Zen of Cats

With apologies to those of my readers who are physically or emotionally allergic to cats!

We are being a tad circumspect this year about returning to the rarefied air of Colorado, given Chris’ medical woes. (and alas, the rumor’s correct, he did contract CDiff – a pesky antibiotic resistant bacterial infection – but never fear, he’s showing those mean microbes who’s boss!)  All to say, we’ve had to curb our adventurous natures, rearrange our travel plans, and focus on domestic matters like the Zen of cats.

Growing up, my parents only succumbed to having a cat when they discovered a mouse in the house!  Although raised on a farm, my mother thought it prudent to consult a book about pet cats before we went to choose ours. The book directed us to pick the most outgoing, liveliest kitten of the litter on the premise that it would grow into a healthy, hardy cat.  I can’t be sure if this advice had any scientific or medical basis, but it sure did lead to a progression of feisty cats.

Our current pair, Tux and Tiara were chosen with that principle in mind. I’d always hankered after a Siamese yet, at the rescue center,  I stroked the docile animal who obviously had a good sprinkling of Siamse genes and, nonetheless, opted instead for the rambunctious black and white,  who we rather unimaginatively named “Tux.” When the time came ten years later for a new companion for Tux, (or do I really mean for us), the assistant at the cat shelter said,

”Oh you want that kind of cat, better chose one of this litter, they’re all crazy.”

And so scrappy, sweet Tiara came to live with us.

We’ve noticed that all but one of our feisty cats – Mischief,  the tireless territorial defender, mellow with age. Tux, at thirteen, teaches me not to  obsess about having a svelte, well-muscled body, there is wonder in a sleek but less than sinuous frame, beauty in a Buddha belly!  As he demonstrates the restorative powers of sleep, he removes any traces of guilt I might have when it’s time to curl up and take a nap. Tiara, still lithe and light at three, patrols her realm, indignant that she lacks the strength but not the agility to decimate the squirrel population. Unfortunate lizards and the occasional stringy snake bear the brunt of her resentment. Her determination and relentless optimism teach me focus and persistence.

Both cats have more wisdom to impart.  They instinctively know if either of us is sick and precisely which body part is most affected. When Chris returned from hospital with staples in his incision, the cats leaped upon him, kneading their paws into his abdomen, paws that even sheathed, bear picking claws.  Not quite what the doctor ordered, Chris winced and then smiled, understanding that the cats, purring like lawnmowers, only intended to bring him comfort. Instead of fussing over diets and medications, that’s probably just what I should have done too.

As I watch both cats, and particularly little Tiara shift from intense, passionate engagement to profound relaxation, I am once more chagrined. How few of us can “let go” so easily? I meditate regularly and it takes an act of will to relax tense muscles, regulate my breathing, calm the chatter from my monkey mind. Sure, I have good reason to experience stress, living with low vision is a constant, and these last few months of Chris’ calamities  inevitably brought fear and anxiety but I, and I suspect you, are our own worst enemies. We rehearse our worries, even when we cannot do anything about them, we stress about the stress, we resist letting them drift away. It’s a vicious circle, we don’t like the effects of anxiety but somehow we nurture it.  Not so Tux and Tiara!

Oh to have the Zen wisdom of cats!

End Notes


Twisting Fate by Patricia Munster

Twisting Fate
Patricia Munster


Van der Valk


Rossini’s Cat Duet
Jane Shivick, Sarah Callinan

Here I Come 
Dennis Brown


Except from Citizen
Claudia Rankins

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