This morning I brushed my cat. Usually this is a soothing interlude for both of us. I alternately stroke the brush along her beautiful striped fur using my left hand while letting my right hand scratch the top of her head.
She can get a subtle purr going while relaxing during a grooming session.
She lays down next to me where I sit on the already sadly fur-covered carpeting.
I move slowly – radiating relaxation in every unhurried motion.
She closes her eyes and rewards me with a deep thrumming sound. I can feel the faint vibration of her contentedness under my hands. She even manages to calm her almost constantly twitching tail.
We both relax.
This is good.
But sometimes, for no obvious reason, in the middle of these soothing episodes, she suddenly leaps up and bites me.
When I pull the brush back from her unexpected attack she tries to grab my hand with her sharp claws to hold me still and plant her teeth in even deeper.
Trying to run from her is futile. It only encourages her to go after my feet. Over the past fourteen years of her life this cat taught me to always wear socks in my house, even in the summer. It is not unheard of for her to cause injury even through socks.
Instead of running I’ve learned to put down the brush and put my feet out of her reach by sitting on them. I tuck my hands under my armpits. I hold my elbows in close to my body and I refuse to make eye contact with the suddenly wild beast who had been my gentle loving cat one minute ago.
I’m sure she has a reason for these episodes.
But I have no idea what it is.
I’ve learned to accept that sometimes, even when relaxing and sharing a peaceful comforting moment, things can go weirdly and surprisingly wrong.
I ask my cat, “Was it something I did? Did I inadvertently hurt you? Are you feeling sick? Is something bothering you that you have not told me about?”
She glares in response.
“What’s wrong with you?” I yell, trying to minimize myself as a target by folding my appendages in tightly.
“Hiss! Snarl!” she responds while looking for an opening in my defenses.
Whatever just happened between us only holds her attention for a moment.
She crouches down and maintains a level of vigilance as I crawl backwards out of the room. I don’t dare get back on my feet till I know I am out of view.
I am shaken, worried, anxious and angry.
She has forgotten we had a disagreement the moment I am out of her sight.
In her cat way she is demonstrating a life strategy. Our interaction may have been painful in some way, but for her it is in the past. Done. Gone.
I don’t know what this says about the new year, but I do know that somehow the turning of the year and the unexpected behaviors of my cat are linked in my thinking this morning.
Because I understand I can have good intentions. And I understand I can make the best decisions available from the choices I have. And things can still go wrong, and unexpectedly weird.
As I am writing this my cat is now affectionately seeking attention from me as though our disagreement never occurred. I know I will remain wary of her motivations for the rest of the day. But she has already moved on.
Happy weird new year.