When I first met Stella she was deathly thin and painfully timid. She was so hungry she ate stale bread and tried to bite my leg. If I moved suddenly she would disappear in a blur of black fur into the pumpkin patch and would not be seen again until the next day.
I am not a cat person (ironically enough). I could never really understand how anyone could get attached to a cat when they are so aloof, so self-involved and so instinctively wild. I vividly remember the sight of my backyard strewn with the fur and blood of my beautiful pet rabbit as a child and the horror of realising my ever-curious little pet bird had flown to its death at the paws of the neighbour’s fat tabby. Cat’s were off the Christmas list forever after.
But somehow Stella would change all that. After a less-than-ideal first meeting, I nevertheless began to feed her every day. She would hide under a pumpkin leaf as I placed a little fish or biscuit on the ground and would only come out once I had retreated out of sight. As mice took over my kitchen, I gradually began moving her food closer and closer to the house until Stella was gingerly stepping inside to scoff her fill and race away again. She did absolutely nothing to help the mouse situation (the only solution to that was traps and OCD cleaning) but she began to feel comfortable coming inside, rubbing against my legs, sleeping on the kitchen floor. Eventually she allowed me to scratch her behind the ears and she began to stay with me long after I had fed her, curling up underneath my chair with a gentle little purr.
Stella slowly gained weight, trust and confidence. In the beginning I had to shoo away the other cats in order for her to get any food – now I proudly watch as she stands up for herself with a hiss or a swift head-butt, letting them know she is number one at this house.
She has been my constant companion for this whole crazy journey. In those moments of overwhelming loneliness, when I had no one to talk to, Stella was there quietly sitting by my side. In the times of happiness, when I would dance around the kitchen, she would swirl around my legs as if she was dancing too.
And so, despite myself, I have grown to love her. I look forward to seeing her bright green eyes when I wake up and listen out for her hopeful little meow when I get home after a long day teaching. She is no longer just Stella, she is my little ‘Stelly Welly’, my furry friend, and I’m so thankful we learned to trust one another because I can’t imagine my roller coaster of a Jamaican life without her in it.