The Ritual of the Cat


I’m doing it. Against my better judgment, I am about to submit a blog post about my cat.

I have two of them. One them is named Tazendra, after a sort-of-elf-warrior-but-more-interesting-than-that in a series of books. She is all black, except for a tiny white patch at the front of her chest, and a few white flecks scattered throughout her coat. Rather than the typical black-cat green, her eyes are a rich orange-gold that I describe as amber, because I love the word amber. My wife says they are the color of pumpkin. Tazendra, Tazi, looks like a Halloween cat. She does not act like a Halloween cat. Halloween cats are aloof and enigmatic. They are creatures of mischief and darkness, heralds of the moment when the veil between the worlds of light and shadow is as thin as tissue paper, and there is nothing to stop the Things that slumber and hunger just out of sight from tearing through.

Tazi is…not like that. Except for the part about the tearing. She meows all the time, and is needy, and sweet, and affectionate. We have to put her in the basement nearly every night so she does not romp around the bedroom just as we settle down to sleep. She has an uncanny sense of exactly when we are fully settled in. In that perfect moment, when the blankets are adjusted just right, when my feet are just starting to warm up, and the last few tense muscles in my body ease into relaxation, that signals Tazi that it is Time to Romp. I think she can tell when we stop moving, and it is Not Okay. She spends a lot of time sleeping, like most cats, but she also wants a lot of attention from us. So into the basement she goes.

I often feel bad about this. Fortunately, Tazi makes putting her into the basement very easy. All I have to do to get her out of the bedroom is walk downstairs towards the basement door. She follows the entire way, with great enthusiasm. “Are we going on an adventure?” She does this every single night. Half the time, she walks right into the basement herself. All I need to do is to close the door. It is clearly she does not particularly mind this whole endeavor. She has a litter box down there, and food and water. Sometimes her sister Amelia, a tiny little torbie with only three legs, joins her down there. We only ever had to deliberately put Amelia down there once. She is a much calmer kitty.

Ever since I started spending all day every day writing, Tazi and I have entered into a new ritual. She is an affection cat, but she is not really a cuddler. She likes sleeping at the foot of the bed, or nearby where my wife and I are, rather than nestled up right against us. But she loves laps. I did not realize the full extent of this; there are so rarely laps available in this household. The television is in our bedroom, and it is where we spend most of our time and eat most of our meals. There is no couch. Just a bed. So no laps. There are plenty of chairs down in the living room, but we do not spend much time down there unless there are guests. When there are guests, the cats are not so much interested in laps as they are feet, hands, dangling headphone cords. Any moving parts.

Now I am writing a lot. That involves a chair, and that produces a lap. For Tazi, this means Opportunity. Cats recognize Opportunities as well as any successful venture capitalist you could name. Closed doors, opening cans, sleeping humans; these are moments not to be ignored. For Tazi, that list also contains flushing toilets, but…we will not go there. It also includes laps. Hence the new ritual.

Some time between five and twenty six minutes after I sit down to write, I will see a pair of pumpkin-preserved-in-amber colored eyes in the doorway. In the deep darkness of Seattle winter, I often cannot see the rest of her. She is a natural ninja because of her coloring and her cat-stealth, even though it does not fit her personality. If she grew up as part of an ancient feline ninja clan, she would be forced by her prominent ninja parents into carrying on the tradition, even though all she wants is to be a Broadway star. Also, the world would be a little more awesome, because it would contain ancient feline ninja clans.

Where was I? Right, the ritual.

I see her in the doorway. I usually notice her blended form because she meows at me. She does that a lot. I look over, and either I call her over to sit in my lap, or I tell her in a strained voice that this is not a good time. I do not know why I do this. It does not make any difference at all.

She then puts her paws on the side of the chair, and gives a good, long stretch. After that, she hops on up. Sometimes she jumps up onto the arm of the chair. More often, she climbs up the back. It is an old and ratty chair, so I do not really care if she damages it. Also, I would not really care even if the chair was a silk upholstered family heirloom. It’s hard for me to care about objects; it isn’t in my nature. It drives my wife a little batty. Between scratching cats and an apathetic husband, we can’t have nice things.

While she is crawling up the there, there is no safe way to dislodge her. Sometimes I have just eaten. Sometimes I have to go to the bathroom and am putting it off. Sometimes I am feeling nauseated from my allergies. I do not always want a lap cat. This is not my decision. There is no way to knock her off while she is climbing other than to just shove her. If I was willing to just shove her off willy nilly, then I would not deserve to have a cat. I’m sure it wouldn’t really hurt her, and I’m not saying it wouldn’t be funny. It would just also make me a terrible person. There are enough notches on that list already.

Once she is up on the chair, she crawls into my lap with a contented purr. Tazi is one of those cats who purrs when you take a step in her direction or say her name within a thirty eight mile radius of her ears. If there was such a thing as purr-Viagra – and I can only assume it is pending FDA approval – Tazi would not require it. On one level, an easily purring cat is great. On another level, I never feel like you earned her contentment. My parents had a tiny little white-with-black-tail cat named Sofia when I was in high school. When she was a skittish little kitten I was the only one who could make her purr. It was very satisfying.

I am going to break away from this thread before it gets any weirder.

If Tazi gets to my lap and I do not want her there, this is my opportunity to dislodge her. Like most situations that feature the word “dislodge,” this is going to be painful for me. I know this. I am fully aware of this. Tazi is a cat. She has no way of knowing which very specific areas in the general lap-adjacent region should not get pressure and should definitely not get claws. Actually, maybe she knows exactly which very specifically areas should not get pressure and claws. She is never very happy with me for kicking her off. I guess that is my punishment.

Most of the time, I let her stay. I used to always kick her off when I was writing or playing video games. I though it would be too awkward. I assumed she would get in the way of my interface with the keyboard and mouse, and I would keep knocking her on the head with the movements of my arms. It turns out none of this is true. It is just nice. She sits on my lap, warm and purring. She does not move too much, and most of the time she does not claw my legs or any more sensitive areas. Tazi has no problem if I rest my arms on her, and she is much more comfortable than the arms of this chair. It is a beautiful symbiosis. Sometimes she leaves after five minutes. Yesterday she was there for an hour. Occasionally I pet her, and she closes her eyes and stretches out in pure contentment.

Ever since I quit my job at the restaurant, I have missed people. I am a very social person. I need a lot of conversation and human interaction in my life. Or at least, I thought I did. I do not miss people half as much as I thought I would. People are great, and I love them. I often have a great time with other people. But it is rare to share mutual moments of complete and uncomplicated contentment with another human being. Tazi is on my lap right now. She is purring. She does not care about anything else. She does not need anything else. Neither do I.

The writer in me wants to end all of this with some larger point. But I won’t. There isn’t one. That is the larger point. My cat is in my lap, and there is nothing else in the world she wants better. It is so easy to forget how to do that. It is so easy to forget that we need to do that, from time to time. The future is great, but happiness is always found right here, in this moment. Sometimes it takes a cat in your lap to remind you.


One thought on “The Ritual of the Cat

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