My entire house, upstairs and down, is covered in a fine, gauzy layer of white cat fur. No matter how often I take measures to clear away this soft mantle of domestic disarray, it remains in place like a persistent fog – collecting in small drifts in corners, settling into couch crannies, and attaching itself to every item of clothing I own. It seems to have a preternatural preference for black fabrics.
Living under these conditions might once have driven me mad. Now, it just makes me smile. I consider it a sign of spring and an excuse to embrace the balanced imperfection of my housekeeping skills. Though some might be offended by its pervasive presence, to me the cat hair is a happy reminder of the two felines with whom my daughter and I share our home. Or, perhaps I should say, who share their home with us.
There is an art to living with cats. Mostly, it is about surrender and letting them take the lead. (Cats are not followers.) It is also about acquiring an appreciation of life’s finer pleasures. Cats consider our frantic lifestyle hopelessly backward and try to civilize us by demonstrating a more refined approach including midday naps, indoor sunbathing, luxurious stretches, explosive bursts of lawless abandon, and midnight snacks.
Cats are a study in dichotomies. Though they can be quite amorous, they often appear aloof, doling out their affections according to an illogical and unpredictable system that involves the phases of the moon, the probability of treats, and the wild card of the feline heart. They play hard to get, while we are unabashedly smitten. When they finally bestow their attention, it is all the sweeter for having been withheld.
Our feline friends are a complex combination of the domestic and the primeval. Though they share our homes, they always retain something of their feral origins. They remind us that nature can never be fully tamed. Few sounds are as soothing as the hum and rumble of a cat’s purr, but even in that quintessentially contented sound, you can hear the echoes of a satisfied tiger.
Grace and comedy never found so suitable a home as in the spirit of a cat. Cats embody both the monarch and the jester, being equally at home reigning supreme or acting the fool over a toy mouse or a bit of catnip. The feline heart embraces sophistication and frivolity simultaneously, refusing to acknowledge that there is anything unusual about their union. No other creature has such a capacity for poise.
But perhaps the cat’s most charming attribute is its talent for surprise. Cats are full of delightful inconsistencies. Just when you think you have them figured out, they do something unexpected and set you back to puzzling out their minds and motives. Unlike humans, they are impervious to the dangers of wearisome routine, changing things up on a whim.
Case in point, the younger of our two cats, Cinder, has not sat in my lap since she and her mama, Bella, first came to live with us nearly a year ago. However, as I sat on the couch with my laptop (having been displaced from my desk by Bella who had once again appropriated my chair for the purpose of napping) Cinder hopped up and, without any preamble, arranged herself neatly on my lap. Perhaps she knew I was writing about cats. Maybe she just thought it would be amusing to watch my contortions as I tried to type without disturbing her.
In my life, I have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing many cats. When I was but a babe, there was Thumper, a honey-colored, double-pawed gent. Tinker was born among the delivery trucks at the old Ipswich Dairy and lived to the venerable age of twenty. Willy, born in the hollow apple tree behind my childhood home at the top of Spring Street, commuted for years to my parents’ printing company on High Street. Suki, another feral cat, was born in our garage and proved to be a singularly cantankerous but loyal companion. And now, we have Cinder and Bella, adopted from the Ipswich Humane Group. Together, they bring us daily doses of love, laughter, and feline wisdom. How lucky we are to be in the company of cats.