All I could think about before leaving to college was my cat. How would my relationship survive the 2,000 miles between us? I knew as soon as I left my home in sunny California, my cat Snickers would look for someone new to give her treats. This tore at my heart. I knew I had to find a way for our relationship to survive the distance between us.
Snickers has been my closest companion since she showed up in my Christmas stocking four years ago. Since then, we’ve spent every day together. Whether cuddling, going for walks or enjoying the constant chin pets I gave her, Snickers and I were inseparable. Living away from Snickers for months at a time felt unimaginable.
When it came time for me to leave to college, I dazzled my cat with dozens of treats and pampered her. I gave her toys, a new bed and even top-of-the-line catnip. We snuggled close. I gave her one last kiss on her tiny pink nose, and I pledged not to pet any other cats while we were separated. With that, I was off to face the world without my dearest Snickers.
I FaceTimed my cat as soon as I settled into my new dorm. She sat in my brother’s lap and listened to our conversation while occasionally chiming in with a quiet meow. She sat with her toy in her mouth, and we both waited for the day I would return home so I could pet her chin.
A few weeks into my first semester away, loneliness began to seep into my heart. I tried to find ways to distract myself from loneliness. But when I closed my eyes at night I could hear her tiny paws pitter-patter on my cold dorm-room floor. The pain and loneliness was becoming too much. I knew I needed to find a better way to distract myself.
That was when I noticed the lonely neighborhood stray cat. My heart beat fast as I saw its tail whip around the corner. I looked around nervously and followed the stray behind my dorm building. I knew I had promised Snickers I wouldn’t pet any other cats while I was away, but I was lonely. How could I say no?
The stray cat’s yellow eyes followed me as I tiptoed around the corner. I sat down on the curb and waited for it to come to me. Its tail whipped across the pavement as it turned around and scurried over to me. I reached my hand out slowly and gently pet the lonely cat’s chin. A wave of guilt crashed over me. I promised Snickers I wouldn’t do this, but my loneliness compelled me to pet this stray.
For the next few weeks I met with this stray cat. I gave it treats and constant pets. My loneliness began to melt away with each pet across its dark fur, but I felt incredibly guilty and knew I had to do something to regain Snickers’ trust.
Finally, Christmas break came long and I returned home to be with my beloved Snickers. However, on my flight home, my stomach filled with butterflies. I wanted Snickers to catch them so they’d go away. As soon as I got home, I ran into my living room and gave Snickers a huge hug and a kiss on her nose, but suddenly she hissed. I looked down at her with horror as I realized I’d made a huge mistake. The stray cat’s dark hair hung on my shirt for all to see. I’d been caught cheating by my own cat.
It took a long time, but Snickers has forgiven me, but I haven’t yet forgiven myself. I still struggle with my desire to pet a tabby’s fur, but I know my true love is waiting for me back home.
I’ve now learned ways to cope with the loneliness that creeps up on us all when we are separated from our beloved pets. Thankfully, none of these tools involve the ultimate betrayal of petting another pet. Snickers and I FaceTime as much as possible. Seeing and hearing each other soothes our nerves, making the distance feel shorter. I also send Snickers treats since I can’t feed her in person.
Remember: Your pet will miss you when you leave to college. Keep the pet love alive with little gesture so your pet doesn’t hiss, bark or snap at you when you make it back home.