Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cat Lessons

Continuing with the cat theme of earlier this week, I thought I might share the eight most important things I have learned from my cats:

1. When you climb too high, you will have to trust someone else to get you out of the tree.
When we were living down on the Arroya Seco river, far from anywhere and everywhere, the cutest little kitten appeared one day. He was all white, except for gray curtains on either side of his eyes -- looked a lot like Murjan, just with gray touches rather than red. He would never come close but would sit on the fence in temptingly near-touching distance from us. One day, though, he climbed high into a sycamore tree. Donnie heard his piteous meowing for over an hour. He was afraid to come down. Finally, I decided I had to do something. I got a ladder and climbed to the top, then pulled myself up the branches to where the kitten was. He tried to move away from me but somehow realized the danger of going too far out on a limb (literally), and so I was able to grab him, skinny back down to the ladder, and carry him to the ground. I could feel his little heart beating with fear, but he did not jump out of my arms until we reached the ground and his sense of home.

2. A bed is a blessing.

Newbie never took anything for granted. We took him in from the street when he approached me outside my university office in Jordan, meowing from hunger, half-dead from worms. Our vet gave him little hope, but I eagerly ran off to the drugstore for children's liquid aspirin for his fever, there being no pet stores there for this sort of thing. Of course, the clerks thought I was a crazy American when, in response to their question as to the child's weight in order to tell me the right amount, I said, "hatha lil bissa" -- this is for a cat. "Nam, ana majnuneh, sahih" (yeah, I really am crazy), I agreed, leaving with the medicine tight in hand. The medicine helped with the fever and shots helped with the worms, but Newbie was always cold until he discovered the bed. He crawled under the blankets, and from then on he always slept with his head on the pillow and his body covered even after he had fully recovered.

3. If you throw yourself in your master's path, your belly will get rubbed.
Murjan seems to have got his species mixed. He is a cat, who is the size of a dog, and he has the behaviors of a dog. He follows me everyone, sleeps at my feet, and when I come home, he immediately rolls over in front of me, wanting his belly rubbed.

4. The best place to sleep is snuggled against your master.
I have never had a cat -- and I have rescued dozens -- not want to snuggle up with me and go to sleep. That's one of the rewards of rescuing cats. I like the snuggling as much as they do. Maybe more...

5. If you have a protector, you need neither to roar nor to hiss.
Little Bissa, adopted by Shane when we brought her back from Jordan, is the tiniest little thing. She weighs only a few pounds. However, when we first rescued her from the university grounds where she would beg for scraps, she hid under a bed and would not come out. She had never been indoors and did not understand the nature of this big cage, our house, she had found herself in. Everyone was afraid to come near her because she would roar and hiss. One visitor found me in the kitchen and declared, his eyes big with disbelief, "bissatek tigr" (your cat is a tiger). Finally, one day, I just picked her up and held her and held her, and her roar turned to a tribble (really, she does not purr, she tribbles). A few weeks later I found her curled up beside Donnie, sleeping. Ever after that, she was his cat, until she moved in with Shane, Lemony, and kids, who all adore her. So, now she has a protector; she no longer needs to roar and hiss.

6. Letting go and letting your master take over can be scary at first but in the long run wonderful.
Snowball was scared at first, but bit by bit, he let me get closer and closer. When he finally let me pick him up for the first time after the tree-scaling incident, he seemed to like being held. Soon, he was crawling into my lap every evening, pushing aside my computer with his paws, licking me, combing my hair with his claws (the only cat I ever had who did that), and sleeping for hours on my lap. Simone, our newest feral addition, refused to let anyone close enough to touch her for months, but finally I coopted her into a relationship by offering her treats. Now she likes both the treats and the petting. (At first, she did not separate the two. After I petted her, she would trot out to the cupboard for treats. Now, the petting is enough.)

7. If you didn't get born into a family with a master, go find yourself a master.

That is what Newbie did. He just marched up to me and asked me to take him home. Similarly, into our house one day very confidently strode Snowflake, Doah's cat, who got adopted by a British family in Jordan (because of his size and the heat we were unable to take him on the plane with us the summer we left but they could take him to the UK in the winter. Born in the USA, he has become quite the world traveler -- and he always knows where to find a human to care for him.

8.If you are hurting, it is worthwhile to make every effort possible to get back to your master because there is your help.
We lost, gained, and lost a wonderful little cat, Fuzzy, when we were living on the Arroyo Seco River. A feral cat who preferred the outdoors, he nonetheless spent every night sleeping with me until the day he got hit by a car. We were able to save him, thanks to a talented vet, but he did lose his tail. One day, though, when there were bobcats reported in the area, he simply disappeared. I published a story about him in a volume of stories by Middle Eastern authors. (At that time, I was living in the Middle East, so that made me a de facto Middle Eastern author.) If you are interested in reading it, I posted it post-publication on my Mahlou Musings blog: The Tale of Fuzz.

In ending, I will say only: metaphor intended.

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