I met him for the first time at my friend’s house, and it was love at first sight. His bright green eyes were captivating, and he wouldn’t leave my side the entire time I was there. He purred in my lap, fell asleep on my chest as I chatted with my friend. “He’s perfect,” I told her. I had always wanted a cat, and I found the one that would become my baby. I named him Macklin, after Burt Macklin, FBI, on Parks and Recreation, and brought him home the day before my 22nd birthday. He’s almost three-years-old now, and he still naps on my chest occasionally. He doesn’t quite fit into the curve of my collarbone as he once did; instead, he stretches out across my chest and abdomen, front paws touching my chin.
The month before I met Macklin, I had gone through an exceptionally rough breakup. My ex had been my longest relationship at that point in my life (nearly three months) and I had fallen head over heels for him. I daydreamed of our future together and how long we would be together, just as any young woman would. He had other plans, and we parted ways. I was devastated. I think I went through all of the stages of mourning within a few days as I soon realized he had broken up with me for someone else. Today, I am married to the man I have always dreamed of and we will have been together for two years in April. If I had the power to go back and tell myself at 21 that I would find true love and to be patient, I would. My bewildered past self wouldn’t agree or understand, but she would learn eventually.
But I was still in a funk after it all. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager and when one goes through a traumatic event such as a breakup, the depression creeps back into your life like an opportunistic friend. It provides the “comfort” you had longed for by making sure you stay under the covers all day sleeping, eating way too much ice cream, and making you feel overall hopeless and miserable.
I knew something had to change. I needed to get over this guy, since obviously we weren’t soul mates. It was not fate and destiny and all that romantic bullshit for us, which I had finally accepted. My friend’s cat had kittens, and I was interested. I could have a cat in my apartment, a rare occurrence in a college town, and I needed a friend. So on July 23rd, 2015, I met Macklin. I had wanted to find a bond with one of the kittens, so I played with the first two. I’ll admit it, I was a little biased towards the kittens with more colors and patterns in their fur. Macklin was grey with a little raccoon tail and delicate markings on his face. He had white eyeliner around his big eyes, and I was captivated. He snuggled up onto my chest and fell asleep within the first ten minutes, and I knew it was love. We had a bond, and he clung to me. I had to bring him home with me.
All of my friends call me the “crazy cat lady,” but I’m okay with that. Macklin has saved me. Having something or someone that loves you unconditionally when you have depression and anxiety is necessary. He’s aided incredibly in my mental health, and he’s a constant source of joy for me. He’s also a source of frustration, but that’s typical for a cat owner. He enjoys sitting on the kitchen table, even though he knows full well that he’s not supposed to. He also likes knocking things off of my desk to get my attention. He wants love from me and he gets it, and he gives it back in return. His love comes in the form of nose kisses and cuddles in the morning after my husband leaves for work. He’s also in love with my husband, who might love him a little more than I do most of the time. They’re best buddies, and that makes my heart and soul incredibly happy. Macklin waits by the door for him to come home from work, and he follows him around in the morning when he is getting ready to leave. They have chats in the kitchen where my husband eventually gives in to Macklin’s cries and gives him treats, and they play fetch together. Their love for each other makes my love grow for the two of them, and the three of us as a family. He’s our son, and we wouldn’t want life any other way.
I’ve made a lifelong friend in that little gray fur ball. He’s a pest most of the time, but he makes up for it with sweet snuggles. He was my first love, and he’ll always be my baby. Even when that day comes where he’s no longer around, I’ll still remember him and hold him in my heart. Your first pet is one that you treasure forever, and they change your life for the better. I can’t say that Macklin has completely cured me of my mental health issues, but he helps a lot. He can sense when I am upset and he comforts me. It’s an unconventional love, but I couldn’t ask for a better way to experience my first true love. Macklin has shown me how to love myself, and how to care for others better. He’s a constant reminder of comfort and compassion in my life, even when he’s tearing at the sofa or trying to knock over his water dish.
My cat is my first love, and he’ll always be the shining example of what love means to me.
Krista Licht is a writer, reader, editor, cross-stitcher, wife, and cat mom living in South Dakota. She owns and operates Prairie Sage Living, and blogs weekly on her experiences living in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest.