You Rock My World!

It’s laundry day #2, and I’m tackling the bedding in my bedroom.  As usual, my two faithful helpers have been ever-present, inspecting every detail and nuance of the process.  In stripping the pillowcases and sheets, and separating the down comforter from its cover to wash it, I had several typical cat reactions from Toby and Timba. The natives were restless indeed! Toby hopped from spot to spot on the bed to evade the “dangers” of me pulling and wadding sheets. Like a faithful “tree” kitty as opposed to a “bush” kitty, he hopped on the top bookshelf for a “safe” view of the ordeal.  Timba, on the other hand, was fully participative, white whiskers prominently displayed and pink nose at every turn. When I returned to my room from putting the bedding in the washer, Timba was sitting on the bare bed with the most bewildered expression on his face.

At this point I laughed, a good hearty one too, because Timba’s face said it all: You rocked my world!  And how true is it? The most minute changes cannot escape the attention of a cat.  And let’s face it, change is not something any cat is keen on. Environmental change can be intriguing at best and devastating at worst.  From the small things like changing the sheets, opening mail, bringing in groceries or new items in boxes, to the big changes like a trip to the vet and that ominous car ride, or moving apartments or homes altogether. Cats … do … not … like … change. It rocks their world!

But you know what? As much as we can rock the world of a cat in big and small ways alike, they also can rock our world.  Having once lived with a roommate where we peaked at 8 cats together, I have had plenty of time and opportunity to observe “cat nature” at its finest. It’s the little things that amuse me, the little things that delight me: the “eye blink” (or cat “I love you”) for example.  Now that I know that this is how cats communicate affection or acceptance, Timba and I regularly exchange affection in this endearing way. Or Timba’s paw bump to say “hey”, or tapping a paw from my side or behind me to say “gimme some love mom”, or Toby’s odd meow that is more like a prolonged “meh”, or Timba’s “Mike Tyson” high-pitched meow elicited from that big brutish body. From Toby’s sophisticated paw drinking method to Timba’s subtle eye and ear signals that say “you’re pissing me off human” (which I do intentionally quite often because it’s so darn cute and amusing), they rock my world.

The big things do as well, like the fact that I seriously considered getting rid of Toby to spare him from Timba’s early harassment phase.  Or the time that Timba chased a paper wad over the side of the bed facing the wall and suddenly went quiet.  He had gotten stuck upside down. I knew something was wrong, called his name, heard him struggle, and just as I lunged to rescue him he came struggling back up the bed and literally gasped for air for the longest minute or two ever. I can never forget that day, and about tear up just writing this. It was such a scare, rocking my world so bad that even a few months later when he flies over that side of the bed to chase Toby or toys I tense up and listen for signs that he’s moving on elsewhere, despite now keeping the bed a safe distance from the wall.

I love my two cats. I really do – they rock my world and have changed me. Life is better, my perspective is better, my heart is better. I’m so glad I can rock their world too, because the ways in which they react to it rock my world in turn, giving me moments of laughter I will forever cherish.

 

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.

 

Till Death Due Us Part

On the wings of the WordPress class awhile back I find myself doing the exact opposite of the class goals: posting infrequently and irregularly. I really respect those of you who commit to regular blogging regardless of what life brings your way. If you’ve read My Two Cats recently, you’ve seen that unemployment has had my number and has been a source of irregular posting. I tried to change it, and right when it was taking a turn for the better, life happened again. Or rather, death.

My stepdad passed away in mid-May, and writing became insignificant in the light of that. Instead, I walked through grief with my mother and reflected on the ‘writing’ of the life I’d known for 22 years; on a marriage that lasted until ‘death due us part.’ It is a rare thing these days – commitment.  Relationships of any kind are under attack by culture. We’re a throw-away society.  We upgrade things and upgrade people. We downgrade people. We remove them from our lives because we’ve succumbed to the rhetoric of positivity.  If they can’t serve the purpose of fluffing our ‘happy place’ pillow, if they make us uncomfortable by expressing the hardness of what they may be going through, then we cut loose the strings.

