With the passing of a beloved pet it’s natural to reflect on all the ones who came before. Each had a special legacy, memories and moments that are touchstones in the lives we shared. Fiona, my cat who just departed after 16 years, gave me the gift of Catitude.
Catitude is attitude and gratitude, from a cat’s perspective. Catitude is knowing what you want and not being afraid to ask, or quietly persist if needed. It’s the freedom to be yourself and to know that when you purr, the world purrs with you. There is only one master of the universe and you are it, or at least you should be.
Sometimes this can lead to disenchantment, as the world fails to meet expectations. Fiona’s wishes were not always granted, but she did not fall into the kind of ennui Henri the Cat so aptly personifies. Research has shown that dogs evoke a kind of maternal bonding in their human companions. We treat them as adoring, often goofy children, the kind that love you no matter what. Cats, not so much.
While humans have designed 340 dog breeds, cats have remained truer to their original domesticated form, even with 70 recognized breeds found around the world. They formed a partnership of convenience with humans, replacing weasels, (who were too ornery) as efficient rodent assassins. Once they were deified in Egypt, our relationship changed forever.
Cat people tend to either love their “fur babies” or they enjoy the elegant and generally quieter companionship of their cat friends. Artists have a particular affinity for a well-designed feline. Fiona’s appealing form and her obvious happiness when I worked in my studio made her my muse, infusing the space with her aesthetic presence. The only other time she seemed as content was when she was sleeping, with an angelic smile that need not beg forgiveness for the day’s petty misdeeds.
Our relationship was complicated, which brings me to the gratitude side of Catitude. Some relationships are challenging. They impel us to find new responses to old aspects of ourselves that never seem to go away, even when we project them onto others. This mirroring tendency is one way cats have shown us how to withdraw our projections and release the stress of the day. Hanging out with your cat, letting your senses respond to the flow of the tall grass and waving tree branches swaying in the wind is healing. It releases the mind from fears of a world in turmoil and gives the soul space to breathe.
A love that’s not easy reminds us that other beings might wish we were somehow different. And that we can’t always be right, or wrong. It helps us see through another’s eyes and recognize their truth instead of disregarding an irritating point of view. Our compassion grows with the challenge of a dynamic relationship.
We learn the mystery of life and death with the loss of our dear ones; a part of our soul has left with them. My cats have taught me much of love, death and the circle of life.
We miss you, Fiona. Thanks for sharing your life and your death. May love carry you into the mystery and bring you home.