They say we all have a soulmate. I don't know if I believe in that, unless animals count. Then he was my soulmate. My sun and stars. My everything. Losing him tore a hole in my soul I still feel unable to fill.
I've always loved cats, but there was something special about Kissen. He was mine and I was his. We bonded in a way I have never experienced with anyone else, and then I'm very close with one of my sisters; Linda, who moved to Berlin with me and Kissen in 2013. She goes by the artist name Mejguck, and is the maker of the amazing print of the memoriam t-shirt.
Some people will say; all this for a cat? Yes. All this for a cat. Because he was a cat with a larger-than-life personality. Because he was there for me, and kept me alive during the darkest years of my life. That’s no exaggeration. I’ve struggled with bouts of depression and anxiety since late teenage years. Loving a cat like him, who needed me so much was exactly what I needed to keep me from doing something (too) stupid.
At times we argued a lot. You can argue with a cat. He was a very talkative and opinionated guy. If he was unhappy he'd let it be known. If the weather was bad when he wanted to be let out on the balcony - which was part of his morning routine - he'd give me a look a total disapproval and let out his most disappointed meow; like an accusation of "what have you done!?"
If I came home from travelling he'd come and sit next to me with his back turned towards me. I should know I have misbehaved and needed to get into his good grace before he'd give me a welcome home cuddle.
He spent every day next to me. Wherever I was he was there too. If I was sitting the whole day on he couch with the laptop he was right next to me, sleeping with a paw on my leg. If I put fabrics on the floor or sketches on the table it'd take minutes for him to lay on them. When Linda moved back to Sweden I turned her room into my studio. I didn't want him to be in there. He had other plans. He cleaned out one of the shelfs, I put things back in, he cleaned it out again. On it went until I let him win.
Kissen being a design assistent.
For the last year and a half of his 18 year long life he was ill in hyperthyroidism, but it was manageable with medication twice a day. Until it wasn't. The last month went downhill fast. I know I'm blessed to have had him for as many years as did; almost 11, he was a grown cat already when I adopted him - but that didn't make the loss any easier. It was like losing a family member or a life partner. I grew up on a small farm, or more like a retirement home for bullied animals, so I've been surrounded by animals my whole life. Had several cats. Yet Kissen was different, and I want to honour his memory by doing something for other cats. Cats who are suffering.
About three years ago I spent a few weeks travelling around Morocco. From Marrakesh to Casablanca, to Rabat, Tangier, Chefchaouen and finally Fes. The thing that struck me the most, with the exception of the absolutely chaotic traffic and people constantly being in your face, was the suffering of the cats. The overpopulation was a fact. There were cats everywhere. Many being scruffy, dirty and malnourished. In every city. I tried to feed them, and clean them when I could. This experience stuck with me ever since. So it felt like a good place to start when the idea of a cat charity t-shirt sprung to mind.
Street cats in Marrakesh, Rabat and Fes.
Erham means to take pity, or compassion, in Arabic. A very suitable name for a charity. Not only do they feed, vaccinate and sterilise the street cats in the town of Azemmour, they also educate and spread awareness among the local population on how to take better care of their cats. It's a small foundation built on volunteer work by those who care deeply for the animals. As it grows it can help inspire real change, and it's my hope that other lovers of cats will catch on and help putting pressure on the Moroccan government to implement nationwide vaccination and sterilisation programmes.
Mommy cat with her kitten in Rabat.
You can also follow ERHAM CATS on Facebook for daily updates on their work.