The Sweetness of Closeness

I must have really awesome feet, because the tootsies are Timba’s latest go-to spot. He used to sleep on the pillow beside me by my head, but for some reason he’s taken a fancy to the feet. He’s never done this before, and I’m curious about the switch up. Cats are enigmas though, so I basically better give up the motive analysis as far as that is concerned. I can only imagine that his motive is to be close, but still, my feet? It’s not like my toes have superior chin rubbing skills, and it’s not like the bony ankle area is the most comfortable spot to rest his face. I guess I shall have to ever wonder and be content with the sweetness of him being close.

The part I do wonder about, however, is the way it makes me feel when Timba does his little one-turn ritual before settling his warm body against my feet and stretching his chin or a paw across them. It warms my heart, perhaps more so than any other cuddling besides against or in the crook of my legs.  What is it about feet that is so touching and intimate? They’re feet! They’re often dirty or stinky (which mine aren’t, they are cozy and rosy according to Timba), and they are among the basest of body parts, literally and figuratively (I’m thinking foot in mouth syndrome here).

In early Christian tradition as well as cultures in that era, foot washing was practiced as a way to humbly serve guests. Sandals were the ‘in thing’ and dirt was in abundance, so it was an honoring gesture to offer water to a guest, have a servant do the deed, or more so to be the one to tend to the guest. In earlier Chinese culture, though not many generations away, foot binding was practiced.  If you’re not aware of this, than bite your lip in anticipation of this mental image: from an early age Chinese girls had their feet broken and bound, then broken and rebound, repeating the process to inhibit the foot’s growth so that the desired approximate 4 inches would remain her foot size for life.  Due to the stench of rot from the binding, perfumes were applied.  The scent of exotic perfume combined with the delicate manner of walking with malformed feet was considered erotic to men and highly desirable.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have my feet washed no matter how humbling that may be. And humbling it is, to have someone care for your feet. It’s amazing how many women are self-conscious or dissatisfied with their feet. Again I say, they’re feet! Maybe it’s intimate because it is humble? The sense that someone would touch your base and possibly smelly feet in such a tender or loving manner. That someone would care enough about you to figuratively stoop to the ground and humbly help you or declare their affection for you.

Maybe that’s what Timba is doing. In two years he’s never cuddled with my feet.  Maybe his sense of affection and loyalty has grown to that point. Or maybe I’m grasping at straws because it’s not like a cat can conceptualize the ‘humble factor’ of feet! Either way, it’s incredibly sweet, not to mention warm.  And a bit risky. He’s mellowing with age and growing in sweetness, but he still has the capacity to dole out a love bite now and then. And controlling my response to the tender tootsies having a sudden sharp pain would be a feat difficult to control.  A reflexive maneuver sending dear kitty flying might make him less prone to cuddle my feet in the future, and I’d hate to miss out on the sweetness of his closeness.



5 Things I Didn’t Know About Cats While Growing Up

A Cat’s Whiskers Are Amazing!

I’d always been told that whiskers help a cat to know whether or not it can navigate through tight spots.  They are like feelers gauging the parameters of a space so that dear little kitty won’t get stuck trying to go through something that would accommodate his body half way through – to his utter humiliation.  It turns out that whiskers are feelers in more than just the physical sense.  They are emotional indicators as well, tell tale signs of a cat’s mood or emotional state regarding something.  Whiskers back can mean a cat is in a state of relaxation and is comfortable in his or her environment.  Whiskers back can also reflect fear, in which case other things like wide eyes and flattened ears help to discern.  Whiskers forward (my favorite) show that a cat is alert and highly interested in something.  I never paid attention to the movement of whiskers as a child, but now one of my favorite things to do to Timba, since his whiskers are so long and prominent and expressive, is to take a toy in my hand and move it back and forth towards him to watch his whiskers jut out with piqued interest and then relax.

Cats Play Fetch Too!

Timba was the first cat I ever had or saw that would fetch items when thrown.  I have since learned that this is a typical trait of Siamese cats, so being half Flame Point Siamese, it’s in his genes.  However, after throwing enough paper wads, mice and toy balls, my other cat Toby eventually caught on to the game.  He is half Russian Blue, and they are typically shy and reserved cats.  But a little nurture to conquer the nature, and voila! Toby is now chasing and retrieving just as much as Timba.  In fact, Toby once fetched a toy mouse and brought it back to me a record number of 8 times, no feat that my A.D.D. Timba has yet to perform!  Nothing is so endearing as to feel a little tap at my back by a paw or a dropped toy mouse or paper wad.  When I roll over and see the expectant look on one of my cats’ faces, I melt.  Then I pick it up and throw it and marvel at the oddity that they actually bring it back for more throws!

