When a cat meows, it usually sounds like it ends with a question mark. Have you noticed that? And the ironic thing is that when they meow they aren’t typically making inquiries, but demands. Feed me. Pet me. Love me. Rub my belly until I start kicking your hand with my hind legs and biting you.
Penny had been meowing incessantly at the front door for five minutes before I finally got up from the couch. “Cat. We both know how this is going to work. You think you want to go outside, but you don’t actually.” She stared at me as I continued: “You’ll go, wander around for two minutes, and want to come in the second I get settled again.” I knew with one look at her almond shaped eyeballs that my rationalization hadn’t resonated with her. I reluctantly got up and opened the door and calmly told her: “I’m not going to stand in your way. You do you Penny, go live your truth.”
I feel like it’s worth mentioning that the conversation above actually happened verbatim – it’s not some cute anecdote that I drummed up for the purpose of creating an interesting or insightful piece of writing for you. I may not even know you. Maybe we’re enemies, which begs the question – why are you reading my blog? Shouldn’t you be plotting my demise somewhere? I was on the phone when this entire exchange occurred so I could supply actual verification that I told my cat to go “live her truth” and that this is something that happens often. Maybe it’s because I adopted eclectic and neurotic animals, but I’m great at playing therapist to them. Like when Nora barks for no reason, instead of telling her to stop I encourage her to feel her feelings but suggest she find a different and more constructive way to do so. When I come home to tiny poops on the floor, I invite her to explore what’s triggering her. Overall, it’s a very positive use of my Master’s Degree.
Exactly one minute after I let Penny out, she was begging to be let back in. I thought about making her sweat it out for just a little longer, in a defiant “told ya so” kind of move. Then I remembered I’m not actually a sadist, threw the afghan off of my lap, and begrudgingly let her back into our home. I say “our home” because we do share it – one of us just thinks it’s acceptable to pay rent with decapitated rat heads and shits in a sandbox. I’ll leave it to you to ascertain which member of our pack that is. I live in an 817 square foot house that boasts more animals than people. I’m pretty sure when I was in grade school and they asked us to draw a picture of where we saw ourselves in twenty-years I probably did draw myself surrounded by cats and dogs and who would ever know how accurate that would be. I was either both very astute and intuitive as a child, or just really liked puppies and kittens like any other normal 10-year-old.
Penny trotted in the front door and scrambled to the bedroom where she would either settle atop her kitty condo or curl up so tightly on my white bedspread with her white body that she almost completely blended in. If she did this, she had a 9/10 chance of scaring the shit out of me later when I walked in and it looked like my comforter had eyes.
I think somehow – if by fate or (mis)fortune, I adopted animals who are the actual embodiment of my being in completely contrary ways. They are both my actual animals and spirit animals. If you think about it, there’s something very new-age and progressive about having to feed your spirit animals, to care for your spirit animals, and to clean up your spirit animals hairballs after they barf them up.
You’ve got Penny who is the personification of my power. She’s been my ride or die on not one, but two cross-country road trips. Never once did she question where we were going, what we were doing, or what life was going to look like on the other side. In a similar fashion, she’s adaptable AF. She’s lived with four other cats, and seven dogs throughout the decade we’ve spent together. As long as she had a roof over her head, and access to a constant revolving door to support her indecision towards being an indoor/outdoor cat – she was content. Fiercely autonomous, self-assured, playful, and a lover of love – as independent as she is, she melts at the instance of human touch.
Now, as I finished typing that I couldn’t help but to notice Nora staring at me from her perch atop the couch – she’s looking all sorts of forlorn and cuddled up by my roommates side. She likes to do that as a show of dissent – it’s kind of like when you really like someone and the way you show them is by dating someone else because that makes sense. Nora Jones is loyal – if “loyal” is defined as being overly affectionate, having attachment issues, and initially wishing death upon anyone I show affection to independently of her. Eventually she’ll warm up to my partners but once again – it’s purely a tactical move. She is the ultimate clam jam.
Nora is the antithesis of my neurosis. She is the physical archetype of my anxiety, and would take burrowing under blankets to being social any day. She’s unsure of herself, nervous negotiating her world, and can easily be stepped on or over. But for every time she is timid – she is brave. Some people may find the fact that she has to bark every time they walk in the house annoying but I think that maybe she’s just announcing their arrival. She favors warm laps over small children, and while she doesn’t require a lot of exercise – she thrives off of it. When I first adopted her, a simple walk was an arduous trek. If we went for a hike and there was an inch of water to ford through – she looked at me like it was a raging river and expected me to carry her over. Four years later she trots through streams up to chest, and recently I brought her to Idaho and watched in sheer terror as she ate shit trying to get over a cattle grate because she refused my help.
They say animals look like their owners. While I’m not sure this is true in physicality, my animals are a significant part of my spirit. I have the confidence of Penny, the cowardice of Nora, and metaphorically face-plant through the cattle grates of life constantly. Pet’s give us purpose, responsibility, a reason to get up in the morning, and a reason to look to the future. And I’m constantly learning from my four-legged friends – I learn to live without fear, question less, whine incessantly if the need arises, and that I should turn around at least four times before lying down. Also, water is scary and food is more delicious when eaten off the floor. As Nora lays next to me in her ‘Puppy Pride’ tee-shirt that renders her limbs useless (literally I put her in clothes and her joints freeze immediately in protest) and Penny is outside doing Gaia knows what – I am happy. She could be running a feline brothel, and I wouldn’t care.
My animals are my spirit animals, and I am proud.