March April issue of Awareness Magazine : Vinit Allen, Designing  a World That Works

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Awareness Magazine
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Pet Corner
Inconsistency and the Cat

by Allen and Linda Anderson

 

For many years we’ve been collecting and sharing stories about the spiritual and amazingly uplifting experiences and relationships people have with animals. It is always delightful to talk with people who get it about animals and specifically about beloved pets.

Trust is built between animals and people who live together in the same household. They each know what to expect from the other as far as daily routines go. Given that element of trust in human-animal relationships, we have been thinking lately about inconsistency. When A doesn't lead to B, it's disconcerting. If a person who always does things a certain way changes patterns, it catches our attention.

Inconsistencies can be entertaining; they are the stuff of good comedy that makes us laugh with the pleasure of surprise. But they can also upset and frighten. The startle response might be hilarious or maddening and every emotion in-between.

One week, Linda was inconsistent with our eighteen-year-old cat Speedy. He's a big guy with a long body and a temperamental attitude. Unlike his lithe and nimble, younger, black-and-white sister Cuddles, Speedy's gait is slow. Once he settles in on a place to lounge, he's a lump of coal, loathes to move or be moved.

When Linda eats lunch in the living room, sitting on the couch, with her plate on the coffee table, Cuddles likes to jump up next to her and try to paw at her food. Linda has taken to keeping a small spray bottle of distilled water by her side. If she even points it at Cuddles, who hates water, the cat scurries away.

Sometimes, though, the smell of food she especially likes makes her more persistent. That's when Linda actually squirts her with a just a little water to get her to leave the food and her alone.

One afternoon, it wasn't Cuddles who had her eyes on Linda’s lunch. Speedy decided that he wanted to perch next to her on the couch in hopes that tasty morsels would fall his way. Out of habit, Linda reached for the trusty squirt bottle and aimed it at Speedy. When Speedy "doggedly" kept moving forward with the intent of springing onto the couch, she sprayed a tiny stream of water at him. It was more of a mist than a spray.

What happened next filled Linda with remorse. Speedy backed off. His eyes clouded over. A pained and shocked expression spread across his face. Linda immediately regretted her hasty action. "I'm not Cuddles!" he seemed to say. "I'm me. And we have always treated each other with respect. Now I'm questioning if you deserve my trust." Speedy shook his head from side to side as if to say, "You have disappointed me," and lumbered out of the room.

Inconsistency. Instead of honoring the relationship Linda had with Speedy all these many years, she had acted out of character and treated him with a tactic that doesn't phase Cuddles in the least.

After lunch Linda found Speedy on the stairs leading to her second-floor office. He had gone there to hide, to brood over how inconsistent humans are, even his favorite human. He could have gone anywhere but obviously wanted Linda to see him. He succeeded in making her feel even guiltier.

Linda sat on the step below him and apologized. She asked him to forgive her for getting him mixed up with someone else who was only half his size. He again looked at her with sadness in his eyes and an expression that said, "You have betrayed me. I must consider this."

Off he retreated to another part of the house where he keeps his man cave. Linda didn't see him for the rest of the afternoon. She went back to work, feeling even worse about having treated her old friend badly.

After the day's work, Linda came downstairs to watch the evening news. Speedy walked along the back of the couch where she sat. Tentatively he tiptoed over to have his head and cheeks rubbed and his body stroked ever so gently. "So you have decided to forgive me?" Linda asked.

Speedy stuck his head under Linda’s hand to remind her not to stop petting him. "Don't ever let it happen again," he answered.

Kitty Commands
As writers, we often work long days and don’t spend as much time with our pets as we would like, especially when working a deadline to turn in a project on time.

Cuddles makes sure that we know when she thinks we are working too many hours and not paying enough attention to her. She lets us know in different ways when she has decided that it is time to play, rest, or switch gears. The routine with our kitty is a simple one that will be familiar to everyone who is owned by a cat.

Cuddles sits on the papers Linda is working on. When asked politely, Cuddles moves but then jumps on top of the computer monitor with her tail hanging down on the screen to obliterate the view. Now, when asked, not so politely, Cuddles moves again.

This time, she turns onto her back with her tummy exposed and an expression that only cats have. It says, "I am the cutest darling to ever to walk this planet." Of course, Linda has to stop whatever she is doing and rub Cuddles' tummy.

But Linda knows Cuddles well enough to have figured out how to get ten minutes of uninterrupted writing time. She not only gently rubs the cat's tummy but also picks up the kitty and kisses all over her head and back with much sloppily human affection. This messes up Cuddles' carefully licked fur.

Even though Cuddles melts into the love feast, Linda will now have an extended period of time to work without interruptions while Cuddles has to clean and lick her fur back in-to proper shape and restore her cat dignity.

A little inconsistency goes a long way toward having a life of one’s own in a home where the humans are owned by their pets.

Allen and Linda Anderson are founders of the Angel Animals Network, Where Pets Are Family and authors of a series of books published by New World Library about the spiritual connection between people and animals. Dogs and the Women Who Love Them is their new book in the Angel Animals series. Subscribe to the free, online newsletter at www.angelanimals.net and participate in the Angel Animals forum and blog.