Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Cats and compassion

We share our home with three cats. Each one came to us as a feral kitten at about six months old. This summer they will be 15, 7 and 6.

They are dependent on us for shelter, food and affection. They tolerate each other, but don’t appear to really like one another, though Pookie will let us know when Angus wants to come in. But as soon as Angus is in the door Pookie acts like he wants to fight with him. They never do each other any harm, though.

Angus came home twice with a bloody ear and now has two neat v’s notched on his right ear. My wife thinks he was scrapping with some other neighbourhood cat, but he showed no other battle wounds. I think that both times he probably lost a game of tag with the magpies.

They appreciate the comforts of home, having a special preference for the two recliners or the two office chairs, which happen to be our preferred seats also. They often interrupt our work with loud demands for food, for brushing or to be let outside.

Our laundry centre is located beside the hallway between the office and kitchen. Every once in a while we will hear Angus calling loudly. There he is, on top of the washing machine and wanting one of us to come and pay him some attention.

Two of the cats shed a lot of hair; we are often awakened in the middle of the night by a cat wanting to go out. The only reward we get is knowing that they like us and feel secure being in the same room as us. And nothing can compare with the contented purring of a cat on one’s lap.

Despite their annoying habits, we love our cats and think most of the distractions are good for us. Which leads me to ponder: am I as compassionate towards the people around me as I am towards my cats?

The old cat and the old door

When Panda was a young cat, she loved to explore the great outdoors and often wasn’t ready to come in when we wanted to go away or to lock the door for the night. My wife discovered a surefire remedy — kitty treats. She only had to rattle the bag and Panda would come running. That served our purposes and we were happy to have found a way to call her in.

But we soon found that she now expected to be rewarded every time she came in. Whether she came of her own accord or was called, she would immediately go to the place where the kitty treats were stored and would not move until we paid up. In her mind, this was now written into her contract and we owed it to her.

As time went by Panda got older, and so did the house. A leak above the front door caused the frame to rot and we sealed off that door. The side door now became our main entrance. I tried to patch the leaky roof, not very successfully, and looked for someone to do some repairs. Everyone was busy on big jobs, no one seemed interested in this dirty job. Plus, I really thought the rot had probably spread beyond the door frame. Finally, after five years, someone came, saw the damage was not as bad as I had thought, patched the roof, replaced the door frame and our door is better than new.

Panda grew older, wasn’t so often interested in going out anymore, and had ceased to ask for treats when she came in. Our two younger cats never knew there was supposed to be a door just off our kitchen and dining room. They still run for the side door when they want to go out and are slowly adjusting to the idea that we might let them in by the front door.

But Panda remembers. She knows all about this door, and she knows that when she comes in this door we owe her some kitty treats. She has taken to going out much more often than she has for a long time. She only stays out a couple minutes, it is now December and she likes to be warm. But every time she comes in that door she heads straight for the place where we keep the kitty treats. They are in her contract, after all.

Scrambled thoughts on a Monday morning

I woke up some time after 7:00 am and found I was alone in bed. I wondered how long that had been. Through the closed bedroom door I could hear the muffled sound of the washing machine. What was that about? I thought she did all the laundry on Saturday.

After stumbling around groggily for a few minutes, I made my way to the computer and chequed our bank account. Since this is the third last banking day of the month I expected to find that our pensions had been deposited, and yes, they were. I took the next few minutes to spend half the money on bill payments.

Then my wife explained the reason for using the washing machine. She had been washing last night’s dishes at the kitchen sink when she discovered water running out of the cabinet on to the floor. It took a lot of towels to sop up the water and clean up. Then the towels had to be washed. The kitchen tap has a pull out faucet and the connection to the flexible hose had worked loose. It was no big deal to tighten it up again and stop it from leaking. The effects of the loose connection had been a big deal.

Then I weighed myself and found that I had gained five pounds. When I stepped off the scale, though, it did not return to zero. I adjusted the scale back to zero with nothing on it and then I was back to my normal weight. That was better, but still a long way from being good news – my normal weight is 50 pounds, or 25 kg, more than it should be. I feel it in my knees. Yes I’m getting older, but that’s not the whole problem; I’m sure my knees would complain less if they didn’t have to lift that extra weight.

A few years ago I took our badly overweight Panda to the vet for her annual shots. The vet explained to me that dry cat food is far from ideal for cats. Canned cat food contains all the essential nutrients for a cat, is easier to digest, and contains more liquid, causing a cat to feel full sooner than with dry cat food. Since then we have been feeding our cats canned cat food twice a day, plus making dry cat food available to them. Panda has lost 2 kg and is more active and agile at the age of fourteen than she was a few years ago. I’m not going to try her diet, but I have noticed that most weight loss plans ask you to drink lots of water. Maybe there is something in that for me.

