elevated when your kidneys aren’t working properly—they told us he could have days or weeks to live.
He was in the ER for four days and his health started looking up. After trying multiple treatment plans, we found one that works for the guy who can’t get certain treatments due to temperament: subcutaneous fluids every other day, and a powder pill that goes into his wet food. The pill is a probiotic that eats creatinine, a fun fact I was telling everyone at the beginning because I thought it was cool and sci-fi-y.
While other people who are in recovery as long as I’ve been (six years) might not think about their sobriety as much anymore, I do, because I have a cat—the best cat. Recovery has brought me everything good I have in my life now. But even if it hadn’t, the allergies thing would be enough to keep me sober.
The day I write this marks six months since Cosmo’s diagnosis. His last checkup, his levels were great. He still follows me around, bothers me throughout the workday, and (as my therapist points out) sits on my lap and stares lovingly at me during therapy sessions. I already felt so grateful to be able to have a pet at all. Then through a very rough year last year, I felt extra lucky to have him around. Now that I’ve thought I might lose him, I’m a whole new level of thankful. ▼
Tyler Mendelsohn is a Baltimore-based writer who works in addiction recovery, a frequent visitor to Rehoboth, and a lover of books, music, friends, and cat-friends.