You Don’t Have To Declaw Cats To Deter Damage!

Many people don’t have cats or get rid of them because of the damage cats do to furniture and fabrics with their nails.  If they can afford to declaw their cat, they will, and contrary to human assumption, declawing is painful and can hinder a cat and even alter its behavior.  No need to get into it, but here is one of many quick articles you can google:

The best alternative to damage is to train your cat, preferably from a young age, to use appropriate scratch boards and posts.  Refresh them with catnip from time to time to re-interest them in using these things.  Growing up, I learned that you can clip a dog’s nails, but I’d never heard of clipping a cat’s nails.  Lo and behold, this is another thing which is best done since a young age.  However, as with anything, a cat can learn to adjust to it.  I had a friend who taught me how to clip my cats’ nails, and now that I can do it on my own I absolutely love it. My cats are so good, minus an occasionally growl from Mr. Sensitive Back Feet, aka Timba.  It really helps lessen unintentional scratches to me and any that may occur when they play with each other.

Cats Are Better In Numbers!

One cat can be plenty for a person or a family.  They can be just as lovable as they would be if you had more than one cat.  However, the fun factor gets a serious boost when you have more than one cat.  At one point, I lived with 8 cats between my roommate and myself.  That was a period of a lot of laughter and a lot of learning about cat nature.  Since then, I now live by myself with my two cats, who provide just as much fun and learning as did 8.  When cats interact with each other we get to observe more of their antics that may not play out in a single cat.  Another benefit of more than one cat is the emotional and physical health of your cats. Having a playmate and companion seems to make for a happier cat.  Not that solitude is bad, but just like us, they are social creatures.  They also exercise more, and while it may mean more trouble (toppled items from romping kitties) it is totally worth it to have happy healthy cats whose frolicking often evokes laughter.

Cats Are Not Disposable!

Growing up I had numerous cats, but very few until a ripe old age.  We moved somewhat frequently, and we didn’t have a lot of money.  Mostly the moving factor was what decided a cat’s next living arrangement.  To a kid, it’s sad, but once it happens often enough it just seems the status quo: animals aren’t humans and sometimes you have to get rid of them.

Not a lesson I adhere to anymore.  Yes, with 8 cats a few years ago, some of them were mine and I found them new homes.  While a season of irresponsibility by taking on too many cats was not good, it did teach me about love, commitment, stewardship, and the priceless, invaluable lives wrapped up in whiskers, fur, and paws.  They aren’t just animals or pets.  They aren’t for our purposes.  They are created by God for his delight, and we get the gift of being their stewards.  I love how the pet-mom and pet-dad concept is growing in America and other countries.  More and more people are calling animals their family or their fur babies.  The bond is irreplaceable, as are the creatures with whom we bond.  Having learned about them through life, growing in understanding and appreciation, I can now say there is nothing on earth that would ever cause me to dispose of my cats.  No new homes ever.  I am their forever home, their mom, their caretaker, their furless companion.  Nothing makes my heart happier than to see other people loving their cats (and dogs) in such a way.  I interact with various Facebook groups of Russian Blue and Flame Point owners, and people literally all over the world are loving their felines in ways that I can honestly say surely honors and reflects a loving Creator.

Cats and Books

Sorry to be incognito for a while.  I’ve been a little distracted and haven’t been able to engage in things I enjoy such as blogging and reading.  I won’t muse boringly upon it, but I would like to say that one legitimate reason for not reading is that I always seem to have an obstacle in my way.

"Oh, I'm not in your way am I?"

“Oh, I’m not in your way am I?”

When it comes to books, cats are on them like white on mice.  Save for the fact that my apartment is (thankfully) rodent free, I’d almost wonder if my cats loved books more than mice.  In fact, I think Timba currently has taken on the official role of mama’s Book Marker.

"Why use your bookmark when you have me?"

“Why use your bookmark when you have me?”

Captured here is my current read, and while not a long Dean Koontz or Stephen King novel, I seem to be taking a longer than usual time to get through it.  I really enjoy it and recommend it, and would definitely read more diligently if, well, my book marker weren’t so prominent and cute.

The Poisonwood Bible is a work of fiction that chronicles a missionary family’s time in the Congo.  While fiction, it is very close to truth.  I can see everything in the book actually happening.  It probably isn’t a Christian book.  It isn’t a bash on Christianity either, however, it does expose harmful brands of Christianity and their detrimental effects upon relationships.