I tend to put on weight in the winter when I don’t get outside much. For years I have experimented with different exercise devices and none of them seemed to offer what I needed, nor were they very appealing to use. Then someone suggested a rebounder (mini-trampoline). My daughter has one and she wasn’t using it, so I borrowed it to try out before I decided to spend any money. I have been using it daily, aiming to increase my time to fifteen minutes a day. I have a hiatus hernia and have to be careful not to do anything that would make it flare up and cause me pain in ordinary activities. Last night I came across a recommendation to bounce on the rebounder three times a day, five minutes at a time. That sounds like something I can do.

So now I have done my morning five minutes, cleared the cobwebs from my brain and it’s time to start work.

Looking for sense in the scent

My wife woke me at 7:00 AM Saturday, saying “We’ve got to get out of the house!” When the cobwebs had cleared from my brain, my nose told me the cause of her concern. The pungent odour of skunk was permeating the house.

We live in a mobile home and were aware that a skunk had burrowed under the house. We have every intention of sealing off the perimeter of the house so this won’t happen again. But we don’t want to seal the skunk in, and we can’t do much as long as the ground is frozen. As long as the skunk was minding its manners it seemed like waiting was the best plan.

I got up, turned the furnace off to stop circulating the aroma through the house, then opened windows. Saturday was a sunny and mild day and the house didn’t cool down all that much. We left for part of the day, had dinner in the city and came home to a house that was somewhat less repugnant. I turned on a few electric heaters for heat and we tried to stay away from the part of the house that smelled the worst.

Angus, our middle cat went outside in the evening and it was quite late when he returned home. We didn’t notice anything on him, except that he was wet (and it was not raining outside) and seemed nervous. A few minutes later he was attacked by Pookie, our smallest cat. We separated the two and put Angus in a room by himself for the night. He seemed traumatized and even afraid of us. He has scratches on his face and shoulder; we don’t know if that happened outside or was the result of Pookie’s attack. These two often squabble, but no harm has been done before. It was almost like Pookie didn’t recognize Angus – perhaps he didn’t smell right.

Angus has made a quick recovery and there is no more evidence of animosity between him and Pookie. Today there is a little white-faced tabby on our doorstep.He comes running whenever he sees us at the window, yet dashes down the hole dug by the skunk when we get too close.

Could there be a connection between the skunk spray, this newcomer and what happened to Angus? We don’t know, but it has been an eventful weekend.

The skunk scent has dissipated from most of the house, except right by our entrance door. The hole is close to the doorstep and I suspect the wood under our entrance is saturated. So if you come to visit us, hold your nose until you get further into the house.

Three cats in the house

We are two elderly people and three cats in a fairly small house, and it is winter. All five of us spend much more time inside these four walls than we would if the weather outside were more clement. This makes for some conflicts. We provide nice cushions for our cats, plus two recliners and two office chairs for ourselves. The cats prefer our chairs. Plus, they prefer to be in the same room as we are.

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Panda, the oldest at thirteen, coming fourteen in summer, is a big black Maine Coon cat. She wants to have her long hair brushed or combed several times a day. This grooming must take place in one specific corner of the living room carpet. If we try to brush or comb her when she is somewhere else she will get up and walk to this spot and lay down. She also loves to be vacuumed and will come whenever she hears the sound of the vacuum cleaner. The other cats maintain a respectful distance between themselves and that noisy machine. When Panda wants my attention she will use her claws to tug at my pant leg. She is a patient cat; if I speak to her emphatically she will lay down and wait for a more opportune moment.

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Pookie, the youngest and smallest, will be five in summer. He is a flame point Siamese, and the most talkative of our cats. He will let us know vocally if he wants our attention, and if ignored will reach up and tap our arm with a soft paw, the claws fully sheathed. He will also respond well to being told to wait awhile.

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Angus is a year older than Pookie, a Siamese in conformation and temperament, but all black. Everything is an emergency to him. He begins by running back and forth, punctuated by plaintive cries:”The sky is falling! the sky is falling! Do something right now!” If we ignore him he will bite one of us on the arm to make his point. The bite is not a vicious bite, never leaves a mark, but it does get our attention. Most often, the reaction is a shriek from my wife which startles Angus enough to make him forget the cause of his anguish, at least momentarily.

Why do we put up with these nuisances? Why do we feed them, groom them, take them to the vet and vacuum up the cat hair? A few answers have come to my mind.

