At this very instant, there are all manor of noteworthy events unfolding in the world which might be greatly deserving of our interest. Wars are being waged, life and death are unfolding, and our very futures are being shaped by earth-shattering events in all corners of the globe. All the same, I’d like to direct your attention for a brief moment to a story about my cat, Stripes. This is mostly due to my selfish desire to maintain my membership in Crazy Cat Ladies of America. It is a CCLA requirement, after all, that a minimum of one cat meme or story per month be posted to an online forum or social media site of the member’s choice. Therefore, without further ado, I give you the tale of Stripes.
Stripes is a cat of peculiar preferences. He quite prefers Tostitos to cat food, doesn’t seem to mind contorting his entire body in order to drink from the bathtub faucet, and has even been known to build impressive nests out of stolen Legos behind the dryer. Some of his many peculiarities stem from the unfortunate reality that dear old Stripes is standing on the brink of senility and peering over the edge. Way over. Many of the others are lifelong habits that he has never felt compelled to explain to us. And why should he?
Stripes is also a cat of questionable motives. Please don’t get me wrong, his integrity is without parallel, and he is wholly trustworthy. He is deeply kind, full of empathy, and fiercely protective. The questions as to his motives only arise when he feels neglected, or lonely, or otherwise overlooked. It is at these moments that he will stop at nothing to become the center of attention. I am sorry to report that at such times, Stripes concocts the most diabolical schemes to attract the notice of everyone within the distance of sight or sound.
It all began two years ago when tragedy struck our tiny family. Precious the Cat passed away. He had lived to the ripe age of 16, and suffered from a heart condition that took him from us quite before we were ready. Nobody grieved the way poor Stripes did. Precious had been his litter mate, his companion since birth. He was beside himself for days, searching the house and calling for his friend even through the night. The poor thing moaned so pitifully that I was awakened every night for a month from a dead sleep, and of course, I rushed to comfort him. I would follow the sound of his cries until I found him in the dark. Then, I would scoop him up in my arms, whisper to him softly, and stroke his head and back. I took him back to bed and petted him until we both fell asleep again.
Gradually, his grief subsided, as did mine. We both began sleeping through the night, and Stripes began to eat without being coaxed. We returned to a new normal, and even moved to a new home. With the move, the natural flurry of activity was time and energy intensive. I regret to report that during this time, I was unable to spend as much quality time with Stripes as had been our habit. It was during this time that his midnight songs reemerged. Once again, I jumped to respond to his needs, waking up several times overnight to stroke and whisper and comfort.
Things settled down again, but Stripes was uneasy. Nothing in our new home seemed to interest him without his playmate. Nothing, that is, except my constant attention. In the smallest moment of distraction, a mournful howl might split the silent air. Taking a shower? He positioned himself outside the door and whined. Talking on the phone? He looked right at me, crying, demanding to be entertained. Passed out asleep in the dead of night? No matter. The reasons for his being overlooked didn’t matter one iota. Stripes only cared about results. And he knew that crying would produce attention. It had never failed. I sympathized, but feared that I had created a monster. I resolved to break the habit.
One night, while I was reading a book on the bed, I decided to listen to some music. Stripes was by my side, and he had always enjoyed music, so it seemed like an enjoyable bit of entertainment. Stripes, however, sensing that my attention was now divided between my book, my iPod, and himself, within minutes leapt to the floor and began to cry loudly. “Stripes, stop,” I pleaded. “I’m right here. Please, for the love of all things holy, give it a rest.”
No luck. The cries continued. I stayed the course, determined not to respond with my usual flurry of attention and affection. “Surely he’ll stop in a minute,” I thought, optimistically. Two songs later, and no improvement. I had almost given up and opted to pick him up when something rather unexpected happened.
My tastes in music tend toward the eccentric, and eventually, a bluegrass tune rotated through my playlist. The sound of banjo music came to life as “Rocky Top” began to swell through the speakers. This in itself was not surprising, but Stripes’ reaction was the last thing I expected. He stopped mid-cry and returned to the bed. He stared intently at my iPod speakers, walking as near to them as possible, and laid down, captivated. The song continued, but Stripes remained in place, quietly purring to the music.
When the final notes of the song had ended, and a new song began, Stripes stood, stretched, and returned to the floor. He seemed content for a few moments, but alas, the howling eventually began again. I was deeply curious, and somewhat hopeful, although I pushed the thought away. It had to have been a fluke, right? I selected another bluegrass song and pushed play. “This is ridiculous,” I thought to myself. “I’m really just totally desperate now. I’m looking for completely absurd solutions, and…” No sooner had the song begun than Stripes, my distraught, howling cat became complacent and content once again.
“Ok,” I said to myself, “Once was a fluke, twice could still be a coincidence…” but even as my more logical self struggled, my desperate, sleep deprived self connected to iTunes and rushed to download entire bluegrass collections and create a playlist entitled “Sweet Feathery Christ, Make it be True!”
And it was. He was completely enthralled by this particular musical genre. It was so simple, I couldn’t believe it. No matter how intense his cries for notice became, a few notes on a banjo and some folksy lyrics were all it took to bring him down off the ledge and home to kitty nirvana. It worked every time. In fact, several nights serenaded by bluegrass soothed the savage, howling beast and destroyed at least one habitual symptom of kitty dysfunction, and I’m pleased to report that Stripes the Cat and I now live much more sane, restful lives.
Nowadays, my bluegrass playlist is labeled “For Emergency Use Only” and only comes out occasionally during mating season and thunderstorms. I’ve come to realize that sometimes, a complicated problem can have a remarkably simple solution if we’ll only trust ourselves enough to recognize it. Sometimes, it is disguised as a coincidence 🙂