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Oct. 25, 2021

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Neighbors’ cat brings comfort in pandemic

Interactions with feline provide solace in pandemic

5 Photos
This photo provided by writer Solvej Schou shows Schou's neighbors' cat, Kevin as he sits on Schou and her husband's porch on Aug. 21, 2021 in Pasadena, Calif.
This photo provided by writer Solvej Schou shows Schou's neighbors' cat, Kevin as he sits on Schou and her husband's porch on Aug. 21, 2021 in Pasadena, Calif. (Solvej Schou via AP) (Solvej Schou) Photo Gallery

PASADENA, Calif. — His name is Kevin.

Kevin, with gray, black and white tiger stripes, his furry underbelly white, his eyes bright yellow. “What’s the name of your cat?” we asked our neighbors. “Kevin.” “Kevin?” Yes.

A random and perfect name for a cat.

For the almost decade that we’ve lived at our rental house here, my husband, Dave, and I didn’t know or see Kevin. For years, he existed in the crevices of our next door neighbors’ house, a fuzzy ball of affection waiting to be discovered. An indoor-outdoor tabby, he apparently visited other people in the neighborhood, but not us.

Last year, as my staff senior writer job at a college hard-pivoted from working in an office to working remotely from home, due to the pandemic, and my creative life as a musician ground to a homebound halt, Kevin came by a few times when I sat at a tiny outdoor table on the side of our place. He rubbed against my leg. After that — whoosh — he disappeared.

Then, this year, in mid-March, we saw Kevin on our porch.

He came over to me, staring up with those big, yellow, serious eyes. He flopped onto his back, and he let me scratch his head. I documented the moment on social media: “Made a new friend today. Kevin, our neighbors’ cat. Comforting to pet him, and he loves the attention.”

Day by day, Kevin started coming around regularly. His routine was always the same: He would suddenly show up, stare at us with a silent urgent meow, and then walk back and forth rubbing his face on our wooden porch bench. He would allow us to bend down and pet him with long strokes. It always seemed like a privilege to pet him: this deeply affectionate neighbors’ cat who was as shiny and new to us as we were to him.

In mid-April, Dave went to a pet store and bought Kevin a squeaky toy — a small mouse with gray fake fur and a wispy feather tail. Kevin would pounce on it with glee. Squeak, squeak, squeak! By that time, I was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and Dave a month later. Kevin’s owners were vaccinated too.

Sometimes at night we would hear a thump, peek through our living room blinds, and there was Kevin, sitting on the outside window ledge, staring back at us with large, black, dilated pupils, his face almost pressed against the glass. We’ve never fed Kevin or let him inside. We put out a bowl of water for him daily.

It went like this until one momentous afternoon in early April, when Kevin sat on my lap. He jumped on as I was sitting on our porch bench, wearing a black dress with white swirls, and he proceeded to shed all over me. It was a big step in our human-cat relationship.

He didn’t sit on my lap again until a few weeks later, when I sat on the porch floor with my legs sticking out, wearing my neighborhood walking outfit. Kevin stretched himself across my lap, while I petted him for 20 minutes. I wanted to cry I was so happy.

During this pandemic, when so many of us feel isolated and uncertain, random new connections — like Kevin strolling into our lives, on his terms — feel more profound, and comforting.

Still working from home, I find myself going out onto the porch at different times expecting to see him, but he’s not there. When he does visit, Dave and I are so happy for his presence. In other words, he’s a cat, with the whims of a cat. He does what he wants, goes where he wants, and his affection is a joy and a privilege.