I sometimes wonder what makes us prefer one animal over another—for those of us who love animals. For those who don’t, well, frankly I’m always deeply suspicious of such people. It's okay to prefer some animals over others--I like some dogs in particular but all cats in general, and heartily dislike goats, monkeys and miniature horses. But I've met people who don't like animals, and i wonder what they do like--and how they treat other people.
I distinctly remember being less than five years old when I discovered I was crazy about horses. Probably my love for cats blossomed at the same time. My grandmother DeLong always had several cats—usually Tabby in colour, and named (according to gender) Babes or Tommy. I was 12 before I convinced my parents that we needed a cat at home, but it wasn’t until I went off to college that my father decided he really liked cats. A lot. (he always pretended to be allergic to them, to not like them, etc etc. Big softy that he was, he adopted a little kitten that showed up at the door one time, and that was the end of the ‘dislike’ of cats.)
Sitting here in the kitchen right now, there are four of our herd hanging out with me. Two have just gone out to take the evening air, but they’ll be back pounding on the back door with their soggy wet paddypaws in about five minutes. Two are asleep upstairs, pretending to supervise my longsuffering spouse (who also loves cats) as he plays on his computer. One is in the basement being a fierce hunting tiger, but when he gets bored he’ll arrive up here to tell me about his brave ventures stalking whatever he was stalking, be it spiders or shadows or actual voles.
I’m ably assisted in my work wherever on the property I am. Outdoors, the four senior cats act as garden consultants, and sometimes, garden rototillers. I could care less about a little disturbed soil or some little parcels in the beds. It all decomposes, after all. Tigger especially loves to assist me by sitting as close as he can as I dig in the garden, his Cummins diesel purr thrumming in pure happiness. Rowdy and Quincy (not currently in the photos as I need a new one) glare at each other territorially, despite the fact that there are hundreds of acres around us including our smallholding for them to roam on. Miss Thistle hurtles around the yard, her taillessness not detracting one iota from her speed. (she was run over by an ambulance as a 3 month old kitten—the paramedics got her fixed up and then called me asking did I know of anyone who could foster a kitten? As if….) The younger catchildren, who aren’t allowed outside without supervision, variously pose in windows editorializing about what I’m doing outdoors, or catching up their beauty sleep.
In the office, there are always helpers. Sometimes it’s Hugh E. Mungus, watching bird television. Most often Spunky Boomerang, who thinks I’m his mama because I rescued him when he and his sister were abandoned on the roadside as tiny kittens, is nearby. His perch of preference is on the desk, either in the corner where he can lay, meatloaf style, and watch for signs that it might be naptime for us, or else behind my computer peeking out at me. Simon Q hurtles in from time to time, attacks the dangerous mat on the floor because it moved—didn’t you see that, Mum?—gets into a rumble with his brother, Toby Soprano, and flashes out of the room at just under the speed of a cheetah.
My grandmother, when she was lost in the fogs of dementia in her last days, brightened up when I mentioned that my love of cats came from her. It was as if a curtain lifted from her eyes. “I was always good to cats, and they was always good to me,” she told me, a stranger to her whereas once I’d been a cherished grandchild, but we shared that connectivity for a moment before the fog descended again.
I should like that to be my epitaph. Because cats are always, always good to me. Even cats whose owners tell me, “he’s not friendly” or “she will bite” or, “he NEVER comes to strangers” appear where I am and sit with me, teaching me their wisdom with their perfect stances and their wise glowing jewellike eyes. And I am a better person for being with cats.
So I’ve added the catchildren of our family to the sidebar of the blog, as does my fellow gardener, blogger and catlover Yolanda Elizabet of Bliss. My blogging buddies are rather like cats, too—I learn so very much from all of them, and am a better gardener—and probably writer, and person too—for their friendships and acquaintances.