Poem to a Departed Pet

LIFE AFTER LOSING GEORGE…
Myself and the remaining pride of cats are adjusting…
~ I’m writing poetry…
~ My self contained, independent black teddy bear of a Tom cat – Taz has turned in to a constant fuss bucket…
~ Whereas my sweet, noisy, attention seeking little Miss – Sophia, has largely withdrawn (but gave me a lovely long cuddle this evening before disappearing off to hide again).
I’m so glad of them ❤

I carry my aching heart invisibly. An icicle of pain at its core. But still it will spill, and so the ice melts from my eyes…

My shimmering shades of grief make a rainbow of love and loss, Raining down a tumbling waterfall of tears.

And I choose not to fight the pain; But to cradle it with compassion. As it sits and shapes within.

Sometimes I’m gripped with horror… Or I’ll re-live the latent trauma Of caring for a creature at his life’s end.

But at the time, I was in care mode. All that mattered was calm and comfort As I watched his breath rise and fall.

Then I’ll think ‘My boy is gone’ and weep. There are quiet leaking eyes or loud ugly sobs; So many kinds of tears tear or seep from me.

And my grief will take its own time. I’ll just let it take its wandering course. No medicating or predicating – just let it be – pure and raw.

You see, I’m BLESSED with this sadness. I’ve cared, fed, fussed and hugged. Sharing my life with one of God’s beautiful creatures.

It’s a simple, primal love That sits softly in the heart, as I carry on. And now its’ shape shifts, since

He has finished with the time that was only HIS to give.

Some very kind souls have asked about making gifts or contributing to a memorial, so I have suggested they make a donation to Birman Welfare & Rescue – a lovely group of caring cat people – here’s the link (if you would like to put something toward this cause too) xx

https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8qYFi4iv2u?fbclid=IwAR0SVR98YpLGb0a44G7IzO62VlaumeOnGAFUuWyvkPc6hN35GZAh_f5zHK0

A Cat in the Time of Corona

I have a pride of 3 cats. All very different in shape, size and personality. As I sit and write this, I am mindful of the head of the pride, AKA my furry wingman, AKA George Eyesapphire – to give him his full pedigree / posh name. George is clearly near his life’s end now, so I want to start to gather in our stories, to lift my heart and work through this transitioning time we still have together.

So I’m a cat person. Not anti any other animals – that’s just how it is. They’ve been in my life for most of my life, padding along its’ path with me through childhood and beyond.

I’ve grown up with moggies – rough-ty, tough-ty creatures created by a blend of genetics that chance and neighbourhood dictated. But then, one day I met 2 Birman cats who belonged to a friend. They were enchanting to look at and engaging to know, so I stored up a little desire, that one day, I would have one of my own.

It was actually many years later that the fates conspired for that desire to become a reality. I found a breeder and went to visit a litter of 6 kittens. All male. I walked in the house to be assailed by a terrier barking a greeting or warning at me – I didn’t know him well enough to decide which. At this point the mother cat strolled up to the dog and swiped him across the face, with a careful, clawless paw, then strolled away. The dog suitably admonished ceased his barking and I was left in peace to gaze at a raised basket full of sleeping kittens.

Well, when I say the basket was full, that’s true. But that fact didn’t matter, because one such creature had his head draped over the edge of the basket, sleeping sweetly. I knew right then and there, that this was my boy. I’m not sure that there was ever any choice involved, or who made the decision. It’s more that it was just so…

George at around 4 months old

So my partner at the time and the breeder woke up the sonambulant balls of gorgeous fluff and made me inspect them all. Over my head, they discussed colouration and type. They placed other kittens in my outstretched hands. But it made no difference, because I already knew…

Then the breeder’s grandson, aged about 8, swooped in to play with them, joyously mauling them about. They all took it in good stead. So I knew they were well socialised, they had grown up in a home rather than a cage and could cope with dogs and childish man-handling. We handed over a bundle of cash and stashed the kitten in a cat carrier.

