They're neuroses wrapped in fur and armed with sharp, pointy bits. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get various stories about how I was reared, not by my parents, but by a seal point Siamese queen named Natoa. Mom tells tales about how, once I’d learned to crawl, the cat would lie in wait just out of sight. As I crawled past, she’d leap out in front of me, slap me upside the face (softpaws!) a few times, then turn tail and run away. I was six months old. This was apparently high comedy. Mom says, I’d plop back on my diapered butt, looking startled, but then laugh. My husband claims this explains a great many things. Beyond the fact that I am without question a cat person.
This is my eldest, Madam Eratosthenes. She is sixteen, arthritic and stone deaf (not congenital – she wasn’t born deaf, she went slowly deaf about the time she turned seven). She, of all the cats, most enjoys living aboard her boat. She endures the months we house sit, and then blossoms when we cart her back to the boat. The only downside is that a deaf cat cannot hear herself. Vibration is the only feedback loop available to her. So Erie sings opera. Klingon opera. At the top of her considerable lungs. At 2am.
This is Autolycus. He has a serious issue with stress, as you can see. He’s eleven. No tail. Hell on four paws. His specialty is blue screening computers. We’ve threatened to sell him into slavery as a tester for major software companies. Hasn’t slowed him down. I had a conference call scheduled with my editor to go over a few changes. The night before, I got all my files together, made sure I was organized, shut down my computer, and left for dinner with my husband. When we got back to the boat, this little orange terror was lying across my keyboard. He’d started the machine and then pressed F10. During the boot cycle, pressing F10 takes you into set up. The little sh*t was trying to reformat my box.
This is Cuillean. She helps with the laundry. She’s my fraidy cat. Change of any kind makes her terribly anxious. She eats to compensate. It isn’t your imagination. In this photo, the girl is chunky. We’re working on that and she has slimmed down a bit. Not enough, but some. She’s eight. She’d been brought into a local pet supply store as part of Purrfect Pals adoption program. I found her hiding behind the bags of dry dog food. Every time I went to pick up catfood, I made a point of finding her hidey hole and stopping by to whisper sweet nothings to her. Eventually, she let me skritch her chin. One day, my husband went into the store with me. I showed him her fort, spoke to her, and offered her a chin rub. She accepted. Then the unthinkable happened. She left her hiding place and followed me. DH finally stopped me and said, “You know she’s your cat, right?” J This one doesn’t meow. She trills. Softest fur, ever. I call her My Plush Velvet Cuillean. She’s still all about hearing the sweet nothings.
Then there’s the youngest, Hatshepsut. Why, yes. She is convinced she’s the princess, was there ever any doubt? She’s also eight – she’s the youngest only by a few months. She was a happy accident. I had four cats when a neighbor boy showed up with an itty bitty squalling kitten in his hands. He’d found her under a car in a parking lot, screaming her head off. His mother wouldn’t let him keep her, so he’d brought her to the local crazy cat lady. I didn’t dispute the title. I keep four cats aboard a 34’ sailboat for eight months out of the year, two of whom get seasick. I’m comfortably certain ‘crazy’ covers it. Regardless. I took the wee bundle of feisty kitten and put her in my isolation room. It took her fewer than 24 hours to wind me around her paws. It took her 72 hours or so to get to the DH.
Why the adoration of all things feline? Maybe I'm a pushover, but I love winning the trust and affection of a creature a single generation removed from the wild. I rescued a real feral once – she’d been hit by a car and left in the middle of the road late one night. I scooped her up and raced her to the emergency vet. After she’d been treated and spayed, I went to pick her up. She was a roiling, shrieking mass of claws and teeth. I might as well have rescued a bobcat. The vet said the only reason *I* was still alive was because the cat had been in shock when I'd found her. We caged her, let her heal, and then released her where I’d found her. The moral of that story being that every cat who has been a part of my life has brought a tiny bit of that wild heritage with them. The choice to live together is a mutual one - they choose me as much or more as I choose them. They aren’t just pets in my household. They are partners in the family dynamic. Each of them, at one time or another, has voluntarily operated as a familiar when I had specific energy work that needed doing. More than once, when I’ve been sick in bed, one or more cats has sought me out and demanded a spot on my chest (or head, if the primary spot is taken). The application of purring feline has enormous healing power. You do know that the feline purr resonates at a frequency that helps knit bone, right? Mind you, I do not intend to go about breaking bones in order to test that assertion. It’s watching the wariness and tension melt away from a cat because you’ve taken the time to listen to and to understand the needs and wants of each feline individual. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but living with my furry companions makes me a better person. Or maybe if just makes me want to be better.