Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Whiskers in the Jar

From the time I was able to actualize the world, I developed a rare affinity with the felis catus. As a young child I was often seen in cat-form; springing, leaping, hissing, growling, and running in an awkward feline fashion on my skinny hands and bony knees. I drank water from a bowl. I wore a frumpy fur coat in the summertime in order to connect to my inner-cat. I even ate Friskies on multiple occasions.

I am a lover of all creatures furry and soft. But being a fan of felines seems to be an anomaly. I remember being persecuted by dog lovers in elementary school for not joining their ranks, and then seeking the shelter of the other few kitty lovers I could find in my class to mirror my affection for small, purring balls of fluff.

Cats make excellent companions. Their relationship with man begins with civilization itself and stretches back over 9,500 years. I read that a grave site in Cyprus dated during the Neolithic period contains the skeleton of a ceremonially buried human and, right next to him, the body of a correctly embalmed cat.
Muezza was the Prophet Muhammad's favorite cat. The most famous story about Muezza recounts how the call to prayer was given, and as Muhammad went to put on his robe he found his cat sleeping on one of the sleeves. Instead of disturbing the cat he cut off the sleeve and let him sleep.
Slippers was President Theodore Roosevelt's gray cat with six toes on each paw who is said to have appeared at diplomatic dinners.

As you can see, I am not the only person that enjoys the company of a kitty. And I, too, have my favorite.

My love for cats was strong before, but Libby, of all homely creatures, has made it unstoppable.

These days she can be seen wallowing on the garage floor or sunning on the pavement near the Dogwood Tree. When she is not dormant or latent, meowing in a lachrymose manner, or staring balefully out the window, I still like to take her into my arms and carry her up to my room. Arthritis makes it hard for her to move, so I spread out a blanket and a kneadably fluffy object for her to paw and I scratch her ears or rub her neck until we both fall asleep.
She has been a constant, though often independent and indifferent, companion to me. She follows me around the house when I'm straightening things up and surprises me in unexpected places-- like popping out from behind a pile of dirty clothes or from under a discretely clothed table. She likes me to hold up a fist so she can knock her skull against it and rub her head on my knuckles. She likes watching me vacuum. She has awakened me many times in a low blood sugar stupor with her consistent meowing and sandpaper tongue. When I was away at college I would always mistake a teddy bear or stuffed animal for my cat, and it would fill me with intense longing to have her companionship again. Now that I am home I don't take her presence for granted and give her many, many kitty kisses. She may look raggy and ugly in her old age now, but that is just because she has been loved so thoroughly that it shows in her shaggy hair and crooked smile.

To all cats, unappreciated for the elegant creatures you are-- this one is for you.