Amblin' Alameda: Pets

Amblin' Alameda: Pets

Morton Chalfy

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My sweetie and I live with two cats, litter-mates of seven years, one male (used to be male, anyway) and one female (without reproductive machinery). It's been my observation over the four-plus years I've shared their house that we learn more from them than they learn from us. In truth I don't think they learn anything from us - why should they, these animals who are complete within themselves. Okay, what they do learn from us is how to make us more efficient at fulfilling their wants and needs.

On the other hand, we learn tons from them. Living with creatures of another species is living with aliens. Emotionally we overlap almost completely; mentally, not at all. Cats have no trouble communicating their emotions: pain, anger, hunger and desire for petting are all made crystal clear by their actions and body language. The little bit of thinking they do is completely opaque.

One of the main lessons I take away from sharing their abode is that when one's belly is full and there is no wolf at the door a long, midday nap is not a sin. In fact, there are days when not taking the nap is sinful. They do not lie there and fret over the sorry state of the world or the strained relations with their relations or anything of the sort. They lie there and snooze comfortably until a slight pang of hunger strikes. At that point they check their food source (the bowl) and if it needs replenishment they know just whose face to walk in front of, sometimes mewing as way of encouragement until their food supplier rises from whatever they were doing to fill the bowl.

And petting. We have taught them to expect at least two sessions a day of extreme petting, and when they want those pets they can be very insistent. As well they should be since that is the basis of our relationship. Petting is a two-way street where the petter gets as much joy and relaxation and sensuous satisfaction as the pettee.

There is something very calming about petting a cat and their purrs of satisfaction are an immediate payoff. They like it and they let us know they do. Very few interactions have this quick a payback. The connection it establishes is the sort of intimacy humans seek in the world and find very rarely.

Having the cats around gives another window on the world around us, a window made of senses and foci that are different than ours, very different. This is, after all, an animal whose relationship to the world is based on pouncing on smaller animals. Its entree to the world of humans was probably via its mouse hunting prowess. Our cats hunt baby sock mice filled with catnip, which they happily retrieve from wherever we hide them and proudly carry in to lay at our feet.

By feeding them plant-based food, we spare ourselves the spectacle of them amusing themselves by torturing a real baby mouse before dispatching it. We haven't civilized them at all, but they help to humanize us by encouraging our caring side and by lowering our blood pressure by allowing us to pet them.