The story is told through alternating the chapters in the voice of the mother and three daughters.  The characters are funny and insightful despite the portrait of a sad reality in Christian missions history: the blending of evangelism and colonialism and the  forceful imposing of one culture upon another.

The father in the story is an overbearing, dominating, self-willed and driven preacher who has no concept of relational or cultural intelligence.  He is bent on staying in the Congo in the midst of political upheaval so that he can ‘do the Lord’s will’ and be the ‘good and faithful servant’, all the while having no idea that he is profaning the heart of Love and squashing the spirit of his wife and daughters.

I am approximately halfway through, and the author foreshadows terrible tragedy as a result of this father’s will.  I get a sense that some form of redemption may come of it despite what loss lies ahead.  It is incredibly well written, with strong and defined life-like characters.  It yields a wisdom that can benefit people on all ends of the spectrum in terms of their perspective on Christianity or religion in general.  It is ultimately a portrait of our common humanity, that lesser and greater which lives in us all, that conflicting duality of good and bad.

So here is my first book review, and I hope some of you will pick up a copy and journey with me into the heart of the jungle.  I am thankful someone recommended the book and even bought if for me, so while I cannot progress through it as quickly as I’d like (ahem, Mr. Timbavati), I will definitely plot out some time this weekend to get a few more chapters down the road.

"I'm better than this book, you know ..."

“I’m better than this book, you know …”

Then I can sift through my bookshelf and get to the stack of Stephen King greats that I’ve purchased over the past several weeks.  I’ve only read one of his novels so far, Bag of Bones, and am completely enamored with his mastery of words and depth of understanding.  But somehow, something tells me I’m going to have to fight my way to the bookshelf, for even from a distance, cats and books are entwined, bound to be together, and always for the better 🙂

Even from a distance, cats pair up with books

Thinking of reading a book over me? Think again!

Come Out of Hiding

At the start of my blogging journey I wrote on New Beginnings, as I’d recently moved into a transitional arrangement while waiting for my new apartment to become available. Alas the time has come and gone. Moving weekend was this past weekend, and boy what an exhausting endeavor.  I pushed my limited body to limits I may not have experienced since my 20’s. 

After about four hours of moving on Friday, and nine grueling hours on Saturday, I packed up the kitties in their respective crates and took them and the litter boxes last.  This time Toby was the quiet one on the ride over and Timba meowed that deeper sorrowful-sounding meow that only car rides can evoke.

They both were somewhat prepared due to the hustle and bustle that occured over the weekend.  Cats always notice when something in their home is new or out of order, and there was a lot of shifting of items on the weekend.  On Saturday they both hid under the kitchen cabinets as more and more things disappeared, maybe knowing that they somehow would also disappear.

Hardly able to bend anymore after moving, I stooped to get Timba and crated him without trouble. However, I didn’t realize how big he’d gotten since he was last in the crate. Actually it’s a pink bag – perhaps an affront to male kitties, but better for me than the leopard one or the expensive one.  With Timba looking like Shaq stuffed into a Prius, a la Paris Hilton, I turned to stoop for Toby. I had to use his tail to help gather him because he’d lodged himself in the farthest corner of the shelf possible.

He made nary a sound as I stood up  holding him. I had to laugh at his fear-induced submissive posture. Not only was his tail tucked completely under, but his entire body had curled in such a way that no matter how long I held him there he stayed firmly in the shape of a large grey “C”.  Poor poor Tobias.  My scared little guy, fearful of change.

I must remark that he has adapted better to this move than the temporary move a month ago. He actually came out of my bedroom Saturday evening and a little on Sunday. However, Sunday was a bit of a push on my part, as I closed all the doors so he would have to remain in the living room. That may have been premature, because he has since then been in hiding, last seen darting under the couch.

Toby didn’t sleep with me last night even though I kept my bedroom door open. This morning he was nowhere to be found, so I tried coaxing him out with a cheerful “treat, treat!” but to no avail. I was, and still am worried. My darker side and imagination have given me a case of the “what ifs”. Did he run out when no one was looking? Is he sick and unable to move? Will I assume for a few days that he’s under the couch, only to have my heart sink perilously at death’s first odor?

How I wish Toby weren’t hiding again. I was so happy to see him acting normal Saturday night, being himself. My heart delighted in each trip to my bedroom, for there was Toby eager to greet me, jumping on the bed, belting meows, beseeching me for affection. Yet how sad I am since he’s been in hiding. I love my Toby Bear, I miss his precious being, who and how he is. And here is where I began to think and feel deeper, about the topic of hiddenness.

