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.

Desperate Times & The Sell-Out Cycle

I’ve heard it said that desperate times call for desperate measures.  I hate to say that personal experience has tested the truth of this saying.  My life has been in economic upheaval for a good 5 years now.  I have had to sell a lot of things just to get by.

My father sold his musical instruments throughout his life and is left empty-handed for the most part.  I inherited musical talent from him, but as I grew and collected various instruments I vowed that I would never sell what was was so intrinsically a part of me, that I would never for the sake of money, end up like my father – empty-handed, no instruments, no beautiful outlet for the creative undercurrents in the ocean of my deepest self.

Yet, that tested saying listed above wedged its way into my life.  It gagged me, bound me, and forced me to stare at my empty wallet, my pressing needs, and my loves before me – my musical instruments.  I have since sold 5 amazing djembe drums to try and rise above my pending squalor.

Now, I must do what I never thought possible: sell my musical first love (my Roland keyboard).  I feel so cheap and helpless.  But it is the only way to meet my current needs.  Unemployed and in need of moving in just 2 short months, I have to have money with which to move.

How many of you have had to sell that which you love? How many of us have gone the route of selling, or giving away, those which we love? Here I am referring to our pets.  It’s an American epidemic if we were to ask any shelter worker in the United States.  For various “desperate” reasons many of us at some point part with that which formerly meant so very much to us.

I am glad to say that I’ve matured enough, through painful lessons of giving other animals away as well as selling instruments, that I will in no way part with Toby and Timba, no matter how desperate the times. Music has always been at the core of my humanity and personality, yet I would rather sacrifice this expensive keyboard so I can secure a new home for myself and my cats.

I won’t have another keyboard like this for a sad and long time likely.  I will be without musical outlet and creative expression for who knows how long.  I may be able to blog from time to time, but even writing can’t hold a candle to what musical exploration and composition does for my soul.

I feel like a sell-out to myself, and perhaps to God.  But I don’t know what else to do.  He gave me musical gifts, and for the sake of money I feel I have no choice but to toss those gifts aside, or at least tuck them away for a time.

In light of this sorrowful event, I am glad Toby and Timba are my other precious gifts.  Though not an intrinsic part of me, they are an enormous part of my life.  Someday I hope to have djembes and steel tongue drums with which to drive my cats bonkers.  I hope I will never again be in the position to have to sell any instruments I may acquire down the road.

Maybe my resolve to hold onto Toby and Timba, to no longer be a person who gives their animals away in desperate times, will serve as a steel rod in my character for the future.  Maybe I’ll be strong enough to find another way and not sell the things which are so critical and life giving, not just to me, but to others as well.  Maybe, just maybe, I can break the sell-out cycle …

I’m Appawlled

Corporate greed has reared its ugly head again.  I would say greed in general, save for the fact that it is a business to which I am referring.

I went to a job fair a couple days ago and spent 2 hours filling out an application and interviewing for a AAA customer call care center.  I had a nice rundown of the history and services provided.  It was impressive to find out that of all membership organizations that exist, AAA has the most members second to the Catholic church!  Nationwide, and including Canada, AAA has 52 million members.  There are 6 locations in the United States, and each of these have a call center to answer incoming consumer questions and provide support.  I don’t know how many people are in each call center, but I think 100 sounds like a decent estimate.

At the end of the interview, ended by me of course, I found out that the position was only offering $8.50 an hour.  Seriously?  So I decided to venture down the road of a little math, taking some liberties by providing my own estimates, and here is what I’ve discovered.

Let’s say each call center has 100 people.  Six centers would then be 600 call center representatives.  At $8.50 an hour, that is an annual salary of $9,792,000. There are 3 plans of membership, costing $85, $123, or $158 depending upon customer preference.  If all 52 million members had the lowest plan that’s an annual $4,420,000,000; if all members had the middle plan that’s an annual $6,396,000,000; and if all members had the highest plan that’s an annual $8,216,000,000.

So a company/organization/membership/whatever brings in between 4 and 8 billion dollars a year, yet only spends 9 million on its employees who are central to the daily operation and success of the business.  How many 9 millions are in 4 billion? 444 9 millions are in 4 billion.  That’s 444 times the annual expenditure in employee wages.  What a profit, huh? Of course there are other business expenses and other salaries such as travel agents, supervisors, various levels of management and CEO’s.  But still, it gives an idea of how unfair the wages are, not to mention $8.50 an hour is not a living wage.  It is poverty level.

I know this is ‘nothing new under the sun’ as they say.  I do know that even the bible says to give a worker his fair due wages.  I’m glad I’m not one of the people who may someday be accountable for this horrible discrepancy, which exists in spite of my estimates and liberties of calculation.

So yes, I was definitely appalled once I got to thinking about things and doing the math.  There’s probably nothing I nor anyone else can do about it, but I do know one thing.  When I do get a job that pays at least a living wage if not more, and I’ve got the flex room to afford a membership card so that I can have savings benefits for travel or shopping or whatever, I will definitely not be applying for AAA membership.  Out of respect for the grunt workers whose backs are aching and wallets are breaking, I will not get my piddly discounts for a piddly annual fee.  It’s simply unjust, and I can’t  justify partaking in it now that I know that AAA’s wealth is so unevenly distributed among its employees.