Have you ever awakened in the predawn hours with an alarm reverberating in your brain, yanking you from restful slumber? Not, mind you, from an alarm clock erroneously set, but from the stark realization that you have said something dreadfully wrong?
Such it was for me, Saturday, after the Friday night Living Free Women’s Series. My eyes popped wide open and I knew that I would not be able to go back to sleep with the weight of what I’d said on my chest. “How could I have made that comment?” I questioned my still groggy brain.
While talking of the ancient Egyptians and their polytheist culture that included cat worship, I had let slip the remark that I didn’t like cats.
The stark reality of how offensive that might be to cats and cat lovers everywhere (including my own children) tortured me. I rolled out of bed, woke the chickens up and took the dogs for their walk. Oscar (the cat) joined us, as he usually does, and I was filled with remorse. Oscar is not the cat that shaped my opinion of cats. He has, in fact, done much to redeem cat-dom. I realized, as we trailed around the meadow, that I have allowed our first cat, Chloe, to color how I feel about cats in general. Recognizing this as prejudice, in one of its many forms, gave me much to think about.
After my quiet time, I set out for a run, with 10 miles as a goal. I needed time to reflect and do penance for my comment.
My oldest daughter begged for a kitten until we finally got her a birthday cat when she turned four. We named the six-week old black and white ball of fluff Chloe. She was delightfully precious and understandably mischievous. The innocence, however, began to fade when I noticed that my children’s arms and cheeks were continually marred with scratches and pin prick tooth marks from her needle sharp claws and teeth. It became very clear that although the children loved Chloe, she was not as fond of them, although they treated her respectfully.
The girls learned to keep a wise distance, and Chloe assumed a rather royal, unapproachable demeanor. This continued for several years, until one day, the destruction began.
My husband crafted a beautiful coffee table for me out of boards salvaged from the old farmhouse I grew up in. The making of it presented him with numerous challenges, the biggest one being the finishing. Perhaps it was the type of wood (American beech) or the temperature of his shop, or just a lesson in patience, but he re-did the finish at least 4, maybe 5 times. Finally, the finish was done to his satisfaction and we moved the table inside.
Imagine my dismay when we came home not long after, to find 5 deep cat scratches marring the beautiful surface. Chloe was undoubtedly the culprit.
Did she stand on the ballroom-smooth surface of my table, (polished to near perfection by the sweat of my husband’s brow) and rake her back feet against its superb surface as a bull might paw the ground before it charges? Or, did she make a leap, underestimating the slide factor she would encounter, scratching and scrambling feverishly to stop before she landed in an ungraceful heap on the floor, leaving behind the trail of her passage? We don’t have surveillance cameras in our house, so I suppose I’ll never know. Although smoke piped out of my ears and filled our home, we kept her.
The next victim was my pie safe (this, too, handmade by my husband). Once again, I muttered under my breath (and not so much under my breath). Although on shaky ground, the cat stayed. It’s amazing what one will do for the small, upturned, mournful faces of the children you hold dear.
I thought the last straw came the day I returned from a trip to the grocery store. It is entirely unpleasant to come home with bags of groceries and realize that your kitchen table has been used as a litter box. I fumed “That cat is out of here!” as I bleached and scrubbed and bleached some more.
My children, however, pleaded mercy for her once again, and because I love them, I agreed she could stay and turned the occasion into a very teachable moment about God’s grace and how we, like Chloe, do not deserve His mercy.
Thereafter, she peed on a new bean bag chair I bought for the school room, (it now occupies space in an unknown land fill) and my sleeping bag, (the children “camped” out in the school room once when we had family over). Microfiber retains the scent of cat pee in a remarkable way. The only solace I found on the way to the trash bin was simple thankfulness that she had not gotten access to my best down-sleeping bag.
Those episodes (the ones listed are just the highlights) convinced me that Chloe and I needed a change. Six years had elapsed since we welcomed her into our home. Since she no longer had her front claws, we had previously hesitated to put her out. Now, the choice became giving her away or creating the safest environment we could for her in the real world. The children’s love endured, despite her transgressions, and the thought of giving her away was unthinkable to them.
It was, however, a sad day for my children when she was ex-communicated, but I, driven to distraction, could do no less.
A garden shed with a cat door became her new home. I’m delighted to report that she now seems happier, and I can say the same for myself. She has not done any more major damage. Except, that is, she recently crept into my husband’s work truck, while the door was open, and peed on the driver’s seat. We sopped, cleaned and Febreezed. Alas, the smell still remains and needs to be attacked, head on, with some carefully chosen type of cleaning agent.
With these experiences, are you not amazed that I gave another cat to the children last Christmas? This, with the understanding that the cat would live happily outside to keep Chloe company.
Oscar, the new cat, is, I must admit, delightful. He acts more like a canine than a feline. He never bites or scratches, is patient when the children tuck him into doll beds and play school with him. He loves to cuddle and drapes himself willing onto the children’s laps. He goes on family walks with us and has impeccable manners. I am hopeful that he will have a re-formative effect on Chloe.
Although I don’t like to make excuses for the things I say, perhaps now you can see why I made the comment I did. I do, however, recognize that it is intrinsically wrong to judge whole groups by the behavior of one individual, (isn’t that a lesson for all of us?) and will hereby commit to therapy sessions with Chloe, under Oscar’s tutelage.
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.