Can you hear that? Of course you can't. You're there and I'm here. And exactly where am I? As usual on a Saturday morning, I'm sitting at my desk, staring out my window onto "Belly Acres" (our two acres) waiting for creative lightning to strike.
What it is that you can't hear is the sound of Chino, one of my three male, domestic shorthair cats (there are two other females making for a total of five), purring. Purring so loudly, in fact, and positioned so strategically that I can't look across to my computer screen, grab a tissue from atop my printer or press any keys on my keyboard without seeing him, touching him and/or most definitely, hearing him.
Lying on his side with his back to the computer and his front facing me, I am semi-entranced by the heave-ho of his stomach, the alertness of his ears and the occasional stare and gradual closing of his eyes. Still the purring persists.
Knowing cat behavior, as I've come to after 40-plus years of ownership/cohabitation, I've learned to appreciate their sights and sounds and signs of affection (Chino has now rolled over with his back now facing and touching me, yet another sign of affection and trust, and dare I say, love and devotion). The purring has now stopped because Chino has fallen asleep in his "rocking chair, good buddy," to invoke some old-fashioned CB-Radio-type chatter. Perhaps in Chino's serenity will I find some creative juices to flow.
If you're a cat owner/cat "understander," this behavior is as good as it gets: proximity and tolerance. Cats may not exactly come when you call them, sit on command or fetch, but they most definitely can express love. And it's in these behavioral expressions of love that us cat owners find the greatest joy and the most comfort, so long as we interpret it as such. Nor should we get mad when they exhibit contrary behavior, like ignoring you or walking away when approached or occasionally biting/scratching/clawing the hands that feed, pet and play with them. That's par and it's their course we're playing.
As an experienced "feliner," I am accustomed to and mostly amused by, this behavior. It is a behavior, among many, that cats exhibit where you have zero (I was going to say minimal, but let's be honest) control. Accepting that may give you a greater sense of anticipation concerning their behavior. And it's when you can correctly anticipate that behavior where you can find some real satisfaction.
Not that correctly anticipating said behavior will become a reliable part of future interactions; nevertheless, it is understanding that being equal parts right and wrong concerning their behavior – and finding humor in it, is what will make you an enlightened cat owner. It's somewhere between expecting the unexpected and accepting that being wrong twice doesn't necessarily make you right once – and appreciating the difference. It's possible that this awareness may help clarify the cat's meow. Then again … ?
But so what? Because of their frequently inexplicable shenanigans, I am continually bemused, and as an aside, with five cats in the house full time, never alone. And it's that never being alone that I find the most comforting.
Whether it's feeding time, litter time, petting/playing/sleeping time, shopping time or veterinarian time, I am regularly engaged. Now, whether they're happy about any of it or not, I can't say for sure. Still, it gives us all something to do, someone to see – and something to hear.
Chino has now awakened from his nap. He has positioned himself so that he is lying across my writing tablet, resting almost entirely on my non-writing left hand and purring as loudly as he was at the beginning of this column. But now that I'm nearly finished, I guess he figures he can get in my way, which doesn't bother me in the least. After all, he is a cat; I wouldn't expect anything less.
Kenny Lourie is an Advertising Representative for The Potomac Almanac & The Connection Newspapers.