While I cope with Parker’s wobbling appetite and Raleigh’s stomatitis, while I monitor Tucker’s diabetes and make sure Cammie doesn’t eat anything but her special food, while I listen for Josie throwing up on my bed because she ate too fast, and try to keep Renn from feeling displaced on the couch because Peachy loves snoozing on my lap, I can become a little contemplative.
One day last week, I was eating dinner, and I pondered what my cats had just consumed for their own soft-food meals. This led me to wider thoughts.
My cats were currently eating imported European delicacies, crapping into, literally, The World’s Best Cat Litter, sleeping in heated beds, and what was I eating? Beans.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I don’t mind beans. I think it was Thackeray who cancelled an important social engagement because he saw that beans were featured, after a lengthy absence, on the coffee-room menu of his club; the excuse he sent to his acquaintances was that he had just encountered an old friend he had not seen in a long time. Besides, I don’t eat beans at every meal. Sometimes, I have home-made soup with home-baked bread; I roast pork and chicken; eggs are plentiful in my refrigerator; I enjoy fresh fruit and have vegetables with most dinners. It was simply that at that moment, I was eating beans. The juxtaposition of what the cats received and what I was giving myself, at that moment, was shown to me in relief - almost comic relief, one might say.
I wondered how I had reached the point in my life at which cats - to be precise, the six who live with me - are the principal concern, and their care subject to the greater part of my budget, both financial and chronological. I suppose it is an instance of the adage, ‘if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.’
As with the beans, I caution against misapprehension. I do not strive for excellence in all things. Even with regard to the beasts, I do not give my best all the time. But they are living creatures. They depend upon me for their welfare. It makes sense that if one is to have them under one’s care, one should give a decent quality and quantity of it.
When the cats eat a good meal, when they clean their dishes and want more; when they race about the apartment, playing; when they are curled up sleeping warm and untroubled on a cold and blustery day, I feel that I have accomplished something, made a positive contribution to these little lives. It isn’t much in the great plan of the universe, I suppose, but it is something to the cats. In return, they make me feel good. They purr and rub their heads against me, they walk all the way across a room just to tell me they like me, and they lie on my uncomfortable lap instead of a soft, deep pillow, just because they want to.
So it is a combination - in what proportion, I won’t hazard a guess - of selfishness and generosity, as are many things, I think. I spend my money and time, which would likely not find more worthwhile investments, on these animals, animals who have little more purpose than the fictional tribbles, from Star Trek. That is to write, they have a great purpose indeed. My beasts and I provide for one another, each in his own way.
Then why is it that after giving them specialty foods and expensive medicines, washroom material the equivalent of which I couldn’t afford for myself, comfortable, even custom-made furniture, and a hundred soft cushions, they choose to vex me by doing this?