Animals as Healers

I’ve been thinking about cats a lot lately. I’ve dreamed about them and even thought I was seeing them, only to find out it was something else. For example, the other day we were driving home and I thought I saw a cat in the road. It turned out it was a white plastic bag. For a brief moment, I thought I’d gone crazy until I realized that I’m seriously craving the companionship of an animal. It’s understandable. Most of my life I’ve had a cat. At times I’ve had two and even briefly had up to four cats in the house. For years I’ve followed neighborhood cats on walks, talked to them in my high pitched “mommy voice” and have even been bitten by them. Yesterday I was thinking about my greatest obsession and I realized it’s not art, it’s cats. This is hard to admit. All my life I thought art was my greatest passion. But it’s what is underlying the art that’s important. What is under the surface is what drives me to do the art.

Our cat Sammy died this past February at almost twenty one, and since then, not having a furry creature in the house has been like being on a starvation diet. I realized that my ‘self’ is so blended into these creatures. I think I love cats almost more than anything else in the world. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love my family or my friends. Loving an animal is a different kind of love. When they’re gone, there is a void so wide and so deep there simply isn’t anything to replace it, except another animal.

My “cat guardian angel’ is always with me, perched on my shoulder. Perhaps I project onto these creatures way to much. They are, after all, animals with animal instincts. But who else can you come home to and hug and kiss one thousand times, and they never complain? Animals add so much and can fill empty souls, empty houses and sometimes, empty lives. They can give meaning where meaning can’t be found.

One day my daughter, who two years ago adopted a special needs cat from a local shelter, said to me “I love my cat more than….” and then she stopped herself. I said, “It’s okay..I totally understand. I know you love me too. You can say that you love her more than anyone.”

My last cat was my soulmate. No person has ever felt this way to me. You might be either relating or feeling sorry for me, but my greatest joy is being in that quiet space, that unspoken place with my best furry friend in the world. Maybe it’s a reminder of simple childhood moments. Pure and uncomplicated, without condition.

In 1987 when my mom died I had a cat that eventually lived to be almost twenty two years old. Muff was a black and white tuxedo cat who had been with me since I was in my 20’s, through all those ups and downs, and through marriage and birth. She was with me while I painted in my studio, grieving the loss of my mother. She knew I needed her to be with me. That was a long time ago. Since then I’ve only gone a few months without a cat in my life.

Lately I’ve been on Petfinder and the Facebook pages of the local shelters. My husband was even patient enough to stop at a shelter so I could go in to meet an adorable kitty I’d seen online. Someone had recently filled out papers to adopt her. I was so relieved, while wondering if I’m really ready. Like a person, is there a right time for a new relationship? Or do you just dive in?

Meanwhile, I’m paying tribute to my intense cat/human bond and my obsession. My neighbors’ cat has been visiting a lot. I think he needs some extra attention, so we sit outside together. He purrs and rolls over, ecstatic to realize I’m “a cat person”.

I feel like cats are my healers, my guardian angels. All of them. Even the shy grumpy ones.

Guardian Angel,  acrylic on panel

Guardian Angel, acrylic on panel