I had him out of the carrier once we were in the car and we started to get to know each other. As we drove past Middlemarch Business Park on the edge of Coventry, it occurred to me that I would call my new friend George, for three reasons: in honour of local author George Eliot (a nom de plum for Mary Ann Evans); to reflect the swoon worthy, handsomeness of actor George Clooney; and not least that this was the name of my best friend’s father, who I was inordinately fond of and had recently passed away.

My mother, also a cat lover from childhood, gave me some money towards the purchase of my puss. She joked many times, over the years that followed, that his flowing, lustrous brown tail was technically owned by her, whilst giving it a stroke and admiring it, with a smile.

We took George home and I witnessed the confident evolutionary temerity of a creature who had been transplanted from mother and siblings, taken to a new territory with new guardians, yet immediately adjusted to his new surroundings, as if they weren’t anything new – just the latest game or meal or place to snuggle.

I’ve witnessed this phenomenon before and since, filtering an animal’s actions through my human senses, but it still surprises me everytime. I guess it is one of those evolutionary quirks that have made the feline / human bond so sustainable. Adult cats I notice are often not so quick to adjust, having inprinted on a territory. But basically experience and a stint as a cat sitter has taught me that most cats will accept food from any old stranger and very quickly assimilate them as a friend on that basis.

That being said, cats, like many creatures, form their favourites and it’s intriguing to see their choice at play. In George’s case, we bonded straight away, even though at the time we were introduced, I was a dyed in the wool career woman, who worked 50-60 hours a week, whilst George stayed at home with my partner Clint, who ran a business empire from his dining room table.

But George was always my boy. At the end of the working day he would sit and wait by the front door, for my return.

Two weeks after his arrival in the house, Clint bought in another kitten, a beautiful, little tabby cat we called Tigga. She was sharp and stripey. She was the antithesis of the laid back George, who absolutely hated her. But she played him, she followed him around, annoyed him and was not put off by swipes and growls. And one day, when George was purring on my lap, she crept on too and grabbed him. This time instead of growling, George started purring and they become inseparable. So different to look at, but just content in each other’s company.

As a kitten, George was sweet and playful, and very little trouble. He would sleep peacefully at the end of our bed and generally act the complete feline gentleman. In delightful contrast, Tigga though rampaged through the house, hunted everything in sight (once we let them outdoors) and turned the bedroom upside down, so we couldn’t get any sleep unless she was barracaded out. Especially since, just as George had chosen me, Tigga knew that Clint was her special hu(man)-person and would insist on clawing at his head and purring in his ear instead of letting him sleep.

Clint and I broke up a few months later. It was all very amicable and we stayed friends for a few years, until we both moved on to pastures and people new. It was clear that each cat had their own hu-parent, so Tigga stayed behind, as George and I packed up house and home for our next adventure.

And so he grew from a kitten into a handsome adult cat. George is a Seal Point Birman and his beautiful long, fluffy coat and evolved, developed and changed over the years. The base colour is a creamy white. All his extremities – ears, nose, paws and tail are rich dark brown. The brown on his face was centred on his nose as a baby and over time spread like a chocolate tide to cover his noble, fluffy face.

But his stand out feature is his eyes. They are a beautiful sapphire blue – large liquid orbs of love, annoyance or demand, taking his surroundings in and regarding them with the happiness or contempt that they deserve.

Sunbathing in our garden

Now, a long haired pedigree cat is a beautiful thing and with beauty often comes a certain amount of maintenance and effort. He grooms himself constantly of course and unless I groom him too, the fur flies through the air and sticks to every surface with magnetic purpose. I could spend hours brushing him and he would happily spend hours being brushed. As far as George is concerned, being brushed is sheer heaven. One of life’s absolute great pleasures. Brush the back, brush the sides, don’t forget the tail. Turn him over and brush the belly, which if neglected turns curly and sheep like. Then pull the fur off the brush and drop it into the bin, then begin again, until one of you grows bored of the pursuit. Then I look down into the bin and there are clouds of fur – cream and brown, billowing around and I marvel at how he isn’t actually bald, but constantly regrowing to maintain his fabulous furry mien.