  1. Having other living creatures around that are dependent on us keeps us from becoming too engrossed in our own thoughts and health problems.
  2.  There is something very soothing and calming about having a cat jump on your lap and start purring when you sit in the recliner and put your feet up.
  3. Cats are very forgiving. It is reassuring to know that our cats still like us and trust us even if we accidentally step on one’s tail, or take one on an unwelcome trip to the vet.
  4. There is an object lesson in all this. If I can love and accept my cats, with all their foibles and annoying habits, why can’t I love and accept the people around me in the same way?

[The cats in the photos are not our cats, the pictures were downloaded from Pixabay. Our cats do look very much like the ones in the pictures.]

Our cats missed us

When we came home Sunday night Panda and Pookie, two of our three cats, were in the house. Angus, the third, streaked through the yard a few minutes later as we were cleaning the last of our stuff out of the car. He stopped, saw that it was us and dashed in the door. Michelle said she saw Angus a time or two while we were gone but he would never come close.

We hadn’t been gone long – five days, four nights – but they didn’t want to let us out of their sight for most of the day yesterday. In the afternoon I sat in the recliner, put my feet up and instantly had two cats on top of me. This morning I slept late and when I awoke all three cats were lying beside me, each one snuggled up next to me, but not touching each other.

I know that dog lovers all have good reasons for loving their dogs, but there is nothing that a dog can do that compares with the purring of a cat. There is power in the contented purring of a cat that draws tension and anxiety from the mind and body. There is a different kind of purring that cats do when they are hungry that isn’t so relaxing – I’m not talking about that.

For two older people, our cats are just what we need to make sure our days aren’t totally boring and dreary.

He hath torn and he will heal

I took our little Pookie to the vet a few days ago; Pookie being our three year old Flame Point Siamese. This was a follow up visit after his latest ear infection had cleared up; the vet is trying to figure out why he so often gets these infections.  Her theory now is that it may be a food allergy.

Pookie makes these trips a few times each year and nothing horrible has happened to him yet, still he does not like these trips to the vet. He complains all the way there, all the time he is there, and only a little less when he know that he is on his way home.

Once we are home he is my friend again. He is a very friendly cat and will often come to me to let me know he values our friendship and wants a tummy rub. My wife is the one who applies the medicine in his ear, something he would dearly love to avoid. Yet when she sits in the recliner and puts her feet up, he will come and curl up in her lap. In other words, this little guy holds nothing against us for the scary treatment we sometimes mete out.

That reminds me of the words of the prophet Hosea that I quoted in the title. Sorrow and pain are a part of every human life, some experience less than others, some much more. Sometimes it is obvious that we are suffering the consequences of something that we have done; at other times it seems like we are victims of random acts of fate. Whatever the case may be, it would have been in God’s power to prevent the pain and sorrow.

Job found that it was futile to demand that God give an account of these things, partly because the interplay of our actions with the actions of others around us, aided and abetted by unseen spiritual forces, is simply beyond the capacity of our understanding.

Besides, blaming God, or demanding an answer of God, will do nothing to make our circumstances any better. Yes, God allowed this to happen. But, He is also the only one who can help us in such circumstances. So may we come to Him without bitterness or recrimination, love Him and seek His help and comfort.

That is the message of Hosea 6:1-3. Here is the full text of that message.

Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

I didn’t get the message

elevator-48615_1280Way back when I was still single, some time before 1970, I was living alone in a little Saskatchewan town and running a grain elevator. Well, I wasn’t completely alone — there was a cat sharing the house with me. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that there would have to be a cat in the picture.

I was sound asleep one night when the yowling of the cat penetrated the fog of sleep. My first thought was that she was hungry, but no, her food dish was full. I stumbled around the house, turning lights on and off, even turning on the outside light and peering out at my pickup just a few feet from the door. There was nothing unusual anywhere and the cat didn’t seem upset anymore, so I stumbled back to bed, muttering “stupid cat.”

I should have known better. The next morning I got up, had breakfast and drove to the grain elevator, opened the doors, unlocked the office and walked in. I happened to glance out the office window and stopped in my tracks. There on the front of my pickup was a British Columbia license plate. I wrote down the number and called the RCMP. Now I understood what the cat had been trying to tell me — someone was messing around just outside my door. No doubt he had left quickly when I turned the lights on.

The police informed me a couple days later that they had caught up with the guy at Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, with my licence plate still on the car that he had stolen in B.C. It took my neighbour across the street a few more days to discover the matching B.C. licence plate on the back of his car.

I wish I could say that I have always gotten the message when the Holy Spirit tried to get my attention. To my regret, I have often let His warnings and the gentle prompts pass me by. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what He was saying, but it seemed too hard a thing for me to do and I persuaded myself that I must have misunderstood.

Ignoring the cat usually doesn’t have serious consequences. I have slowly learned that when the Spirit speaks it pays to trust that the message is important and to obey, even if what He asks is not at all what I want to do.

