I am blessed by the companionship of two cats – three-year-old brothers from the same litter. They are beautiful and cuddly and annoying in equal measure, and last Friday I was afraid I might be losing one of them. The diagnosis? Urinary tract disease. Thankfully I was responsive to his signs of distress, and caught the problem early, before he suffered a life-threatening blockage.
The incident reminded me of how much I take my cats for granted, though. One of the things I love most about cats is that they’re much less needy than dogs (I’ve worked as a dog walker and dog sitter, and I adore dogs almost as much as cats), but I think my guys are needier than most. And much of the time I just don’t have the patience for them. They want to be petted and paid attention to when I’m trying to work on the computer. They try to sneak into my lap when I’m eating. They jump up on the kitchen counter when I’m preparing my food. My days are peppered with multiple outbursts of “NOT NOW!” and “I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP!” accompanied by the thump of cat feet hitting the floor after I’ve removed them from where they’d prefer to be.
And even while I’m doing it, I know I shouldn’t. I know that these wise creatures are calling me to be present, to share pleasure with them, to be in right relationship with them. They are my wee teachers, and I’m failing miserably at my lessons.
On Friday morning while I sat in the examining room at the emergency veterinary clinic, I watched a Valium-ed Guy frantically slither on rubber legs around the room, and you’d better believe I was present then. The agony of watching a loved-one suffer. The silent prayers and self-recriminations. “Oh, if only he lives, I’ll love him like nobody’s business. He’ll want for nothing…” Except I don’t believe in bargaining for a life. So I waited, and crouched by him on the floor, and stroked him in the odd moments when he was temporarily still. And I whispered the mothering hymn, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Recovering, days later, essentially unchanged from his ordeal, Guy is as needy as always. Only now, rather than pushing away his butting head while I try to type, I turn from my machine and witness the wholeness of his desire. “What is it?” asks my inside voice, today. “What is it? What wonderful thing can you – and only you – show me?”
What is life trying to show you, when you least want to pay attention?
And yes, that’s Byron Katie's book Loving What Is that Guy’s lying on in the middle photo. There’s a healing metaphor there somewhere, eh? I took the day off work to monitor him after we returned home from the vet, and we were all hanging out on my bed while I tried to read and the cats tried to sleep.