By Cathy Eden
A woman with only a cat for company has no time to be lonely. A woman with a cat is a woman in training.
Eva came to me as all cats do; in response to a psychic call. A home had been found for her kittens but not for her, so, identifying with her status as a rootless single woman with some living under her belt, I invited her in. Cautiously, curiously, she padded round my apartment on caramel paws while I waited with bated breath, hoping that she would find it acceptable. She did, and my education began.
A cat goes where there is a vacancy for its peculiar talents. Eva teaches by example, exuding dignity and confidence, recovering from embarrassing mistakes with such aplomb that you wouldn’t dare laugh. She doesn’t wear her history as a badge of suffering. She escaped starvation and death by shooting, thanks to the intervention of a good fairy, but she doesn’t dwell on this or the loss of previous lives. She lives in the present, with no thought of yesterday or tomorrow.
Observe her Sphinx-like stillness as she smiles into a sunbeam. Is she planning an assault on the neighbour’s fish pond or fretting about a gathering cold front? No. She is communing with Warmth, welcoming its delicious rivulets into every gleaming hair and spruce whisker on her body. In this moment she is not hungry, neither is she in any danger or discomfort. In this moment life is exquisite and there is nothing to complain about.
A cat is the perfect companion for a woman who is Getting Over Something. Dogs are very loving, but they allow you to indulge your sorrows. If you weep long and loud enough a dog will throw back its head and howl too, which just makes matters worse. A cat will not tolerate too much self-pity. It will bestow its presence on you in a rare, remarkable show of kindness when it senses that you need support, but if you wallow too much in woe, it gets bored.
It fixes you with diamond eyes that signal, ‘Oh, for Pete’s sake, get over it’, and then it takes action. It is almost impossible to have a full-scale meltdown with claws in your thigh and a shrill voice demanding dinner. A cat reminds you that there is always someone whose need is greater than yours.
Eva chooses her associates with care. She works a room like a pro, identifying non-cat people in need of enlightenment. Having won them over, she’ll pick the scarf or jacket that contrasts most fetchingly with her fur and settle down for a snooze. So what if she leaves a few mottled hairs behind? She has no time for petty thinkers.
There are cats more beautiful than Eva, but her sense of self never wavers. She wears her coat the way she likes it and not to please another living creature. She won’t waste time trying to convince you of her worth – she has her pride – but she will give you a withering glance, as if to say, ‘What a pity, but I’m moving on.’
Not surprisingly, she has an admirer and I’m taking careful note of her tactics in preparation for the day when I may have one too. She admits the cat next door quite coolly. (No eager canine tail-wagging to let him know she’s interested.) She permits him to eat from her bowl and bat her toy mouse, but she never allows him to occupy the high ground. While he trundles around on the carpet she follows at furniture level, permanently poised to deliver a sharp rap on his skull if he misbehaves.
My cat is joyful. She will leap in the air for the sheer thrill of being alive, and she will dance with a feather if that is what pleases her. She has no need of a partner or an audience for her antics. Sometimes she includes me in her games, but I suspect that is just to make me happy.
It doesn’t scare me to be a single woman in a town that claims to be drastically under-supplied with men. I’m busy, being coached by my cat to love life and to accept what each day brings. And if it should bring a man, well then, I’ll let him trundle about for a bit until Eva decides what to do with him.