by Rhonda Loucks
We have four cats; all unique in color and personality. They all came to us in different ways, but none of them were purchased or came with papers. They all are content, at least for the most part, and appreciate the way we care for them. Each has his or her own way of showing their love or, since we are talking about cats, affection is probably a strong enough term.
Signs is our huge, yellow, tiger-striped male. I have no idea about scientific names or species categories. He’s muscular and has this hanging skin under his stomach that sways when he walks just like a tiger, so, to us, he is a tiger-stripe. He moves from place to place with authority. He looks like Garfield but does not have that personality. He is Alpha through and through, even if the vet did remove his alpha-ness. The kids named him Signs for two reasons: 1) he has these strange markings on his back that resemble crop signs. And 2) he ran into the opened door of our new house when we were moving in, so we took it as a sign that he belonged there. Strange name, strange cat.
We have watched Signs tenderly snuggle with our kids, sleeping the whole night through half covered up in a baby’s blanket. However, he always sleeps with one ear up, ever suspicious, ever alert. We have seen this same cat who bathes the neighbor’s kittens, take on a full-grown snake, skunk and possum. He is always the victor. This dog-type cat runs to the edge of our property to meet with warning any passer-by of any size. Yet, this same cat is sent straight in the air at even the slightest surprise. An unexpected gesture of a hand to pat him recoils his frame and propels him flying; no effort, just solid muscle straight up in the air, then down again level on all fours. Skiddish, my mother would say. What baggage this cat must have that causes him to react so; to fight, to withdrawal, to not be able to trust the very hands that feed him. He is a strange one. Although we know he can, he is usually stiff and difficult to love.
Nike is also one of our male cats. Yes, I know; another strange name (Maybe I should make sure my children know just how strange these names are before they start naming my grandchildren). Nike came to us as offspring of two others we adopted six months earlier. That is a story in of itself – how we explained to our puberty-bound children that a brother and sister, still kittens themselves, could be responsible for the litter of new kittens under my daughter’s bed. “They weren’t even married,” I was told. Yet, here was the litter. And right in the middle of the birth line was Nike. His all-white fur and bright, blue eyes especially stuck out because they were always dirty. Nike was a skinny thing. But what he lacked in size and hygiene, he made up for in personality.
From little on, Nike had this unique swish he did with his tale when he walked. It resembled the swoosh on the brand-name of current sports shoes; thus his name is Nike. If we had been naming him for his personality we would have named him Whatever. Literally, you can handle him in almost whatever way, and Nike is okay with it. Maybe it is the circumstance in which he was born and raised under my daughter’s warm bed, plenty of food and the care of two mothers. The first being his own my daughter’s very attentive cat, and secondly, my daughter who rocked and cuddled and wrapped him in blankets. Nike was made-over and taught school and sat at numerous tea parties dressed in the newest fashions. He was strapped safely into strollers and carriages and highchairs for feedings and walks and rides. And, when things were really bad for my daughter, Nike sponged-up little girl tears and lay understandingly in her arms as the breath was being hugged out of him.
Today, Nike is still the most accommodating cat I have ever seen. You can flip him over, roll him this-way-or-that, use him as a foot warmer, or sit so closely to him that he looks sat upon with still no adverse reaction. Actually, most of the time, there is little reaction at all. He is just okay – absolutely fine – with whatever is going on around him. Now, he is a cat; he does like what he likes and want what he wants. He still stands in the kitchen and cries for milk each morning, and like any baby, he doesn’t stop fussing until his now 18-year-old mother comes down the stairs and spills milk on the tile floor for him. She does have her limits though. She won’t put chocolate in it and tells him so each morning. Nike loves us; loves my daughter with a sweet, tender contentment. He comes when she calls and drops at her feet. He is a lover of definite appeal. Yet, energy in his affection is missing – not completely unlike that of, but similar to, a mindless, white, fluffy, stuffed teddy bear.
Calico (now you have to agree, that’s a proper name for a cat) is all about energy and workability. She is a no-nonsense cat. We acquired her as a stray. She started hanging out at our house when she was pretty young. She came around to eat the food we left right outside our door (the food we placed there just in case our cats needed a snack before they came inside for the real meal.) Calico is a calico in color and never did put on much size. She is half of Nike and maybe one-third of Signs, but she has the energy and stamina of all the rest combined. She is a worker.
