This week’s column was particularly difficult to write, because the cat decided this morning to sit on my lap to seek warmth and comfort as I typed out these musings. And yes, I agree that the image of a cat sitting on your lap while you write is kind of sweet.
But a cat is almost always a mercenary sort of critter, and only interacts with people when it wants food, water, to be let out, or simply to pester the human to clean out the litter box.
Occasionally it will decide to cozy on up to a person for no other reason than the cat likes to hang out with that particular human, and that is kind of nice, if rare. That’s the sort of companionship one of our cats, a big male named Midnight, was offering to me this morning. My cats are usually as selfish and imperious as Cleopatra, as I am sure is the case for any cat owner in Aroostook. Typically, our house cats ignore us as individuals, except to label the local humans as She Who Changes the Litter Box or the Big Clumsy Destroyer of Tails or the Designated Door Opener.
On rare occasions, Midnight just wants to hang out with his roommate and kneed the fabric of my pants and purr like a little motor. Of course, as the big old house cat pushes and pulls on my leg, his claws slip through the fabric and prick my skin, creating that simultaneous comforting push-push push-push of kitten paws remembering mother’s milk and the wincing ouch-ouch of someone flailing me with a slow-motion cactus.
As I write this, my cat Midnight has thoughtlessly climbed into my lap, sitting tall in all his feline grace and forcing me to reach around his leonine body in order to barely touch the keyboard. He seems to think that he is affording me a privilege, almost a papal dispensation that says, “Yes, I know you shot me with a water gun because I played the let-me-out-let-me-in game too much this morning, but I have decided to give to you this privilege of my presence, so you better drop what you are doing and appreciate that I am here.” I know to comply immediately, because as soon as the cat has finished with me, he will go back to ignoring me like yesterday’s cold coffee.
What’s really pathetic about all this is that I put up with it. Or maybe it isn’t pathetic. Maybe it is just my place in the universe, my cosmic purpose, to provide this cat the attention he deserves.
If Midnight were smart enough to consider the vastness of reality, with its 14 billion year span since the universe sprang into being, and he had the mental capacity to contemplate the possibly infinite breadth of distance from one end to the other, I doubt he would feel insignificant. He probably looks up at the stars and measures himself against the glittering blanket of 5,000 visible suns in the night sky, which are only a miniscule fraction of the 250 billion stars in our own little galaxy. He may go even further to consider that there are 200 billion galaxies in the sphere of the visible universe and conclude that the entire point of creation was to bring him to this moment where I could simply scratch him behind his ears.
So I better start scratching.