My Roommate is a Cat
Episode 5

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 5 of
My Roommate is a Cat ?

First, I want to dedicate this review to my cat George, who passed away peacefully in his sleep this Sunday at age 15. He was a tuxedo cat like Haru, and a cat of many moods: smart and agile, but also cranky and ornery, yet extremely sweet when he liked you. He was a master of giving affectionate headbutts to his favorite humans. I was in middle school when we first got George (who I named after George Harrison, as I was at the peak of my Beatles phase), which I think demonstrates how important cats are to us. They might not be lifelong companions, but they will be there for significant chunks of our lives. This cat got me through my formative years and helped me learn to connect better with other people the same way Haru helps Subaru. I hope you'll join me in keeping cats like George in your heart as you watch this show.

This is a particularly great episode if you love tuxedo cats, because we meet another one! Nana, the girl from the pet store, comes over to help Subaru, and by the end of the episode we meet her kitties: the large brown-and-white fluffy Roku and the small tuxedo kitten Hachi. Hachi is the focus of the episode once Haru comes over to visit, so Subaru can return Nana's house key, which gets stuck to Haru's paw. That's when we learn just why Hachi and Haru connect so well right away: Hachi is Haru's younger brother! I guess it makes sense there would be coincidences like this when everyone lives so close to each other; the strays are probably from the same litter or street gang. (Hachi seems to be younger than Haru, so I'm guessing they have the same parents but came from different litters.) It's worth noting that sibling cats don't necessarily look alike, especially if their parents (of which multiple fathers are possible) have different color patterns and markings. My George had another tuxedo brother, a grey tabby brother (Charlie), and a calico sister, all from the same litter.

Before we get to this fateful encounter, Nana teaches Subaru more basic tenets of cat ownership. One huge danger that Subaru has already encountered is overfeeding. It's easy to just set out cat food and hope your cats will only go to it when they're hungry, especially if you have a household with multiple cats. But just like humans, cats can vary in appetite and tastes. I've had cats that will eat everything they can find all the time, (that's why Petey is so large!) and I've had cats who only eat a little or are picky eaters. My parents' cat Hemlock would eat all of his wet food except for two peas, which he left behind in his otherwise spotless bowl. Haru appears to be a big-appetite cat, likely due to having to survive on the streets for so long. Unlike humans, don't know about the problems that can come with eating too much, so they can't control their appetites on their own, and Subaru has to be careful about how much he feeds her. I was surprised by just how little Nana recommended Haru eat each day, but then again, she is a pretty small kitty.

If you have cats, watching this show can feel like watching Animal Planet in terms of inadvertently picking up tips. I really liked Nana's suggested toy to help Haru eat while also getting exercise. That's a thing I struggle with in my own cats, and the temptation to give them more treats when they're looking at you with big eyes and begging with meows is strong. Nana's soda-bottle trick seems like a good way to keep hungry cats active. Meanwhile, Nana got to show Subaru photos of her kitties, a favorite pastime of cat owners the world over. "So round!" is exactly how I'd react to her pictures of big boy Roku.

At first, I felt like Haru's segment of the episode was more predictable than usual. You can anticipate her reactions pretty easily to stuff like the food bowl and the bottle toy. But once she attaches her claw to the rabbit's foot keychain, it's clear that something is different. Even before that, she mentioned that something about Nana felt mysteriously "familiar," and then we find out there's a familiar scent to this keychain that makes Haru not want to let it go. By the way, cats getting things attached to their claws isn't always voluntary; sometimes they'll dig in too hard out of surprise or alarm and then find they can't detach when they try. My cat Louie, who was a polydactyl with two extra toes in each paw, would always get his special side claws stuck in my shirt when I held him—and sometimes it would take a while to get them detached. But with Haru, this is clearly possessiveness of the scent. When she meets Hachi again, we realize that it smells like her brother, even if she doesn't realize that until she sees him again. Cats have much stronger senses of smell than humans, and it's a big reason why they love rolling around in dirty laundry and other things that smell like their favorite humans—and likewise, might avoid things that have been touched too much by other cats.

Honestly, I should have predicted earlier that Haru had a connection with one of Nana's cats. She eagerly approaches Hachi, but cats are usually wary of other cats they don't know yet. Every time my family has added a new cat to our menagerie, it always involves a careful process of acclimating the new arrival to our household by keeping him in one room for a few days, before introducing him to the rest of the herd. Some cats can be so mistrustful as to get aggressive with new cats, even kittens. More surprising was the scene where Subaru could pick Haru up and run toward Nana without some serious fidgeting. There's a reason we use carriers when we take cats out of the house!

My Roommate is a Cat continues to be a sweet and fun midweek diversion with a surprisingly educational side. I didn't even go into how Subaru continues to come out of his shell, running after Nana rather than waiting like he might have before, embracing the uncertainty that comes with getting closer to new people and animals. The show is far from perfect; it might be too slow for some, it has little appeal for non-cat-lovers, and the animation especially gets wonky in this episode. (Nana's character model is often animated stiffly, and sometimes it looks like her eyes are going to droop off her face.) But there's so much to enjoy if you are the intended audience for this show that it's hard to complain. Next episode teases even more fun and more kitties, as we get to know Roku and his surprisingly deep voice better. I can't wait for the next installment in this ultimate slice of winter comfort food.

Rating: B+

My Roommate is a Cat is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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