I'm a proud cat lady. The death of my beloved Siamese in 2020 made me realize that I couldn't live without a cat. I had had her since I was 24 and had been with her for 41 years. The endorphin hit of feeling fur against my skin was what I needed to grieve. She walked across me in my sleep, waking me multiple times in the night, more so towards the end than my children. I was ready to bury my face into her when the frustration of a blank page became too much to bear, but I wanted the affection she gave me as I filled her bowl, the endless hours I had spent alone as a writer with her next to me, curled up in a ball,

I was proudest of the fact that I missed keeping her alive. I sacrificed my own need for food when I was broke to help that cat, and I would do it again if I could. I have lost people in my life, but grief and its vicious claws are very familiar to me, but the death of a friend was different. I had learned that the world had not lost anyone. I didn't feel very connected. When I couldn't stop talking about it, I was afraid people would say "it was just a cat."

I dealt with her death in a way that felt right for me and no one else, because there was no one else who felt the same way as me. I had her freeze-dried, a process where she was dehydrated using extremely cold temperatures over the course of 10 months, preserving her perfectly to look just as she did on the day she died, and now she sits happily, but completely dead, on a chair in my dining room. I said I was a cat lady.

I don't think I'm a crazy cat lady. That is a spinster in her later years who lives alone with cats. She is odd and sad. Society is unable to accept that a woman can be happy without a man. It is meant to be an insult and used in a derogatory way to suggest someone is unlovable for choosing cats over children. She had to make that decision. What is that?

A friend's parents were my landlords and we used to live in a fancy flat in central London. I didn't have enough money to pay my rent when I lived there. Even though they were very kind and gave me the extra time to raise money, it was humiliation. A friend came over and lent me money. I didn't have enough money to go to him. I told him I didn't have enough money to buy food. I got beans and bread and accepted every dinner invite I received. The cat was eating and I was proud of myself. I did it a second time. I was able to keep her alive. I didn't feel like I missed a meal even though I felt like I failed. I was impressed in my 20s.

No matter what a failure I felt like, Lilu never went hungry

I had to leave my house because my housemates didn't like the litter tray in the bathroom. Louise lived in a curtained off section of the living room when I moved into the warehouse conversion. We lived there with Lou for a long time. The cat in the middle with her head on the pillow was sleeping on the right side. Lou provided for us both while I did everything I could to get paid for my work. The person who starred in them all wasLilu. She was one of my closest friends. It's part of my identity. I fed her tuna. We were able to make it.

I moved to Los Angeles for a job 15 years ago. She came over after a six-month test in which she stayed with friends in London. Our apartment in West Hollywood was very nice.

I had to return to the UK because life was so good for her. I left her with a friend who lived in the same building. She got reduced rent, but had to look after the cat, and it was a complete disaster. They didn't talk. My friend couldn't cope with the way she wailed when she was abandoned by her mother. We ran into each other in London after the deal was off, and it was obvious that the deal was off. I made a pact with her that if I went, she would as well. I didn't change my mind.

I met my husband in Los Angeles. He vomited on the side of the bed the night before. When she thought my attention would be taken from her, she could be terrible. They worked it out after a slow start. They loved each other very much.

On our wedding day, in the car on the way to our ceremony, Chris suddenly said, "You didn't say goodbye to lilu!" We returned. He wanted me to thank her for taking care of me too. Imagine that moment. After thanking my cat, I told my husband that he was the only one I could have married. At the reception, we drank from a giant ice sculpture. The symbolism of my single life disappearing wasn't lost on me. We were prepared to open our hearts to the idea of a family.

We sipped whisky shots off a giant ice sculpture of the cat

Two children followed by a dog. She welcomed everyone with love despite being a difficult bag. As I prepared to leave for the hospital with my first, I sat quietly on the floor as I delivered our second at home. She said she had never heard of an animal being so well behaved during a birth. I was proud of her as much as I was of my baby. When he was out, she jumped up and sat on my legs, watching terrible TV and breastfeeding.

I have two cats that I love, a brother and sister called Myrtle and Boo. I have two cats, two dogs, two kids, a husband and a dead cat in my house. I want to extend the family even further. When you get a pet, it makes a home feel like a home.

The vet's waiting room is a friendly place. People are chatting and smiling at each other. They want to know the breed. When the ailment is explained, they make a sound. They are cooing and asking if they are able to touch them. If someone asked to touch my child, they wouldn't get the same response. The doctor's waiting room is different from the rest of the building. People don't make eye contact. We arepulsed by each other's problems.

People are helped by animals. People might be alone if it weren't for cats. A woman with cats is not crazy. That isn't what I see anyways. A person who has a lot of love in their heart chooses to take care of a cat who needs her more than she needs it. It is a sign of a person with a big heart. She might have a dead one in her dining room. She is likely as batty as they come.

Cat Lady is a book written by Dawn O'Porter and is available in hardback and ebook. You can buy a copy at guardianbookshop.com.