I don’t generally like putting words in other people’s mouths. That’s how you end up with creepy things like the eTrade baby commercials.
But I feel confident I speak for all of us when I make the following controversial statement: I love cats.
I love them simply because they are cats. I love them because God created them splendid. I love them exactly as they are.
But “love” the emotion and “love” the action verb sometimes butt heads in the rough and tumble world of teeth and claws. When it comes to a few of our residents, I confess my love song sounds as melodic as a broken cymbal.
It’s no challenge to love them inside my heart and head. It is a Herculean challenge to love them in ways they will correctly interpret as “love.”
Start with Queen.
They tell me — and they are assuredly correct — that perfect love casts out all fear. My love is not yet perfect, for I am still afraid of many things: hurricanes, vomiting, Christopher Walken…
The shelter that sent Queen to us had nicknamed her “The Queen of Mean.” Brimming with righteous indignation, Team Tabby’s Place bristled at this. No cats are mean, we said. She’s just misunderstood, we said. We will love her. We will understand her. And also, the globe is flat, the grass is orange, and Ke$ha is a talented artist, we said.
We said a lot of foolish things.
If we are going to love cats as they are, not as we wish they would be, we must accept that Queen is, in fact, mean. Case in point: as I sat typing this email, Queen approached my computer mouse, lowered her face to 1/4″ above my hand, and sprayed a hot hiss of wrath across my fingertips.
If Queen had a post office box, she wouldn’t send Hallmark cards “just because.” She would send boxes containing 1,000 tiny scorpions “just because.”
I do love Queen. I just don’t love bleeding.
This is all made more complicated by the fact that, since Webster’s passing, Queen has insisted upon occupying my desk. When Webster lived on my desk, love was a song of cuddles and purrs and holy sweetness. Webster was the feline answer to George Beverly Shea — you know, the beautiful old baritone who sang hymns at Billy Graham’s events for half a century.
Queen, on the other hand, is Ozzy Osborne.
When Queen occupies my desk, I’m generally not allowed to answer the phone, pick up a pen, or move quickly. Or slowly. Unless I would like to be relieved of the burden of having ten any fingers.
She rolls and chirps and spends 98% of her time within 4″ of me, so clearly Queen has some affinity for me — either that, or she’s playing the long game and counting the days ’til my demise. But if I touch her, or breathe in a way she finds objectionable, I bleed. Repeatedly.
I’ve never been quite so stumped by a cat. Most touch-me-not cats don’t insist on reaching out and touching humans — and by “touching,” I mean “maiming.” I don’t want to displace her from my desk, since she likes it. But I don’t want to trouble the local hospital by needing a blood transfusion.
I don’t know how to love her.
Then there’s the petite etoile for whom my love burns with the heat of 10,000 stars. (Approximately.) If Cecille could know how much she is loved, she would never be afraid again.
I regularly visit Suite A for the express purpose of making Cecille feel loved. I blink. I sit quietly. I pray for her. I drum up a non-anxious presence. I climb every mountain, scanning the horizon for the day when Cecille will feel comfortable and delight in being adored. Or, at least stop exuding contempt and terror upon humans’ arrival.
As you can see from these photos, it’s going really well.
Clearly I don’t yet know how to love Cecille in a way she buys.
But it’s not over yet, and where there’s love, there’s hope. Though our love can’t scale the heights of perfection, it can persevere. Every day at Tabby’s Place is a lesson in love — giving, receiving, waiting, trusting.
*This is the part of the blog where I’m sure I will receive 10,000 emails and phone calls assuring me, in high-pitched voices, that Queen is really sweeeeeeeeeet, and she really means welllllllllllllllll, and I just need to be paaaaaaaaaaaatient. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But if you say any of those things, I am entitled to declare that you are wrong. Wronger than the Taco Bell breakfast sandwich, that’s how wrong.