Pet owners — or fellow folks who live with a species that is accustomed to domestic life — may be familiar with this scene: a visitor comes over, cozies up on the couch, and your domesticated animal friend approaches the visitor. But they recoil or are at least display hesitance towards the level of affection and contact the animal entreaties. In the past, I have been the type who could have this sort of uneasiness around house broken animals. I wouldn’t say it’s a disgust reaction, but that a foreign and unusual feeling is evinced. What is this furry thing? Why is their so much hair coming off of it? What does it want from me, it doesn’t know me? Likely, there is an evolutionarily ingrained response, a subconscious concern that an unknown creature might carry disease or pose some other threat.
My family had cats when I was younger, and I don’t recall being pet averse back then, but our cats were outside most of the time. I didn’t think about them very much. We had a brief stint with a cocker spaniel named Adam, of which I was not prepared for even though it was my idea. In my youth, I recall a pet dog requiring more of an adjustment when it came to issues of cleanliness. That experiment was short lived, but there was a grateful family willing to give Adam a home.
The cats we had while I was growing up basically kept to themselves. We called them all “pooty” as in “I tawt I taw a pooty tat”. They had real names — Powder, Mittens, Autumn, and Spice — but we didn’t use those names much. For a good stretch of my adult life, however, I’ve lived in petless homes. Living with Caitlin now, I’ve had to reacclimate to pet proximity with her lovely cat Raelyn. It’s been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
That’s not to say there wasn’t an adjustment period. I think more for her than me. I was the foreign and strange thing. I stomped around the apartment helter skelter like. I banged the pots, dishes and pans around…and I was the apocalyptic agent of the monstrous vacuum. I would sing made up songs or shout things randomly in weird voices, the frequencies of which caused her ears to flip back in an effort to block out the sonic disturbance. I’ve learned to resist the urge to wrestle and scoop her up in my arms in hopes of squeezing out all the cuteness. Slowly I’ve adapted and become more gentle; increasingly mellow in my various commotions. Raelyn has basically trained me.
She is often now my reading buddy. She will knead the lap blanket and cozy up. She also likes towels. I’m usually first up in the morning and she awaits the slightest stir, following which she announces her presence to be sure I know it’s time for breakfast. I head out to the cabinet under the sink, scoop up some dry food as she follows, does a loop around my ankles, and goes back into the room en route to her food bowl. This is the morning ritual.
I didn’t think I had it in me to be a pet/animal lover. But I truly see her as a part of a small family in this little studio apartment that we inhabit. I believe it’s made me more patient and considerate, certainly less spastic. Her little yowls and meows to me have a twinge of existential angst, as if like me she’s also wondering “what does it all mean”…these vocalizations probably just mean “pay attention” or “I’m bored”.
Cat’s sleep most the time so I wonder if they think their waking life is actually the dream. So asides from assuaging loneliness and refining my temperament, Raelyn in unexpected ways enriches my intellectual and philosophical thinking — even if all I’m really doing is irrationally projecting my emotions onto her via anthropomorphism. Caitlin and I are constantly snapping photos of her with our phones. There seems to be no end to her funny poses and at times it seems Raelyn is willing to ham it up for the lens. With these photos, I occasionally post to Instagram with captions of kitty contemplations on life.
I understand now the claim that pets help relieve depression. It’s rather subtle, but humans have a tendency to associate living and human qualities to a variety of things (both animate and inanimate). While Raelyn might not actually know what I’m thinking or saying, my brain is wired to respond and assume there is some level of communication occurring. This is by its nature healthy for human beings. Even seeing her slink along the ground from the corner of my eye is probably enough for me to subconsciously feel like I am less alone. When she reacts to the opening of a can, scurries across and perches on the edge of the couch by the countertop, an understanding has been reached. It’s not always something she’ll be inclined to taste, but if it’s tuna, or if I’m cutting chicken breast, she’s in for a tiny treat that I know she appreciates.
“I know it!”
“It’s a tragedy.”
“I agree, babe.”
“I feel exactly the same.”
“Meow.” Flops on side, rolls onto back…exposes belly.
All around, living with a cat gets a perfect 5 * out of 5 from me!
Observation so far from rewatching Lost: A decade later, writers seem now to do better not only using female characters as a means for making the leading men more interesting and complicated. Kate in season 2 is poorly written and merely used as a device to create tension between Sawyer and Jack…and that’s basically her purpose. Lame!
Current reading: Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other
Random Occurrence for the Week: Bullet hole being shot through our building 10-15 below where I was reading the other night
Thing to be bummed about: The waning of autumn colors