New Mexico's Pet Resource FALL 2006


Cat Lessons

by Nancy Marano

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Cats began crossing my computer keys intent on telling their stories ten years ago. My first cat article, “Goddess in a Paper Bag,” appears in this issue as part of our “Golden Oldies” tribute. Since then, numerous cats have made their way through my life. Some have lived with me and others were friends, but each had a story to tell and each taught me something about the felines.

Heidi and Zeke were littermates. They curled up together for warmth and comfort from the day they were born until the day Zeke died. Seal point Himalayans with laid back temperaments, these two cats brightened my life for many years. Zeke, the more outgoing of the two, was curious, loving and funny. Heidi was shy, demure and delicate, feasting on cobwebs and silk flowers whenever she could. But, if an event or noise startled him, Zeke always sent Heidi to investigate whether it was safe for him to swagger from his hiding place and take charge. He taught me that macho males often need the bravery of a delicate female to make their stand.

Heidi shared her wisdom with me frequently in our 16 years together. Her gentle nature showed me how desperately gentleness is needed in an increasingly antagonistic world. Her shyness forced me to look beyond bold gestures and funny antics for deeper meanings. The easy grace exhibited in her daring counter-top leaps always made me appreciate her body’s supple beauty. And the distant look in her turquoise eyes reminded me she enjoyed visions and knowledge not readily available to humans. Heidi’s purr, always larger than it should have been for her tiny 7½-pound body, lingered in my heart long after she was gone.

Albuquerque cat shows feature rescue cats, as well as purebreds, and encourage people to adopt these gorgeous cats who have fallen on hard times.

Sammy and Rocky, the two cats who currently share my life, were adopted from rescue groups at these shows.

Sammy came first. I still remember falling in love with a tiny white bundle of fur playing in his cage totally oblivious to the people walking past. Dark gray marks showed on top of his head. I knew he was going home with me at the end of the show and he did. As he grew, gray polka dots developed on the tips of his ears, while a splash of gray defined the end of his plush, plumy tail.

He graphically reminded me that if you decorate at Christmas, you’d better take cat precautions. One year Sammy became a living Christmas tree ornament. I heard him meowing in octaves I didn’t know existed. These meows actually bordered on shrieks. I rushed into the living room, afraid of what I’d find. Our dog, Maggie May, ran in circles barking while Rocky paced in front of the Christmas tree.

There was so much commotion it took me a while to see the cause of the problem. Sammy had climbed from branch to branch up the center of the artificial tree. In the process his waving, white tail became entangled in the wire stems that secure the branches into the tree. The more he fought to free himself, the tighter the tree held him. All I could see were two terrified apple green eyes and bared teeth. I removed several branches – ornaments, lights and all. Finally I could reach in, wearing a stylish pair of oven mitts for safety, and extricate him from the tree’s evil clutches. He shot out of my hands and spent the next several hours under the couch trying to recover his confidence. Luckily he wasn’t hurt physically, although his pride suffered a severe trauma.

Rocky was also a kitten when I adopted him the following year. He hung in the back of his carrier with all his beige hair standing straight out and his mouth wide open in a yowl. All I could see clearly were his scared light gray/blue eyes looking back at me. I knew he would turn into a gorgeous cat, but he didn’t resemble that at the moment.

The biggest lesson Rocky has taught me is the importance of inner strength. Rocky demonstrates tenacity and focus that I’ve rarely encountered in a cat. He forms a plan and follows it through until he achieves his goal.

A week after I brought him home, he developed a case of panleukopenia that he’d contracted at the Animal Humane Association before I adopted him. Due to our veterinarian’s skill and Rocky’s strong will to live, he survived this deadly disease and hasn’t been sick since then. I told him if he managed to pull through, I would name him Rocky after Rocky Balboa because he would have beaten all the odds. He is now six years old and still as stubborn as he’s ever been.

These experiences with my cats, and others I’ve lived with over the years, have taught me useful lessons about love, endurance, enjoying life and the need for a sense of humor. I can’t imagine a life without animals playing a major role in it. I have lived with and loved many dogs as well, but cats speak to a special place in my soul. It might be their independence, their elegance and grace or the embarrassment they try to hide when they do something silly. But when they curl up in my lap and purr, life doesn’t get any better than that. If a cat looks deep into my eyes and nuzzles against my chin, my heart melts. Those furry bundles of unconditional love will forever hold me captive and continue to tell me their stories. With their permission I will pass those stories on to you.

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who lives in Albuquerque and is owned by two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.

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