Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I Want a Cat's Life
I have a confession to make. Sometimes I wish I could trade places with my cat. I suspect you've had similar thoughts. As you watched your dog lay in the sun while you balanced on a ladder, picking clumps of wet mucky leaves out of the gutter. Or as you rushed by your napping cat, once again running late to an important meeting at work.
Our cat seems to have three priorities in life. Eating, sleeping and prowling around outside, chasing bugs and slow chipmunks. He hangs out all day, moving from the top of the couch to the middle of the pile of comforters on our unmade bed. He snacks when he's hungry, sleeps when he's tired. He answers to no one and his biggest problem is how long he has to stand by the door meowing before one of his thick headed family members gets the hint and lets him outside.
Some days that schedule really appeals to me. No alarm clock telling me when to get up. No groceries to put on the list, put in the cart, put in the cupboards then put on the table. No laundry to wash, dry, fold then repeat. The dust that gathers under the dining room table wouldn't even be on my radar. The stacks of school papers on top of the same table would not be my concern.
I wouldn't know the number of the doctor's office by heart and have a running list of who's had which shots. There would be no permission slips to sign, no checks to write for school lunches, no Christmas lists to make in August. I wouldn't have a need for a bank account or bills arriving in the mail with my name on them. I wouldn't have a credit score or a family history of diabetes.
When I wanted time alone I would retreat to the middle of the teen girls bed, in the room no one except her is allowed to enter. When I wanted love and petting all I'd have to do is jump on a lap, rub my head against a leg or snuggle next to a warm body in bed. Even when I threw up on the carpet and meowed just a few too many times in the night to be let in, then out, then in again, I would always be forgiven because after all, I am so soft and fluffy and adorable.
You can tell I've spent a little bit of time pondering this idea. Every time I see his fluffiness all curled up in my son's arms or tucked under my husband's arm as he goes to sleep at night, I wonder what that life really feels like.
But then I come back to reality. First of all, we got our cat from a shelter. We have no idea what the first two years of his life were like. He might have been neglected, malnourished or even abused. He might have roamed the streets as a stray, never knowing when he'd get his next meal. Maybe he's already paid his dues and he deserves every bit of the spoiling he gets in our house. And no matter how easy his life seems, I would have to give up a lot of the things I treasure if I were to trade lives with him.
He will never know the joy of being a parent and watching a child grow from a helpless newborn to an amazingly competent adult. He will never know how safe and secure it feels to marry a lifetime best friend and share jokes with them decade after decade. He doesn't get to decide what he 'feels like' for dinner tonight. He either gets Cat Chow or Cat Chow. Any deviation from that he has to find for himself in the woods. He'll never have the chance to try a new recipe and taste a new food just to mix life up a bit.
He will never know how rewarding it can feel to be good at your job and make other people's lives better. He will never read a great book and wipe tears from his eyes as he closes the back cover. He will never know the joy of learning and figuring out how this amazing world works. His whole world revolves around our house, our couch and our yard. He will never get to explore the amazing trails and woods of faraway places and nearby parks.
So the next time I'm having one of those days, the kind where half the kids are sick, the laundry is threatening to take over the bedrooms, and the bills are begging to be paid, I will still look at the cat longingly. His life will seem desirable, at least for a moment. But by the time I've doled out the last dose of cough syrup and looked into those precious eyes as a little voice says, "Thanks a lot, mom. I feel much better", I'll know. I'll be sure that the life I was blessed with is the only one I would truly want. I'll let the cat have his simple existence and try to be more patient when I'm letting him outside for the fifteenth time in one afternoon.