Cats and whether or not they like us

Is this the face of a cat who cares whether 1000 ships sink or sail?

Coolidge is among the 99.4% uninsured pets in America. There are two reasons for this: first, no one will insure him; and second, we would assume that any company that would insure him would be a priori foolish, and we wouldn’t do business with them. In any case, they would be out of business within six months if they took us on.

The upshot is that every so often, as for instance, we did this past Lord’s day afternoon, we will expend a fair chunk of cash when our cat does something sufficiently unnerving to urge us to take him to the emergency vet on call. In this most recent case, he suddenly emerged from under the bed presenting a very bad limp. His gait was as pathetic as it was when he turned out to have a broken hock. Of course I called our vet, asked her answering service who was on call, left my number, the on-call vet called me back, and we headed out for some x-rays that revealed that his arthritis seemed to be flaring up a bit. The vet said that a mild painkiller that I happen to use for my own arthritis would most likely be helpful. We thought the bill pretty reasonable for an emergency visit, consultation, and x-rays. Reasonable, but more than our highest winter electric bill.

I quartered one of my tablets and gave Coolidge his quarter-tablet dose. He limped around more mournfully than ever, but he was not up to the task of looking hatefully at me; his eyes were completely dilated. He was the very model of a poster cat for atropine. It only made sense that a cat of mine would be prone to side effects.

The dilation subsided late the following morning, and so, to some degree, did the limp. I decided no more painkiller, refused the follow-up offer of narcotics for him (he can’t take glucosamine either, because he is diabetic), and determined that he could simply live a reasonably comfortable life of a reasonable American cat; and in fact, he could simply live a reasonably comfortable life of most reasonable Americans who put up with chronic or occasional pain.

Reasonableness is a powerful analgesic. Coolidge is much better. He knows he will never have to repay a thing, and yet he has no concept at all of grace. My cat is part of my sanctification. As I grow in patience — a mournfully slow process — I look more and more toward God’s forbearing grace toward me as the true model of patience, and see how far off it truly is from my highest imaginable aspiration.

That’s the difference between cats and people. Cats are existentialists, with no regard whatever for how like or unlike one moment is from the next or the last. They aren’t wired to aspire. Momentary desire is not aspiration. Cats cannot be poets; there can be no versification without aspiration. What cats excel at is self-admiration, which requires no real aspiration.

My friend Janet is probably right: my cat probably doesn’t like me. But he doles out to me the highest honor he is capable of giving. He lets me know when I meet his expectations and he lets me know when I don’t. I think that’s at least friendly.

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