On Animals, Lovingly

About a year ago, I came across a list of reminders for pet owners. The one thing from that list that has never left my mind is the reminder that while you may have a lot of things/people/events/places in your life, you are the world to your pet. You are all that they have – they rely on you for food, for love, for entertainment, for adventure, for comfort.

black cats, carlos, chicago, paws chiago, cat,

He kills me. I never thought I’d love something so much. Every time I see him, my heart expands to accommodate all the love I have for him.

He’s just discovered bath water. He’s always been curious about baths, but his curiosity finally bested his fear, and lately, he’s been hopping up onto the side of the tub, where he’ll sit and then tentatively dip his paws in the water and swirl them around. Sometimes, he’ll hover with his nose just above the water, whiskers barely skimming the surface.  It’s the cutest thing, even though I’m frozen by the fear that he’ll fall in and I’ll suffer the wrath of a wet cat.

One thing I’ve always loved about Carlos is how demanding he is when it comes to affection. When I go away, even for a night, he’ll let me know that he’s upset with me by rubbing up against my legs and then ignoring me. He’s very aggressive about the silent treatment, and his faces are priceless. He’ll rub up against my legs, then walk a few feet away, and then, sitting with his back to me, he’ll look back over his shoulder and give me the big sad yellows, as if to say, “You? Oh, I hadn’t noticed you were there” and after a while, it becomes “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME!?” but in cat-speak, complete with frantic meows and very clingy cat-cuddling.

(His snaggle tooth is the cutest thing.)

I’ve noticed that when I come back, Carlos gets very possessive. He’s jealous of any visitors who come over. When I get home from work, if I lay in my bed, he’ll hop up and hop onto my stomach and lay down, curling into a position that renders me immobile but assures that we’ll have some time to snuggle. I watch his little body, his stomach rising and falling as he breathes, I listen to his adorable feline sighs.

They’re far more complex than we give them credit for. They hold onto grudges – as evidenced by his distrust of my brother – and they are capable of giving unconditional love in ways that we could all learn from. The idea that to them, we are the world is humbling and terrifying – we are so responsible for them and their happiness. How can we ever live up to that?

We are their world. Don’t we owe it to them to love them madly and completely? I have grown accustomed to sharing about 60% of my bed with 13 pounds of cat. He manages to situate himself in such a position that he has the best parts of the blankets, or that you can’t lay completely straight. My usual waking position is one leg straight, then one leg bent with foot resting above the opposite knee (hey, sleep yoga!), and cat in the space where my legs should have been. Or he sleeps on my stomach, or snuggled into my arms.

As much as he aggravates me with his demands for wet food and sleep positions (how dare I try to be comfortable until he’s situated?), I wouldn’t trade any of this. We’re coming up on three years now. Three years of accidental cat ownership. I can’t fathom not having him around. Chicago street cat turned spoiled Colorado house cat. Who’d have guessed?

I read this article in the New York Times about a woman who runs a sort of cat sanctuary – she knows their names, she knows what they like, she knows what they need. The last part identifies a few of the cats, and talks about one cat who was found snuggling his owner after the owner died, and how the owner was a musician, and how the cat comes to sit by the radio every time he hears music. It just breaks my heart to think about how many people neglect and abuse their pets, given their capacity for love and the strength of the bonds that we create with them.

Of course, I recommend adopting a shelter animal. I get that they may not be the newest, or the best looking, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones who are the most deserving of love and good homes.

This year, I’m going to make sure that Carlos knows how much I love him. I’m going to make more time to play with him – I’m going to make sure we have a steady supply of catnip-infused things to hunt and “kill.” I’m going to try to keep him entertained by letting him do more jumping and perching (while also discouraging property destruction caused by his careless disregard for fragile things). I’m going to snuggle him and make sure that he’s never lacking for attention.

And in return, I expect him to finally wear his special occasion neon green bow tie long enough for me to get a decent picture.

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