On Cats

Being a cat person makes no sense. Why would anyone want to share their home with a creature that smacks your face at 4 a.m., hunts your toes, praises their gods in the middle of the night, and yells at you when they are hungry or just bored? And yet here I am. I do not know if I had a choice, though. My parents got married because my mom broke her leg. Dad was so attentive and caring that mom decided he was The One. What caused the injury? A cat who decided to sneak out of the house right in front of my mom. Not willing to hurt the animal, she lost her balance and fell. The cat was not hurt, my parents got married, I am here writing this post.

One of my cats back home passed away a couple of weeks ago, and I was surprised by how painful that news was. I thought time (it has been two years since I visited my family) and distance (more than 6500 miles) would dull the senses, but I was wrong. He was a street cat who had lived in our yard since he was born. Grey and white fur, coarse voice; he was the king of our neighborhood and protected it tirelessly from other male competitors. He was extremely loyal and always grateful for any amount of attention he could get. It simply will not be the same without him outside anymore.

To lift my spirits a bit, I decided to read some books about cats. I would not say starting with the book On Cats by Doris Lessing was exactly a mistake – but it was not an easy read either. I enjoyed the author’s style, but the stories she was telling reminded me of all the cats our family has had throughout the years: back when poison was used to deal with rats and mice and thus harmed cats, when no one thought about neutering, and when visiting a vet with your cat was not generally a thing people would do. I remember drowning in the sticky feeling of fear and helplessness when dealing with cats that got sick.

How many times have I sworn to myself that never again will I let any cat anywhere close to my heart? A lot. Has it changed a thing? No. I love cats too much to rid myself of an opportunity to be an owner of one (well, not an owner; human servant, maybe?). I am glad things have improved. Tiny but Mighty by Hannah Shaw is a wonderful handbook on how to take care of kittens. If you want to become better at documenting your cats’ adventures, you can check out How to Take Awesome Photos of Cats. Curious what other people want to say about their feline friends? A Letter to My Cat can help.

Cats have taught me a lot. They helped me practice doing things wholeheartedly without expecting anything in return. Not every cat wants to and needs to be tamed, no matter how long you feed them. Because of cats, I am better at being responsible for living creatures. Cats know how to enjoy life: all those warm and cozy spots they pick, as if saying: “Hey, life is not only about chasing mice, you’ve got to take good care of yourself, too. Let’s take a nap.”

And if I ever get a chance to once again meet all the cats that have been part of my life, I would thank each one of them. For all the lessons they taught, for the purrs, headbutts, affection and trust.

-Zarina Alfers is a Materials Handling Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.