I have always loved cats, but because my son is allergic to them I haven’t had a cat in years. I did inherit my mother’s cat for a time, but dear Jill lived with me only a year before she passed on to cat heaven (or is it haven?) Since then, no felines have graced my home.
Enter the Universe. Thanks to a dear friend who takes frequent vacations, I have cats in my life. But Butch (I call him this to protect his identity—it’s not his real name) is a mean cat. At least, he’s mean to everyone but my friend. The last time I was enlisted to feed him he reached out and scratched my hand as I was placing his food dish on the floor (he’s also been known to bite at my ankles!) After consulting a few cat experts I decided to have a talk with him, and the next day before I fed him I explained that his very survival depended on me, and he had better cut it out. Butch behaved for the rest of my friend’s vacation.
This week, I’m feeding two cats and a bird. One of the kitties is a little feisty, so I steer clear of him. But the other, a soft-meowing, fluffy feline, is sweet and shy. She likes me, though, and we have a special relationship, the kind of relationship you can only have with a cat. In other words, she never jumps on my lap and licks my face or wags her tail at me. She just comes prancing out from under a chair and swishes by my legs. Cats have a certain respect for another person’s space, and I like that.
Which is not to say that cats can’t be very affectionate. As a child I had a tiger cat named Happy who was extremely friendly. Happy even learned from my father how to shake hands (I guess Dad really wanted Happy to be a dog!). In any case, he was my best friend and I could tell him anything. He never disapproved (Happy, that is, not my father). And then there was “Kitty,” a lovable cat passed down from my husband’s ex-girlfriend. We lived in a rather shabby apartment in New York then, and he (Kitty, not my husband) loved to bring trophy mice into our bed.
Yes I know, I know. Many of you are dog lovers, many of my very best friends are dog lovers, and I respect that. I’ve loved a few dogs myself (heh, heh). But I just prefer cats, and some day I’m going to have one again. (And FYI, I’d rather be trapped in a room with Butch for a week than have to spend one day feeding a certain slobbering black lab that another dear friend owns.)
In the meantime, I’m the visiting cat lady. My beloved friend F suggests that I could be making a killing on this new profession, charging folks $20 or more a day to take care of their kitties when they go away. But that would sort of take the fun out of it. I’m feeding and caring for these kitties because I want to give back. In yoga, we call it “seva,” which means “selfless service.” I expect nothing in return from these cats (or from my friends) except for them—friends included--NOT to scratch me.