Gavin Francis at the London Review of Books:
One of the elm trees near my clinic seems to me different from all the others not because of its size, or the pattern of its limbs, but because one of my patients once fell twenty feet from it. Gary Hobbes wasn’t normally a tree-climber: he was a young man with schizophrenia who, after taking a cocktail of MDMA, became convinced he had transformed into a cat. Witnesses recounted that on the day of his fall he had been prowling the local streets examining the contents of bins, before scaling the elm to hiss at passers-by. The police were called; he climbed higher. A dog-walker approached to watch; Gary recoiled and screeched, demonstrating a previously unexpressed terror of dogs. The police were debating how to get him down when he slipped and fell, breaking his wrist on impact. He knocked his head too and lay mewling on the grass, concussed enough to be transferred to the emergency department.
The following morning Gary woke up on an orthopaedic ward with a plaster cast on his arm, reluctant to talk to the hospital psychiatrist. He was discharged back to his supported accommodation – a complex of small apartments with a warden on hand to help. On visits I’d see opened cat food tins in his kitchen and wonder if he might be eating them. From time to time I’d ask him about that night, but he changed the subject. The last I heard, he’d adopted a pair of street cats as pets, and had cat flaps put in the apartment door.