Millie came into my life when my boyfriend Patrick and I started dating, but our love story (the one between me and Millie) didn’t begin until we all moved in together. At the time, I was a freelance writer and I worked from home. This meant that most of my daily human contact was made across a coffee counter and I had lots of human-cat bonding time on my hands. Millie and I became close companions as I typed furiously about the whereabouts of celebrity babies or the 13 Reasons Why Your Soap is Haunted. You know, internet stuff.
What really cemented my relationship with Millie is that I am now, technically, her favorite. Sure, Patrick cleans her litter and took care of her for two whole years before we ever met, but I’m the one who has a warm laptop and a soft belly to curl up onto on weekday afternoons. Millie nuzzles her face kindly into mine. She kneads my back like a feline masseur. And when she’s in the right mood, we hold paws. As for Patrick, well, in his words, “she cuddles up with me when you’re asleep.”
These days, I have one of those fancy full-time 9 to 5 jobs, which means I am significantly more stable in most aspects of my life. All except one: cat time. Not only do I have less Millie in my day, but I also travel occasionally and that can put a real strain on our relationship. I’m also 30 years old, so that means all of my friends are getting married and I jet set around with various #BrideTribes like a pack of day-drunk bachelorette vagabonds. Needless to say, I’ve been racking up both air miles and Millie guilt.
Have you ever looked your cat in the face while you’re packing for a vacation? Joan Crawford has nothing on that level of stink eye. Want to bring along your favorite little black dress? Forget about it because your cat sabotaged your luggage by sitting in it.
The one thing that’s made traveling a little bit easier (and helps to ensure that I’m still her most beloved) is FaceTime. Most people use it to keep in touch with their parents or spouses. I use it to to watch my cat bat at her food. As far as I’m concerned, there’s not much of a difference.
What Difference Does FaceTime Really Make?
The first time I ever FaceTimed with Millie, I was in London and I called Patrick because I missed his face. Our conversation quickly devolved as soon as the cat pounced in front of his phone. According to Patrick, she heard my voice and started looking for me around the room. As soon as she found my face on the little screen, she began rubbing her nose all over it. Granted, Millie grazes her face on my phone because it’s both a hard surface and something that distracts my attention away from her. However, in that moment, I felt like I was at home, snuggling with my favorite kitten.
Truth be told, I believe the FaceTiming does more for me than it does for the cat. She gets to hear my voice, but I get all the joy of seeing her adorable furry face. Heck, I even get giddy when I catch her cleaning her bum (don’t judge me). I call her all of her silly nicknames, like “Millie Vanillie,” and sing songs with her name in the lyrics (“I’m gonna knock you out! HOO! Millie said knock you out!”). It’s those weird moments that make human-pet relationships so special and FaceTime so valuable to me.
Making the Cat-Lag Easier
As a cat parent, I know all of Millie’s likes and dislikes, her funny quirks and her routines. When I’m not around her for days at a time, I miss her company. No matter how luxurious those big hotel beds are or how hypnotizing the Property Brothers can be late at night, there’s nothing quite as comforting as having my cat and my partner curled in close to me.
My best friend Allison, a fellow cat mom, understands my FaceTime habit completely. When she travels, her mom sends her regular updates about the comings and goings of her cats Snax and Mr. Binx. Whether it’s a quick text or a full-on, 15-minute “conversation,” connecting with your pets when you travel, especially if you travel alone, can prevent a lot of homesickness.
Beyond the warm fuzzies, FaceTime also saves me a lot of “reconnecting.” As any cat parent would know, cats can be finicky creatures. Before I started FaceTiming with Millie (and Patrick!), it took at least two days before she forgave me for leaving for so long. She wouldn’t slink around my legs as I brushed my teeth or fall asleep on my feet. She’d just sit and stare from across the room like a woman scorned. Nowadays, it only takes a few hours before she forgets the whole thing.
If your cat is utterly disinterested in FaceTiming—because let’s be honest, cats have opinions about everything—there are plenty of other ways to keep your feline happy while you’re away. I like to leave a lightly worn sweatshirt behind for Millie’s cuddling purposes. I also request (i.e. demand) pictures of Millie being her adorable Millie self. And I make sure to reward her with a little something special, like a can of tuna or catnip, when I return. Because when it comes to relationships with pets, much like does with any human relationship, it’s the little things that count.
Rachel Semigran is a top improviser & has performed at several comedy festivals. Along with writing & comedy, she’s an expert cheese monger.