Saturday, February 10, 2007

Feline Behaviour

'Cat silhouette' courtesy of plingan over at stock.xchng

Cat's presence changes everything. Human solitude is disturbed by the company of even another species. Sometimes I swear I can hear the plants breathing (like Plath's tulips).

His collar's bell tinkles lightly around the room like the magic on a pixie's shoe. He runs from one occupation to another, seemingly unburdened; the epitome of a zen life form. One moment is spent trying to force his chubby body under pillows he cannot force to yield, another in licking his leg for the smallest split of a second, another pacing up and down the bed, eyes roving. He smells everything, lives the world through his nose. I am less than surprised at his fascination with the duvet, even my clumsy olifactory ability notices it has the scent of a campfire.

Demanding, cats are (as Yoda once said). This one now becomes proactive in his new quest for attention - mine, as no one else is here, but if someone were, he would be less picky - moving next to me, shoving his face, without shame, against the side of my notebook as I write. Would that my pride would yield even a little to afford a fraction of his shamelessness; I would doubtlessly get laid more often as a result. Cat does not suffer with rejection. At my ignorance, my aversion to his affections, he moves away from me to the end of the bed, without concern, and begins to wash his face. Where I would crumble in the face of the horrifying No, he merely turns to grooming. There is no fuss. He jumps from the bed, to the floor.

Cat turns to washing and the sound of his slurping at his own fur and skin disturbs and disgusts me. Or perhaps I am angry that Cat is more spiritually advanced than I am, more able to adjust to the arbitrary agreements and disavowals of the world. He is self-contained. I am dependent. Damn him. He stands, walks a circle around one spot on the wooden floor and lies down, begins to wash his tail. I have been told that he is the most demanding cat in the house and for a moment I feel grateful that he has cut me some slack to allow me to write; even though all I can write of now is him. At the same time, there is a current of need in me for Cat to need my attention, too. He chooses.

He slurps at his front paw; the sound is overwhelming and immediate. I cannot stand it, so I reach across the bed, and stretch over to the floor. I place a big feather pillow on Cat so that I cannot hear his slurps and squelching tongue. So that he will see I am the most sentient (yes, I know I doesn't really work like that, but if it did, I would be the sentientist of the two of us), the more powerful. In someone else's hand, maybe, this pillow could be his death. Either he is not aware of that danger, or he doesn't care. How can I know what or Cat thinks, what or if he feels? He is either perfectly mindful-sure of his himself, or he is lucky. Maybe I could never begin to understand his experience of the world. Unless I were a cat.

When my cat, Bunty (yes, I know) died a few years ago, she held my eyes for a whole night when she fell sick and for the longest moment in which she died. I didn't know what she knew of death and I did not know if she was afraid of what was happening to her. I did not know how much pain she was in, I could not tell, even with our eyes locked together. I suppose it's the same with people, but the fact that we are capable of disturbing the long silence with so many words (that too often say nothing at all and never say enough) serves to distract from, just as much as it does to inform, what we know of each other's experience of the world, ourselves and each other.

Cat plays with the pillow - if he could I am certain he would laugh at it; Cat would take his own death with perfect poise, he is the Noel Coward of cats - kicking at it with his feet, rolling out from underneath and then back again, biting and stretching his neck. He toys for a while and then stands and walks across the room to investigate the corner. I put down my pen and think about getting up. We are finished with one another.

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