First came denial.
My two cats, Walter and Lola, couldn't believe I kept staying home all week. I've been home before on weekdays, but because I'm sick and in bed or on the couch. That's not so different from a weekend, as far as my cats can tell.
This was different. Every day, I got out of bed, took a shower, sat at the dinner table and stared at a screen. My cats didn't understand. They didn't want to. So they ignored me. They curled up in their favorite spots and pretended I wasn't there. This went on for weeks.
Then they got angry.
I was always there, and wouldn't stop doing stuff that annoyed them, like my constant pacing while talking into that thing in my ear. I could feel their irritation: Won't I just shut up? Who am I talking to all day? And wait — why wasn't I giving them attention?
The cats rebelled, a two-pronged attack. Lola would puke on the rug as much as possible. Walter would jump onto my computer table, knock over whatever was in his way, and start rubbing his face against the edge of the screen until I'd finally acknowledge his existence.
Then they had another realization, and it was a game changer. If I'm going to be home at all hours, why don't I feed them more?
Thus the third stage: Begging.
For what felt like hours, they sat next to their food bowls, stared at me and waited. If I made any motion, they'd scream a warning that all hell would break loose if they weren't fed. (Keep in mind, these cats are, uh, heavy.) If I went into another room, they'd follow me, scream again, and then run back to their food bowls in a desperate attempt to lure me back.
Eventually, an automatic feeder relieved some pressure because it meant that if they're hungry, they don't blame me. They blame the robot feeder. At this stage, decompression, all of us took a deep breath and thought, you know what? Maybe this can be something like normal.
And there it was. Acceptance.
More than six months in, my cats figured this is probably going to last awhile. And they enjoyed the perks — taking turns on my lap when they feel like cuddling, bringing their toy over and convincing me to play with them. It's not a bad life! And I guess I like having them around, too. After all — in the midst of a deadly pandemic forcing me to work from home and avoid friends and family — I do enjoy the company. ♦