Whiskers on kittens…

Have you ever Googled: “People Who Said They Didn’t Want a Damn Cat”? If so, you’ll find a variety of videos, blogs, and memes about folks who never wanted a cat but fell in love with them once they did.

Well, I’m one of those ‘never wanted a cat’ folks. Yep, that would be me. Not because I hated cats, or because I preferred dogs, but because cats are unpredictable – you never know when they might scratch or hiss. Cats scare me.

My discomfort with cats did not rank with my fear of dogs, certainly. Domestic cats can’t maul you to death. And I’d never seen a dog attack a friend and stand by helpless – like I had with a dog in my tween years. I’d loved dogs up to that point.

You’d think – with 13 years as a Franciscan, I’d love all animals. Isn’t St. Francis the patron saint…. Yeah, yeah. I fed and bathed three dogs for the first year in the convent – when assigned ‘dog duty’.  And in Hong Kong, I raised a pup from infancy – bottle feeding at 2:00 am because I ‘was the youngest’ and didn’t need as much sleep. But as soon as that puppy could jump, it frightened me. [And, give me credit for the many times I carried a cockroach outside when I found it on my pillow.]

from old phone 065    When I realized that I was raising a daughter who ADORED animals, particularly dogs, I knew I couldn’t pass my fear along to her or her two older brothers. I taught them how to ask from a distance if the dog was safe, how to approach slowly with an outstretched hand to allow the dog to sniff, and to pet only when the owner – and the dog – welcomed it. Quickly my daughter snuggled, hugged, and befriended dogs everywhere.

We tried adopting a dog for our daughter when she was five. Not a good match, we needed to return it a few days later. We traded the dog in and adopted two frightened, frenetic full-grown cats – which led to untold frustration and triggered my son’s allergies. We had to return the cats after a few weeks.

My visceral fear of dogs and cats subsided and although I still don’t feel comfortable being alone with a dog, I enjoy their cute smiles, floppy ears and wagging tails as I pass them on the bike path. I can enter friends’ homes without panic. Cats – still unpredictable.

But this past summer we created an upstairs apartment for our son to ‘rent’ and he promptly adopted a kitten.

While I still don’t think I’d choose to own a cat, as I mentioned in my book review on Archetypes, I am a caregiver by nature – so when my son travels for work or stays out late with friends, I find myself feeding and visiting my little kitten friend. And I certainly enjoy her cozy company on days I spend long hours alone.

She is adorable, feisty, and still unpredictable – and visits me often.

Just yesterday as I sat reading and writing, she curled up in my lap and purred against my chest – for a few hours.

I couldn’t help but think back to my 30-day silent retreat in the mid-nineties:

I sat on the lawn to meditate when a cat – A CAT – climbed in my lap, curled up, and began purring. I hadn’t seen this cat before – and I never saw it again. But, right then, there it sat – in my lap. I wanted desperately to push the cat away, to be left alone with God.

But almost instantly, I realized the cat was a symbol – a metaphor for my relationship to God. Each time I fidgeted, the cat did too – only settling when the disruption subsided. Each time the Divine moves in my life I fidget, claw and scratch, trying to stay nestled in my comfort zone until I finally acquiesce in the protective lap of the Divine – trusting that through acceptance of what is, I can find peace, be content, and share joy.

Have your encounters with cats, dogs, or cockroaches ever led you to ponder God, the Divine, the universe in a way that led to spiritual growth?

22 comments

  1. Absolutely not cockroaches lol. That’s a great analogy though. I am a dog person – always have been – so I love how you said that you taught your kids how to approach a dog properly. My mum takes her dog into schools and does this too. Too many children treat them as they would a fluffy toy. Have a great week…

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  2. Hi Janet, I’ve often thought that a cat might be nice to own as I do love it when they are curled up purring. However, they are much more independent than dogs and can be aloof (sorry cat lovers). My daughter has a miniature schnauzer, Wallis. Wallis is their eldest ‘child’ and actually thinks she is human. 🙂 Like you, she has taught my grandson how to look after Wallis, even feeding her and playing with her. Wallis also stands guard over baby Elliot, although even though she is very gentle, we never leave her alone with the baby as animals are just so unpredictable. I love your analogy and perhaps a purring cat might help me meditate more effectively. Have a beautiful week, Janet. xx

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  3. We were always dog owners – I grew up with dogs and had nothing to do with cats. We owned dogs from the first one my husband had during his single days. One day a little kitten wandered into our yard and adopted us for a few weeks (turned out to be the neighbour’s kitten!!) and I was hooked. Since then we’ve always had a cat (and now there’s no dog we have two cats). We love their softness and their lack of “neediness” and they don’t jump all over us – maybe not as exciting as being greeted by a dog, but more my speed these days.

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    • Leanne – yes, cats are much more my speed. I’d never want to actually own one (although I kind of do by default) because any animal is a perpetual infant. Good that you found you enjoy cats – as you crest the hill.

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      • Be warned Janet – those cute cats can wiggle their way into your heart and when your son leaves home you might feel the need to replace that kitten with one of your own! Just popping back from #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx

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  4. I think I would adore cats if I weren’t so allergic.

    We always had outdoor dogs (because of said allergy) but when my youngest was twelve we adopted a yellow lab that I couldn’t bear to banish outside. Ralfie was the perfect dog. He was kind, compassionate, and loyal. But most of all, Ralfie taught me unconditional love. If I forgot to feed him – or his water bowl ran dry – Ralfie never held a grudge. He never assumed the worst but always held out hope for the best. He forgave without me asking and greeted me with a warm welcome whether I was gone five minutes or five days.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is… I learned about God’s unconditional love by experiencing my dog’s unconditional love for me. Thank you for this lovely post, Janet 🙂

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  5. I’m a huge cat love and I have never been able to understand how anyone can not like cats, but it seems to be a popular sentiment. I love all animals and yes, I feel God’s love most through nature, especially in the garden when I see all the woodland animals.

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    • Amy, isn’t it amazing the great variety and beauty of creation! As I said, mine was more fear than dislike — and isn’t that often the way – we don’t like what we fear – until circumstances challenge us to see differently.

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  6. Janet, I never wanted a cat and never really felt comfortable with animals. Then a stray wandered into my life and immediately loved me and became my cat, whether or not I wanted a cat. I have had several cats and now my little Gatsby is like my best friend. He soothes me when I need it and just loves to cuddle or sit on my desk while I write. They came unwanted but have become an important part of my life.

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    • That is so wonderful! The universe often knows what we need… so good that you were opened to the friendship the cat is offering. I’m finding that as this little kitten becomes a cat she is much the same — just curl up in the vicinity or right on top of my keyboard….

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  7. You’ve written a beautiful and profound post. My mother was terrified of dogs so we never had one. As an adult I began with cats, then dogs and now God. They’ve all expanded my life and given me insights into myself. #MLSTL Brenda

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  8. Really good discussion of cats and dogs. Your rules for approaching dogs are spot on (I can say that, as a dog owner) and solve a lot of problems before they happen. I’ve had several cats, for all the reasons you mention, but my neighborhood has coyotes on the horse trail behind my house. I’ve lost every cat I owned to them and won’t risk another life! Big dogs–that’s my solution!

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