Actor Michelle Langstone and her cat, Frances
We had cats from before I was born. Mum brought a cat into her marriage and Dad was an animal person anyway. He unequivocally loved every single animal in existence and that’s where I get it from.
Cats were the first thing I used to draw at school in the primers. Other kids would be drawing stick people and houses. I added cats everywhere. Really big ones, looming out of the windows of my painted houses.
The first cat I got all of my own was Zooey. He was a British shorthair named after Zooey Glass from Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. When he died it just broke me but I got Frances three weeks later. I know that seems like a short time, but I couldn’t make sense of myself without a cat around.
I saw a picture of her and I was so sure about getting her that I took our cat cage and I was like, “Hi, I’m here for my cat.” And the woman said, “Oh you think you’re taking her?” And I said, “I’m pretty sure I am, yes.”
Now Frances is my shadow. You know how people talk about cats being like a witch’s familiar? Even though I clearly am not a witch — well, I hope that’s clear — I feel like she is my familiar somehow.
Her face is constantly agitated and totally horrified and I’m like, “You are actually an outward expression of my inner turmoil, Frances.”
She was timid at first. Actually, I couldn’t pick her up and hold her in my arms for probably two years. She was playful but she wasn’t a smooch. She’d be under the bed but then at night you’d hear her coming, thud, thud, thud, and she’d be on my bed with her round little head on the pillow.
The interesting thing is that the longer I’ve had her, seven years now, she’s just become friendlier and friendlier. She’s all over everybody like a rash and she climbs in people’s laps and sleeps in my arms at night.
She’s really nuggety. A a good solid unit with hilarious facial expressions and so ungainly she makes me laugh all the time. I’m also really calmed by her. She’s very soft, like a teddy.
Frances has a real penchant for fluffy blue things. There’s a rug and a plush blue throw on Mum’s bed that she likes. And then there is my robe. I call it the Robe of Ecstasy. Any time I put it on, or any time anyone puts a fluffy blue thing on, Frances emerges with great energy and jumps on you and kneads you and purrs until she falls asleep, face-planting in it. Cats can’t see colour so I don’t know why, but it has to be blue and plush for the kneading and purring to start.
When cats are so persistently unavailable, when they make themselves available to you it’s like the sun coming out from behind the clouds and you feel really special and privileged. You can see why Egyptians were like, “These are gods.”