Cat oneupmanship

We moved to this acreage almost 8 years ago, just us two old folks and one cat. There is a farm yard right beside our yard with a heavy stand of trees between us. Panda was basically an indoor cat, but one evening she decided to explore the great outdoors.

The sun set, our bed seemed pretty inviting after a day of unpacking and arranging furniture, dishes, books, clothing, but Panda had not come home. We called, no response. We set out with flashlights to search for her. We walked around the back yard, the woods, searching and calling. Nothing. We gave up and walked back to the house, thinking dark thoughts. We came around to the front of the house and there on the front step was Panda, calmly stretched out and looking at us as if to say: “Where have you guys been? I’ve been waiting for you.”

We recently made a trip to Montréal and asked our daughter to care for our cats, there are now three of them. When we returned home Tuesday, she reported that she had seen the middle cat, Angus, only once. Panda and Pookie were happy to see us and we expected Angus would hear that we were home and make his appearance. When he didn’t, my wife went next door (the neighbours are away now) and soon found him. He was overjoyed to see us and spent the next 24 hours anxiously checking on us to see that we weren’t going to abandon him again.

Pookie went out that evening and didn’t come back. When he still hadn’t shown up yesterday evening after I got back from the city, we took our flashlights and went looking. We checked around all the many buildings of the farm yard, thinking he might have accidentally been shut in one of them. There was neither sight nor sound to indicate he was anywhere around.

Once again thinking dark thoughts, punctuated by the howling of coyotes not far away, we trudged homeward. As we walked down our lane and got near the house Pookie came trotting out to welcome us home. Why do cats have this infuriating habit of outsmarting us?

I admit it, we are quite attached to our cats, and they to us. I think this is quite normal, not everyone agrees. I believe that people who are patient and kind with animals are more apt to be patient and kind with people, too. And people who are indifferent and even cruel to animals are apt to be that way to people. What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree?  (There are, of course, a few individuals with an emotional imbalance that hinders them from having a real relationship with other people and who try to fill that void with their pets, I’m not thinking of that sort of extreme.)

The sedate, the frolicsome and the frantic

We have three cats and the words above describe their personalities. Panda is the oldest, we consider her to be the same age as our oldest grandson, which means that six weeks from now she will be 13. She was part of a litter discovered in an abandoned car in a back alley in Saskatoon and taken in by a cat rescue operation. We had to pay for her. We assume from her large size, long hair, the ruff around her neck and her serene personality that she is mostly of Maine Coon cat ancestry. She is all black.

Her personality fits well with the elderly couple who share this house with her — my wife and I. We both spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer and when we feel a need to get up and do something more energetic to get the blood flowing again, Panda doesn’t lift an ear. She will come several times a day to where I am working and sit patiently until I take note of her. As soon as I make eye contact, Panda is on her feet and heading towards the kitchen, her ears laid back to hear if I am following. She stops at the place where we keep the comb and brush and waits for me to pick one of them up and come and groom her.

Pookie is our youngest cat, a feral flame point Siamese who showed up half-starved on to our doorstep when he was about six months old and has never left. He is the bounciest and friendliest of our cats, still likes to spend as much time as possible outdoors, but comes home to sleep. He has a little patience and seems to get it when we are too busy to jump up right away to see what he wants. He is the smallest of our cats and has stayed quite lean because of his exuberant lifestyle. He does not like to be picked up, but if we sit on one of the recliners and put our feet up, he will probably jump up on our lap. He is very agile, his jump seems effortless and he lands like a feather.

Angus is our middle cat, a little older than Pookie, black like Panda, short-haired like Pookie and mostly Siamese in conformation. We called him Angus because he is all black, but he looks more like a panther than a cow. He is much bigger than a real Siamese, but he definitely has the personality. Everything is an emergency with Angus. He will not eat unless one of us is in the room with him. If there is food in his bowl, he won’t touch it until we add a little bit more to let him know it is for him. If he wants to eat or to go out, he becomes almost hysterical, running back and forth and meowing frantically. For that reason, his name often come out sounding like Anguish or Anxious.

I am convinced that our cats are beneficial to our mental health and our physical health. They are certainly distracting, but we need those distractions. They are amusing and affectionate and that too is good for us.

Our oldest grandson tends to be quite impulsive and has been known to be rough with his siblings at times. But he has a cat that he dotes on. Before his cat was full grown, it was bitten by a dog, breaking one of the hind legs. He was worried sick about that cat. His parents took it to the vet and she did the best she could, but said that the break was so close to the growth plate that the leg would probably never grow as long as the other and the cat would have a limp. She did better than she knew, the leg is just fine. This is an outdoor cat, but our grandson often brings him in and holds him on his lap. The care and patience he shows with that cat gives me confidence for his future.

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