Posts made in December, 2006

Cat Zen

Posted by on Dec 7, 2006 in All things natural, Just for laughs | 0 comments

I was first compelled to come to terms with my irrational hatred of cats in August of 1981 in a scorching blacktop parking lot. Before that day I had accepted the religious principal, taught by my parents, that these small furry creatures were the spawn of the devil. My mother disliked them for mostly sanitary reasons, which I can understand when I vacuum their fluffy discards from the carpet, sofa, walls and drapes, but Dad was a true believer. In fact, other than dogs, which he saw as having a utilitarian purpose, no creature, whether fish, bird, turtle, snake, raccoon, gopher, or cat was safe from his absolute domination. He often related an anecdote from his childhood about a male boarder in his mother’s house, whose hatred of cats was equal to his own. The man came home late one evening, and not wanting to wake anyone, entered his room in the dark. He saw a black shape by the door and hissed, “Scat, cat!” The cat sat immobile through his verbal warning not once, but twice. Angry, he pulled back his bare foot and kicked the poor cat with all his might. The whole house was awakened by his expletives and cries of agony. The shape turned out to be a metal flat iron, instead of the stray tabby he was expecting.

The obvious karma of the incident was lost on my Dad, and no explanation was ever offered for the family abhorrence of cats. I do not recall ever questioning my parent’s rationale on the subject until that hot August day. A tiny orange kitten was mewing pitifully on the asphalt, hopping from foot to foot in pain. I felt a pang of guilt, but might have walked away if the cat had not taken action. I was dumbfounded when he quickly jumped into my open car door and settled down comfortably with the groceries on the back seat. I realize now another motorist, too cruel or lazy to take responsibility for his life, must have recently dumped him from their car. Knowing my feelings, my family was speechless when I walked into the house cradling the purring kitten. I told them what happened and explained that I would find someone to take him, but he was definitely not staying at our house. After a few weeks, I named him Doo-wah, as in doo-wha, doo-wha, doo-wha, ditty, and often sang that little song to him for his amusement

As all cat owners know, once a cat is in your house they send out some sort of signal to every other homeless cat within 30 miles, that this is the place. Soon we had cats in every room and sitting by any door we exited. My husband and children were delighted, but I was still a bit reserved. I fed them, cleaned litter boxes, and took them all to the vet, but held back from real love until Sam came to live with us about 5 years later. He was a black and white Sylvester of a cat, possibly a Maine Coon by species, as laid back and affectionate as a big dog. Eva dressed him in doll clothes and hats; he slept in someone’s bed at night, even mine at times, and became a member of our family. We never had the heart to get him neutered, as he seemed to get such joy in going out from time to time to party. He always returned in fine spirits and I saw no harm then in procreation, imagining the wonderful sons and daughters he would have. When he didn’t return one morning we searched for him for weeks and months. We adopted another scrawny, bedraggled tomcat, because he bore a resemblance to Sam, but I still grieve for my favorite who never returned. We even took in a local barn cat on the belief, probably mistaken, that he could have been Sam’s child or grandchild. All subsequent cats have taken a quick trip to the vet to prevent a repeat of the tendency to roam.

Eva left her beautiful cats with us when she moved to England and I must admit, I love them dearly. They are doggie sorts of cats, affectionate and happy to see me in the evening when I come home. Our emaciated Sam look-alike grew fat and happy, and was dubbed Tuxedo Mask by our then Sailor Moon obsessed daughter. She also gave moon cartoon names to her cats, Luna and Artemis. Only two others are left from our original collection, Sweetie and Mootsie, and they live downstairs, because of socialization issues. My husband is never content with the true name of any animal, and prefers to call them by his own nicknames. It leads to a great deal of confusion for guests polite enough to inquire about the name of a cat, rather like tracking characters in a Russian novel. Our visitors no longer include people with allergies, and I do hate the eternal litter box, not to mention the hairball hacking issue, but overall, cats bring a peace and companionship to our lives. Thinking back over our dog years, I must admit I much prefer the cats that share our home. They are undemanding, always giving more than they take, and we never have problems with mice or crickets.

I never discussed my enjoyment of cats with my parents. Like so many issues, we have an unspoken contract, written in the blood battles of my youth, to keep quiet about matters when we disagree. When Mom was alive we stuck to stuck to safe topics, avoiding religion, politics, and cats, along with an assortment of minor subtexts. I like to think I have many of my Mother’s better qualities, but sometimes when I sit with a purring cat on my lap I am sorry for her inability to relax and enjoy life more. She could have benefited from the lessons I have learned from my cats. They taught me to be curious, to be playful, and not to miss meals. That since an immaculate home is not practical or possible, a house should be interesting and inviting. That naps during the day are quite refreshing. That you should show strangers that you like them, and if they ignore you, be persistent. Maybe they’ll get the message, and learn to relax and laugh. If not, at least you will amuse yourself.

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