Before my boyfriend of two and a half years moved into my apartment, I made an appointment with an animal communicator to break the news to my cat. We had a 30 minute Skype conversation with a woman in rural Quebec to make sure that my cat, Qyogi, was well aware of the impending change to his living situation.
The cat was the main obstacle to my boyfriend and I cohabiting. Really, we were ready two years ago, but my attachment to my alpha male cat and unwillingness to give him up was holding us back. Qyogi had expressed his dislike of my boyfriend early in our relationship, mainly by keeping us up all night whenever he slept over. The cat would jump on the bed, meow all night and aggressively cuddle with me. It just got to the point where I would stay over at the boy’s house all the time, and he never came to my place.
However, the commute (sure, it’s only 3 metro stops but it’s still a commute) was getting to us and we just wanted the comfort and convenience of living together. Our relationship was ready for the next step.
The animal communicator confirmed something that my boyfriend had long suspected and I had long denied: my cat thought he was my boyfriend. And while he didn’t completely hate my human boyfriend, he didn’t like him too much.
Via the animal communicator, we told the cat that he’s entitled to feel whatever he wants, but we just want him to let us sleep. We came up with a strategy for the cat to sleep in his own little bed at the foot of our bed. I assured him that just because I have a human boyfriend doesn’t mean I don’t love him. I assured both of my males that I have enough love for both of them. All I asked of Qyogi: just please let us sleep.
His response was: “I’ll try.” But he didn’t actually try at all. He didn’t sleep on his little cat bed. Once the lights were out, he jumped on us and forced cuddles with me. If we closed the bedroom door, he sat outside and clawed incessantly. He even somehow figured out a way to open the door. We put him outside at 11pm, which kept him entertained until about 4:30am, and then he sat outside and meowed until I let him in.
Despite our best efforts (and no effort on the part of Qyogi) it became clear that this living arrangement was not working out for anybody. Since we had anticipated it might be like this, we had created a Plan B: send Qyogi to live with my parents in British Columbia. I wasn’t ready to give him up completely, and my mom is a cat lover who lived on a farm with plenty of space for him to roam and territorize. He would get affection, fresh air and fat country mice. I knew he would be happy, and one day, if room in my life opened up, we could be reunited.
I had to admit that letting go of my cat was a practice of aparigraha, nonattachment – one of the yamas from the Yoga Sutra, acting as a guideline for living harmoniously in the world. In Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life, Charlotte Bell (a fellow cat lover) reminds us that nonattachment is one of the basic tenets of both a yoga and Buddhist practice. She writes, “The Buddha considered attachment to be a root cause of suffering. Because all things are impermanent, seeking security by holding onto things that will, by their very nature, always go away creates pain and suffering.”
Holding on to Qyogi was making us all suffer: my boyfriend wasn’t getting sleep, I was stressed out by mediating, and the cat was anxious and agitated.
Charlotte also quotes Kofi Busia’s translation of Sutra 2.39 on aparigraha: “Knowledge of the beginning and end of all past and present being comes through the continued correct practice of not holding on to things.”
We had to put Plan B into action, despite my unwillingness to do so. I kept putting it off, making excuses, until last week. I made arrangements for him to fly to BC, where my mom would pick him up. Because of the airline’s negligence, he wasn’t loaded on his 7:15am flight and had to wait around until an afternoon flight, meaning he spent more than 18 hours in his carrier, alone and without food or water (read the whole story here). It was almost as thought the cat’s resistance to leaving was so strong that he somehow willed this mishap to happen. Meanwhile, I resisted the urge to go back out to the airport and wait for the next flight with him.
Qyogi is a healthy, resilient cat and while the journey west was tiring, he survived. I’m adjusting to life without him, but get regular updates. He is adjusting to his new home in the BC interior and my mom describes him as “a perfect little gentleman… and so soft.” He’s also found a great drawer to sleep in.
I couldn’t find anything in the yogic texts about “reluctant aparigraha” – the kind of letting go that you do because it’s necessary. Aparigraha is often interpreted as generosity or nongreed, and I have enough self-awareness to admit that this act of letting go wasn’t done in the spirit of generosity. But I know that by letting go of my cat, I’m creating the space for my relationship to grow and deepen. I know that we can all stop suffering and sleep through the whole night. The sadness of saying goodbye to Qyogi is slowly dissipating and being replaced by a quiet knowledge of the beginning and end of all things past and present.