I was once in hiding, on the inside. After 32 years of life and gradual coming out of myself, I exited hiddenness fully when I opened my heart to God. How delighted he was that I was out in the open, out of the dark cabinets, corners and couches of my inner world. He who loves my being – who and how I am – was happy to see me in the open being who I am. Not hiding, but shining, sharing, blooming, and becoming.

I know that I’ve hidden off and on since that experience, and I also know that God cheerfully calls me out just as I called “treat, treat!” for Toby. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. Isolation and self-inversion are fear-based, protective behaviors. But when we overcome hiddenness, not only do we experience being known, loved, and enjoyed, but we get to make others happy simply by being who we are.

So if you know what I’m talking about, if you’re maybe in a season of isolation, may I say to you “come out of hiding”. Be who you are out in the open, because you make life better, you are missed by someone who really enjoys the pleasure of your company.

Hard Day, Soft Kitty

I could do without days like today. I have a thyroid condition that every now and then demands a medicine adjustment in order to keep me from slipping into a coma. Not literally, of course, but oh how tired I feel. It drags me down in the daytime, and unfortunately that corresponds with my working hours. Turns out a few people would rather not  tap me on the shoulder and find out why I was sawing logs in front of a computer the past two days. Instead they relayed this juicy observation to a supervisor, who then relayed it to my supervisor. Ugh.

Enter a phone call today from my supervisor. Thank God she values me as an employee and figured it was medically related.  Enter signing a “verbal counseling form”, and enter a “p.s.” in an email that the onsite supervisor would like my supervisor to pass on to me that sneakers aren’t allowed during jeans week for the holidays, only jeans. I had no idea any supervisor recognized what shoes I wear. I hardly think anyone recognizes my face. You know, truly recognize. Like acceptance, acknowledgement, not mere visual recognition.

Welcome to the life of an outsourced employee. You are an outsider if you are outsourced. You aren’t part of the workplace culture, despite the “hellos” and “how are yous” that are likely just obligatory as you pass in the hall to the bathroom or break room.  It’s hard being an “unknown” in a place where people seem to know each other to the point of having relationships outside of the workplace.

It makes me think of quotes from the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann, or from Mother Teresa, which basically state that acceptance is the air we breath and without it we wither and fade, that indifference is society’s greatest impoverishment and not poverty itself.

But these difficult things I cannot change. I can’t look pretty, I can’t lose weight fast enough, I can’t afford snazzy, fashionable professional attire to be whatever it is that people are drawn to enough to welcome one into the inner circle.  I can change them no more than I can change the unknown metabolic imbalance tugging like a pit bull at the cords of my consciousness despite a hefty 3-cup-a-day coffee regimen, which by the way would normally have me twitching like an alleyway geeker waiting in line to buy the next fix.

So once I get home, feeling a greater exhaustion born of the stress of having my job placed in a more precarious situation, I sit down at the computer and seek some kind of reprieve from the hardness of not just a day, but a week, a month, a year, three to four years. Hardness all around, rocks and hard places, jagged little edges of piercing circumstances that I have to dance around, without sneakers mind you. Sneakers are a no-no.

Enter soft kitty, who daily has been the barrier between me and a keyboard since living in my temporary apartment. Warm cuddle bug Timba curls up against my chest and rests. His soft fur, warm body, and moderate motor humming away soothe and comfort me. His unconditional affection for me, his desire to be close and near and intimate semi-wash away the hardness and coldness of circumstance and indifference.

It reminds me of quotes from Jesus … “come to me and I will give you rest, all you who are weary and heavy laden.” It reminds me of Jesus himself sleeping through a hurricane strength storm, sawing his own logs on a pillow while his disciple pals are freaking out on the deck above. I wonder if Jesus snored? Was it an imperfection from which he was spared, or was it the mother of all snores being that he was also fully God? I’m thinking the former, but then again, I doubt people would bother recording the magnitude of a Jesus snore seeing as he had so many more worthy things to be recorded. “Cut me some slack, guys, when I’m gone and you’re writing all this down.  Just, uh, tell them that it was the stone rolling away. Remember that, stone rolling away, not snoring to the break of day. K?”

With that little rhetorical question out there, it’s time for me to find my own pillow. It’s not a big storm outside, but the drizzle saps me nonetheless. At least I have my two soft kitties to buffer the day and accept me while I read for a little while.