People miss out on people that way.  People miss out on the richness of life and getting to really know someone. If they only knew  how much they are short-changing themselves because of their premature disconnect. Life is messy and so are people. But I say ‘look longer’.  ‘Dig deeper’.  You don’t stand in a museum and hastily move from picture to picture. You don’t find gold by scratching the surface of the dirt. And you get neither the life transformation nor the treasure if you walk away too early.  Commitment, perseverance, determination … these are what yield the true nature of a thing, the obscured value.

I guess that’s why I love my cats so much.  I’ve taken the time to observe them. I’ve persevered through Timba’s terrible biting phase when most people would’ve tossed him to the shelter. He is my cat ‘soul mate’ now, and I would’ve missed out on the gift of who he is had I reacted the way society shapes us to react. I also could have missed out on the gift of Toby. I thought of getting rid of him due to Timba’s early harassment phase.  I thought Toby was so lovable he’d get a great home, but Timba such a hellion that he’d die in a shelter. I honestly considered keeping the difficult cat to spare him, and painfully parting with the well-behaved cat to likewise spare him. But I stuck that out as well, and for over a year now they have become the best of pals and would grieve the loss of each other probably as much as the loss of me.

Commitment. It doesn’t make me cringe. It makes me smile, because it is worth it. I smile that I’ll have my cats until death do us part. I smile that my mother had her husband until then. I hope you smile at the ones in your life you’ve committed to keeping around for the long haul. And I hope that reading this in some way strengthens your own sense of ’till death due us part’, whatever your connections and relationships may be.

Cats Never ‘Get Old’

It’s Easter and I find what shouldn’t be happening on a day like today actually happening.  Easter is a fun day for some and a spiritually refreshing day for others, but regardless of either I find myself absolutely winded.  I don’t mean physically. I tend to be like my cats in this area and stick to a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I’m just bushed and drained in a way I can’t define.  Maybe Toby or Timba squished the oomph out of me too much while I was sleeping last night and it’s trickling down to deeper levels. Maybe forces unknown are interfering with me experiencing this fun and joyful holiday.

Either way I find myself tired and not ready to tackle the week, a sort of pre-Monday blues chords lazily making their way down the halls of my soul. It feels like another round of ‘things are getting old’ is about to hit.  Unemployment and fruitless efforts to find a job have lasted so much longer than I ever would have thought. I don’t want to look tomorrow. I don’t want to graze through endless results on websites and throw my energy and hope into filling out applications that will be tossed aside according to the norm so far. But I’m sick of the alternative.

So maybe I’m getting depressed … the sense of blah that overwhelms me and the tiresomeness of life’s daily grind and pleasures alike has cast their nets and snagged me good. I was even unable to fully engage with others tonight, and driving home I hit the fast forward button on my music a record number of times. Been there done that.  Same old song literally and figuratively. It’s a total sickness and I wish I could declare war on it, but the nature of this beast is to sap so thoroughly that the sense of defeat is good and ingrained.

I made it home but to flop almost immediately on my bed. With my cats.

Cats seem to never tire of the routine of daily life do they? Sleeping up to 18 hours a day never gets old.  Window watching, chasing toys and each other, jumping in and out of their one laundry basket, even being in the same room they need to be in for this life season of mine – none of it seems to get old to them. Greeting me every day never ages, never becomes boring and bereft of enthusiasm. Toby climbs up me every day, several times a day, and sighs that beautiful sigh of contentment as if it were new, as if it weren’t a drudgery he’s resigned himself to. And Timba gets on the bed and lumbers towards me, gently and slowly laying down near me, and sticks his paw out to touch me.

Things like these would get so old with people. That’s why marriages and relationships stagnate. What was once exciting and romantic loses it’s luster in the repetition. And yet, here is a repetition I surprisingly find not monotonous. This routine of my cats and with my cats is refreshing and sustaining. On good days it’s delightful and on bad days it’s comforting. I don’t know how I’d do life without them now. Hard seasons have had my number for years, and my two cats have been there with me in ways that people haven’t.  In softness and quietness, in playfulness and quirkiness, in waking or sleeping they are here with me.

Call me corny or a crazy cat lady, but they really are like best friends, like children.  They dwell in the part of my heart and soul where tiredness and drudgery cannot touch, where moods and circumstances and unknown forces cannot come in to steal the joy, peace, and comfort these simple little creatures impart.

