Finster and I have been together for eight years and in that time we have developed a highly complex, multi-faceted relationship. But is it healthy? For that matter, what is a healthy relationship, anyway? Only one way to find out: Google it!
Based on a few hours of wilfing, I discovered that healthy relationships share a few common points.
Finster, I am well aware, doesn’t give a whisker about my personal goals. I, conversely, have gone out of my way to ensure he enjoys a full feline life of hunting and climbing and generally raising hell.
When he was nine months old, we moved from town to a farm owned by an offshoot of the Jefferson clan of Monticello. I was torn between letting him run loose and keeping him safe. Terrified I would lose him under the big farmhouse or that he would be mauled by one of the farm’s notorious cat-eating dogs, I sat on the porch while he learned about the world. When I did begin to let him out of my sight, I would call him back periodically until I was sure he knew the sound of his name.
Love without Attachment
My feline guru is well-versed on this concept. He’s a cat: detachment comes naturally to him…I have had to adjust.
Eventually, like all protectors, I grew to be superfluous. He increasingly proved his independence by staying out all night–blithely unaware of my near-hysteria. There have been many all-nighters, but he always comes back.
That’s not to say he is not affectionate, however it must be on his terms. He loves to sleep on my chest (oxygen deprivation notwithstanding), but only if it’s cold. He goes out about his business for hours at a time, but if he catches me working he inserts himself (wet, sandy, or shedding) onto keyboards and open books to be petted.
When I scoop him up for a hug he purrs furiously, but stiffens and jumps down as soon as he can get away. He has never once tried to avoid being picked up in the first place.
Finster is a cat with very strong opinions and no trouble expressing them. He has something to say about everything, and has an impressive vocabulary and surprising volume. He announces his arrival every time he comes home, day or night, by bursting through the cat door with a flap and clatter and a rousing yowl. He has dressed down several vets and will go into great detail to explain to me my error in judgment should he be forced to ride in the car.
He bites my leg when he wants to be petted. He sharpens his claws on the couches when he wants me to chase him. In a pinch, he will pitch small objects in ascending order of fragility and value from any surface in order to get my attention. And, if left alone too long, he will shred toilet paper rolls and litter the house with a fine snow.
To his credit, he does come when he is called. All that time spent outside with him as a kitten paid off. Don’t get me wrong, if there is something really pressing (like a grounded bird or a stiff breeze) he will take my request under advisement and come in once he has concluded his affairs. But for the most part, he comes galloping up to the door at the sound of his name better than many dogs I know.
Agreeing to Disagree
On many topics, though he may respect my right to my own opinion, it bears no influence on his behavior. We simply disagree. He has tried, in the past, to reason with me and once even teach me, but there are some subjects on which we will never see eye to eye. Murder, for one.
He gave me my first lesson on a lovely, breezy summer day. The idyllic peace was shattered by an unearthly scream. It sounded human–the scream of a child testing a hot stove–and it was coming closer. Then, out of the ferned undergrowth comes Finster, tail and ears straight up, thrilled with himself, and dangling a wailing baby rabbit from his mouth. He strutted up to the house and deposited his prize on the door mat.
The poor thing was in shock, but completely whole save for two neat puncture marks directly over its kidneys. I managed to keep it alive for a few hours, but, once it was dead, I buried it under a tree. Finster, believing I needed a remedial course in predation, promptly brought it back to the house and proceeded to eat it in front of me. Leaving a good sized portion, he sat back on his haunches and looked at me expectantly. Clearly, I was meant to finish the rest. I didn’t, but that has done nothing to deter him.
I came home yesterday to find, for the fourth time in three days, a layer of grey and yellow feathers scattered over my cream-colored living room rug. There was a scratch in the paint on the wall above the TV that forensically fit to a foreclaw, the bathroom windowsill was stripped of its candles, and six downy belly feathers clung to the horizontal blinds. The furry little murderer had struck again.
Sociopath that he is, he knows I disapprove, but since he doesn’t subscribe to my philosophy he’s not likely to stop. Somethings I just have to let go.
An overused, yet ironically nebulous concept, and, for the record, the downfall of every relationship I’ve had so far. And, yes, once again Finster’s boundaries hold fast, while mine are trampled at every turn.
He wakes me up at least twice every night for his own amusement. He insists on having new food put out for him although he never actually finishes what is in his bowl. He will go outside in the rain because he knows I will get up and dry him off to save my wood floors and upholstered furniture. He will sit on my bedside table and bat at me just to see me move.
It would seem, on the whole, that I am managed quite handily by an eight year old tabby. Inch by inch, he has come to rule my world. I have left men for less. But somehow his thirteen pounds of attitude constitutes a big warm fuzzy in my life.
Vol 27 Issue 4 page 20