We saw her have two litters before she came to live with us. When we took her to the vet we were told that she was barely eighteen months old. She never had a chance to be a kitten. She was a mom from the start. She knew the chores of cleaning and providing and defending and nursing. And, as soon as one litter was gone, a second was already there – kneading her, needing her. She was what others expected. And, she did it well. She was an admirable mom; nursing and cleaning her kittens until long after they were her size. Even today, with no kittens under her responsibility, she does not lie around and just suit herself. She takes care of anything needing taking care of. She cleans the others and keeps them in line with a swat as they pass; even the big guys.
She knows the house rules and obeys. No mess can ever be blamed on her. She doesn’t get on the upholstered chairs and probably understands the trouble I have with cleaning them. She doesn’t dig in her dish or lay around where she can be stepped on. She is so thoughtful, so considerate, so very polite. She asks to go outside instead of dirtying-up the litter boxes and she always waits for the others to finish before she cleans up the last of the milk on the kitchen floor. Calico likes her back rubbed and will sit on your lap. But, she always keeps her disposition – not one of those flopsy-mopsy, lay-all-over-the-place type cats with their feet up in the air like Nike. Calico is a girly-girl. She is a strong female; a dutiful pet who knows her place. Her loves come mostly through thoughtful, respectful compliance. She is a pleasant pet.
Rascal is not; he is named perfectly. Rascal and Angel (now deceased) are the parents of Nike. Even today, I am sure that it was Rascal who led his sister into so much trouble. Rascal is a beautiful, long-haired, pure-white cat (thus all the cat hair on furniture problems). He is definitely a high-maintenance individual. He needs cleaned and brushed and brushed and brushed. He meows loudly and stands in your way – purposefully. He sleeps wherever he wants and does what he wants when he wants. Rascal seems to be all about Rascal, except when it comes to companionship.
Rascal is really loyal and, in spite of his rascalness, the endearing thing about him is his ability to make you feel truly wanted. Rascal can love you with such enthusiasm that you just cannot doubt his genuine affection. Rascal wants to be around you, on you, consumed by you. He jumps up on every bed, every chair, and every single object that you are standing by. If your hand drops to your side, somehow Rascal is squeezing under it, rubbing and purring. If you start to pat him, he will drop to a position that accommodates your ease and ability to pat him best. He “talks” all the time and constantly reminds you that he wants your attention. He even has found a way to literally grab your attention. When patting him, if you are not enthusiastic enough, he will use his head to move your hand. And, if by chance, you start to talk to someone else when you are patting him, he will nip and meow at you until he has your complete and undivided attention.
Every morning when I am making the bed, Rascal is there running from side-to-side as I walk around the bed pulling up covers and placing pillows. Then, when he can’t stand it anymore, he reaches out with a paw to stop me. He will lay down right where he thinks I will be next, eyes begging for just one touch. He is not afraid to approach. He looks at me face-to-face and then lunges up onto my chest with his front feet. It feels so much like a hug, that I have to hug him back. Possible or not, he gives me love. Rascal is a rascal, but he is passionate about what he wants and how he loves. He loves completely and enthusiastically. He wants so much to be in your company that it is almost annoying. And yet, it never is. He spends so much affection on us that we can’t help but smile and laugh and feel appreciated, and the feeling is hugely contagious.
How do you love the Lord? Are you devoted and strong, but suspicious – always with one ear up? Are you flopsy-mopsy, very accommodating with whatever is happening but without real enthusiasm? Are you dutiful and respectful of every rule and obligation; so careful that others tend to be very careful around you? Or, are you a rascal for the Lord; so in love with Him that your enthusiasm to just be around Him makes Him smile? Do you race to Him, wait for Him, long for Him, lose yourself in Him? Do you reach out to Him, in your awkward kind of way, and looking at Him face to face, do you do your best to hug Him and then melt into His chest as He hugs you back?
Are you lovin’ the Lord like a Rascal?
Rhonda D. Loucks is an author, wife, mother, Sunday School teacher and member of Wichita First Church of the Nazarene. More of her writings are available at uncutobedience.com.