In the Cat World, There's No Room for Stress
By Catherine Clyne
When I feel I've been put through the wringer and all my energy has
been sucked out, I usually turn to my friends Leon and Pierre for help.
I first met Leon several years ago when my eyes strayed to a small
hand-made sign hanging on the wall of my favorite café. "Handsome,
distinguished, affectionate silver/gray/blue male needs caring home,"
the caption read, next to a drawing of a rambunctious-looking gray cat.
When I went to suss out this potential roommate, as soon as I walked
through the door, a gray streak crashed into my legs, Leon's expression
of "Hello, you're mine." His guardian—a graphic designer
who lived in a shoebox-size studio apartment—explained that
because Leon was so affectionate, he actually couldn't get his work
soon knew what he meant. Leon understands that he is the most important
person in the world and humans are there simply to pay attention
him. That can be a little inconvenient when you have to work, since,
inevitably, Leon's body must cover at least part of your chosen surface,
preferably the exact spot you need to concentrate on.
Nature programs tell us that cats rub the sides of their jaws and chests
against people and things to spread their scent and mark their territory.
I imagine that's true, but Leon takes this to the extreme, and it obviously
means more to him than just an opportunity to release his kitty-smell.
He loves to get people in a sort of love-grip. If ever someone picks
him up, Leon quickly has his arms wrapped around the person's neck in
a firm hug, rubbing his face against the person's chin, jaws, neck and
face, purring loudly. He loves it when people wear glasses; the frame
edges offer a most satisfying rub, although nose smudges and happy drool
can make this a little messy. When it's time to end a lovefest, he literally
needs to be manually disengaged.
Pierre entered our lives when a neighbor asked me to take in another
cat. I wasn't interested at the time because Leon's such a handful.
But Pierre's caretaker had died and he was left alone in an apartment.
The real estate broker needed to get rid of him—one way or
another. So, on a sunny Valentine's Day, Pierre arrived and promptly
underneath the shower into a dark, dry and close place, perfect for
frightened felines. Pierre stayed there for three days. Every few
Leon and I would crouch down to coax him out, but he wouldn't have
any of it.
Pierre grew to trust us and eventually found his place in our hearts.
For the first year, he was quite timid and hid a lot. Whenever someone
would visit, Pierre's stocky white and black body would move at lightening
speed for the closet. Now Pierre is emboldened. He demands attention,
yelling his wishes and staring bluntly. He absolutely hates being picked
up, preferring to control things by walking around and around. Pierre
is also our resident rascal; he knows precisely which buttons to push
to get under our skins.
Because Leon can be so serious, it's easy to annoy him and Pierre grabs
every opportunity that comes his: barging in on our quality time, taunting
Leon when he's trying to make a big jump, or seeming disinterested when
Leon rears onto his hind legs boxing at Pierre, the two looking like
Godzilla vs. Mothra. With me, Pierre has discovered the art of strategic
peeing. I won't elaborate.
Just by watching them simply being themselves, my stress ebbs away,
especially when they're comical. Pierre, the pudgy little Holstein,
isn't the most body-conscious and coordinated of creatures and, sometimes,
he'll majestically spread himself out on the edge of a bed or low table
and fall off. He'll clamor back up and we'll enjoy a bout of conciliatory
rubbing. Pierre also occasionally chases his tale, although he may not
admit to it. Leon, on the other hand, is as graceful and regal as they
come, and when he screws up, underestimating a height or freaking out
over nothing at all, he'll act as if he meant for that to happen.
There's something about the worldview and presence of cats that shove
all anxiety out of the picture—there's just no place for it. I
think Leon and Pierre have adopted me as something of an honorary cat.
And when I'm stressing out, two pairs of eyes—Leon's glittery
gold and Pierre's ocean green—stare at me like I'm crazy because,
generally, my problems are inconsequential. They seem to say, Just
out. It's such a reality check because if whatever I'm stressing
about does come to pass, they'll just keep on napping, eating, grooming
and bickering with each other. It's obvious that I am just a resident
in our apartment; it's really their realm. But as we grow together,
I am thankful for each day that brings new experiences for us to