the well-read cat

There is nothing my wonderful best friend cat likes better than to curl up with me and a good book, or even a mediocre book. As long as he can comfortably situate himself, Tippy’s reading appetite is nothing short of voracious. Together, Tippy and I have delved into a fantastic array of places, people, and ideas as we turned the pages and allowed ourselves to be transported.

My tabby friend and I have had wondrous escapades like flying over Africa or sailing the North Sea or exploring beyond the planet. We’ve studied maps and pictures. We’ve figured out how to do things. We’ve pondered philosophical issues and romantic ones. 

Tippy has purred his way through many delightful pages, and sometimes sat on them. He has also patiently listened when I’ve tested the words on the page, reading aloud. We’ve explored rhythm and imagery. We’ve counted syllables.

True, with such a diverse catalog of reading, we have on occasion disliked a book, even found ourselves scoffing. We have, however, never found ourselves in disagreement.

Unlike my beloved Biddo, Tippy is not a book biter (a little bit on that here). No, although he does enjoy exploring the physical depths of a book shelf from time to time, he respectfully leaves the books intact. He is not, however, above taking a swipe at a bookmark.

Tippy’s joy in books seems to lie in the shared reading experience and, most important, the cuddling. In fact, from his nestled perch in my lap, he often insists that other tasks be put off, while we enjoy yet one more chapter. 

Yes, a well-read cat is a true treasure. Beyond words, really.

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what the other animals know

veru05_18_20My best friend seems unaware of the only thing that anyone talks about anymore. Coronavirus is not a thing to him. He appears to feel no fear and no trepidation. He has never worn a mask.

No, Tippy spends his days more concerned about things like the birds and the squirrels that he spots outside the window. He notices the trees in the wind, or the first pitter patters of a rainfall. He loves to nap. And, thankfully, he loves to spend time with me.

As a cat, Tippy does not spend inordinate hours scouring the news. He could really care less. He has his priorities. Aside from eating, pooping, sleeping, and tracking anything that moves, he values being close to me. He likes to sit with me while reading, lay on top of me asleep in bed, position himself in the middle of anything on which I am working. He follows me around.

I have a sneaking suspicion that he knows more than I do, than we all do.

For one thing, he has instincts, and he trusts them. To the letter.

He knows the difference between an actual, existential threat and mind games. Were a big dog to come into view, there is no doubt Tippy would make himself scarce.

That’s not to say that Tippy doesn’t pick up on vibes. He is, after all, my best friend. It’s clear, he ‘gets’ things. He can tell when I’m sad or scared or tense. He knows when I’m awake, staring into the dark. I don’t think he cares at all about what is going on that might affect my frame of mind, but I think he cares a lot about my frame of mind.

Every animal that has graced my life has been a teacher. They have shown me love and patience and humor and joy and tender compassion. Sometimes I have been witness to their fear, suffering, incomprehension, death. I have grown from every encounter – from my beloved cat friend to the cardinal singing in the tree or the snake slithering away from my approaching foot.

With our culture’s anthropocentric perspective, we suppose we know so much more than the other animals. Or the trees, for that matter. We’re all about our brains, and all that we’re able to accomplish with them.

While it is true that amazing and wonderful things have been born of the human brain, we don’t honor how little we really know. Nor do we own the many detrimental purposes to which we put those brains, on a grand scale. The other animals do not behave that way.

I suspect they are, in actuality, more highly evolved than humans. They are extremely observant and they understand the priorities. 

Like Tippy, they pay attention to the fundamentals of life – food, water, air, sunshine, exercise, relaxation, play, shelter, relationships, tribe. They tend to all that without leaving an indecipherable and disproportionate path of destruction. Nor do they just muck around with their own or other species for gratuitous or ruinous ends.

They live in sync with life.

But as the almighty human species, look what we do to the animals. We pen many of them up for their entire shortened lives, use them, abuse them, kill them, eat them in incomprehensible numbers, all while wreaking destruction across the planet.

Maybe the fact that the other animals seem incapable of doing that to us isn’t evidence of their ignorance but in truth shows us how truly advanced they are.

I think during this pensive time it might be wise to ponder the idea that the other animals know more than we do. Maybe give some thoughtful consideration to how they walk their life paths.

My wise and wonderful best friend Tippy never touches on the news, but he reminds me daily about the important things of life and the elements of true health.

the book biter

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My beloved cat, Biddo, was a book biter.

Biddo loved to rip up paper, any kind of paper – usually in the middle of the night. Didn’t matter if it was the newspaper, business papers, or, his true love, books.

veru12_16_18eI tried packing the bookshelves tightly, but Biddo still seemed to be able to get whatever he wanted off the shelf. And just forget it if you left a book laying around.

I lost my wonderful Biddo about a year and a half ago, and I miss him dearly. I delight, however, every time I stumble across his bite marks in my library. I got to thinking about it lately, and perused my shelves.

Turns out, Biddo was a discriminating biter. For example, George Orwell. Biddo did a good job of biting up the cover of 1984. He entirely ripped off the back cover and several pages of Animal Farm. At the same time, he left Huxley’s Brave New World entirely unscathed. What’s up with that?

Stephen King’s On Writing suffered Biddo’s wrath, but all three copies (can you have too many?) of The Elements of Style were untouched.

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A Course In Miracles and the accompanying meditations both drew Biddo’s ire. Sharon Salzberg’s LovingKindness drew a few bites. There’s just some gentle nipping on Louise Hay’s work.

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Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time, as the picture shows, sustained a prolonged onslaught on the outer cover – seeing as how little damage could be done to the hardcover, I suppose.

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There’s not a single bite in any of my works by Shakespeare. Chaucer was safe, too. Hmmm.

Biddo always left the inside pages pretty much intact, except for corner bite marks. The only exception was Animal Farm, where you’ll have to go elsewhere to read the ending.

This is just a sampling. I frequently lay hands on a book with bitemarks. Biddo left quite a legacy for me.

I’m not sure whether Biddo was biting approval or distaste in my books. Biddo was nothing, though, if not intentional.

It was a little upsetting in the moments when I discovered yet another ripped up book, but gotta say, I love to find them now.

Another item he thoughtfully left all bitten up? My yoga mat.

Miss you, buddy.