I wonder if other people experience this with their pets? I hope so. Life can be a real boogar sometimes, and the best of inner and outer resources can fall short of provision in times of need.

So to Monday and another week of looking for a job I say “Bring it on. I may not have a set of boxing gloves to get back in the fight, but I do have two sets of paws.”

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:

http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/declawing.html.

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.

The World’s Top 10 Best Images of Cats Getting Married

Hey ya’ll, this is a great blog and one of my favorites in my WordPress Reader … encourage you to follow The World’s Top 10 of Anything.  Here’s one of my favorite posts from it:

The World’s Top 10 Best Images of Cats Getting Married.

via The World’s Top 10 Best Images of Cats Getting Married.

Paws and Rewind

I didn’t expect unemployment to last for the 3 months that it has so far.  Life sure throws its share of curve balls, or rather, spits it’s fair share of hair balls.  I have been without internet during this time, complicating the job search a bit, and seriously hindering the blogging experience.  Finally I am at a computer where I can pause from life and reflect on the past 3 months.  I’m sure anyone who is or has been unemployed knows all about the effects of this unplanned and stressful “vacation” from the daily grind.  So I’m going to focus on the good things that have happened during my “time off” from the workforce.

Graciously, an uncle sent me money to visit my dad’s side of the family in NY.  I was there for 9 days, the longest amount of time away from my two furry pals.  Perhaps the thing that helped me deal well with their absence in my daily life would be the fact that my father had 9 kittens to occupy my time (and to get their piercing little claws in me).  All of them were orange tabby except for a solid black one, who was my favorite.  I had a hard time parting with Saber, who’s handsome panther-like face captured me much the same way Toby’s face did when he was a kitten.  If I had a house, and not an apartment with a 2 cat limit, and if I of course had a good job, Saber would’ve found himself a new home and Toby and Timba would be having hissy fits over the audacity of me to bring a newcomer into their home.

But life without Saber is just fine.  I do think someday when I have my own home, some of you will be reading a blog called My Three Cats;) I don’t know.  Toby and Timba finally gel so well together.  They are pure enjoyment to watch.  No fights, but daily rumbles and romps which keep me laughing.  Everything is harmonious between them and I’d have to think carefully about how another little one would affect this welcomed balance.  That idea though is probably several years down the road, which by then I may decide that my aging boys would be even less inclined to have four sets of claws and a mouthful of teeth energetically connecting with their well-groomed and undisturbed coats.

My time has largely been spent at home with my cats.  I’m quite fine with quietness in a household, and books have continued to be a steady part of my intellectual diet.  I simply love the books I’ve been reading.  I discovered Steven James FBI “Patrick Bowers” series.  Very cool and very recommended.  I finished the Dennis LeHane series, remorsefully, and recommend these even above Steven James.  I read Stephen King’s Rose Madder, and had no idea that book ever existed.  A wonderfully good book about an abused wife who leaves her crazy-cop husband.  It is along the lines of Sleeping With The Enemy … she finds real love in her new town, the ex finds her, and there’s the King-like supernatural element thrown in for some extra fun and dynamics.

Now I’m going through a Koontz novel, By The Light of The Moon.  It’s a slow go, but I hate to not finish a book.  If only all Koontz books were as amazing as some of them are.  And to go with all these daily treasures of cats and books, I found an $8 soft throw-blanket that has cats sitting in front of a bookshelf.  Absolutely SO ME.  I love this blanket and I’m tempted to indulge in a second one.  Toby and Timba also agree with the plush softness, and they bask in its warmth throughout much of the night.  Timmy of course ends up beside me, and the sweet thought of this makes me wish I were home now with these two amazing creatures.  I can’t imagine life without them.  They aren’t here on earth for me, but I do get the gift of them in my life, and they do tend to serve functions in my life such as love, joy, peace, laughter, stability, and recently sanity.

Yep, my Russian Blue and my little white lion are champions of goodness in my life in general, and especially while navigating the lost empty space of unemployment.  They have kept me happy, sane, and grounded.  I am trying to consciously treasure this “time off” and not fill myself with worrisome thoughts and emotions, but letting the good times sink in.  I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic for them soon enough, when 8am – 5pm once again has its grubby little hold on me.

Until next time, peace, paws, and kitty kisses to each of you.