And as a pretty pedigree is he a soft, characterless cushion of a cat? Far from it. He is a strong willed alpha male who has put himself at the head of the pride and will see off random feline interlopers who dare to stalk across its boundaries, with tooth, claw and ear splitting war-cry yowls.

Quite apart from the war cries, is the vast lexicon of his language – a panolpoly of vocabulary delivered at a cat’s whisper or rousing howl – deep, gutteral and primal, with every shade of sound and volume in between. Sometimes he cries endlessly with existential angst, others he demands attention, then again sometimes no sound is needed and he signals his wants and affections with a head butt or a cheek rub. One of my favourite things is that in the kitchen, whilst waiting for food, he will gently nudge my leg with his nose, a joint mark of affection and attention seeking.

Underneath that dictionary of meows, is the core of communication, the purring. His is low and steady, ramping up in intensity, the happier he becomes, usually when he is being brushed or having a chin scratch – which in his world, is the height of ecstasy.

And with all this, he has yet another layer of language – a series of low grunts and winnows overlaying the purring, which to my human brain sound like quiet declarations of love – although I completely accept I may only believe that, because that’s what I also give to him, in abundance.

Like most relationships, ours is multi-faceted. Because we’re both strong willed and stubborn, we’ve fallen out frequently, yet he is always the first to forgive and want to make up. And I have no choice but to acquiese in the face of such grace, every single time…

I could tell so many anecdotes, share so many stories, because George is 15 years old now. So there have been thousands of cuddles, of whispered exchanges. So much love and affection. So much pooh to clear up and the occasional dead animal. Unlike my two moggies who regard hunting as a constant, necessary sport and will frequently home hapless live creatures which I have to wrest from them and then repatriate to the wild, George was always a sporadic hunter.

The sporadic hunter in his favourite sleeping spot

Maybe once a year, he heads off and returns with a dead creature, such as a baby rabbit, and then, makes a big ceremony of laying it at my feet, then hunkering down and flicking his head proudly, for all the world like a patriarchal lion, providing for his pride. On one occasion he bought home a stoat – quite a magificent creature, with the most amazing coat. It is almost as if he likes to demonstrate that he is ‘all cat’ underneath that fluffy pedigree exterior.

Time passed and in his 14th year, as an old timer, he’d started to forget the fastidious toilet habits that most cats have, so the bane of my life became clearing up and trying to prevent mess and smell. I mean… cat’s pee… a vile smell that hits the back of the nose and refuses to be shifted by even the most advanced of modern cleaning products. And wasn’t just forgetfulness, sometimes, if I fell short as a hu-mum by leaving him alone too long, there would be a ‘protest pooh’ And once cats start this habit, the smell draws them back and they feel compelled to become repeat offenders. After a lifetime of freedom of the house, he and the other cats were all banned from the bedroom. I read up on what to do, I posted in online cat forums, but there was no one real solution. Until one day, I’m afraid I lost my own shit and yelled at him. A little later, the little sod started to squat on the carpet – so rather than yelling again, I picked him up and carried him over to the litter tray, with encouraging words. After a few more accidents / protests, he started to use the facilities rather than my living room carpet as his loo.

Apart from ‘pooh gate,’ after a life time of good health, some tests early last year revealed he had a kidney condition and towards the autumn he started, noticably to lose weight. Towards the end of September last year he had also developed an upper respiratory tract infection. I booked him in for a vet’s visit and then he started sneezing blood.

Within a few hours he had somehow sneezed blood all over the house. I found it on floor, carpet and walls. I had to cover up all my soft furnishings as within a short space of time, the house looked like the set of an armageddon movie.

When I got to the vet, she said he looked “chipper” but that sneezing blood was bad. She could put him to sleep right there or give him ‘one chance.’ I chose the chance, bought several types of medication and brought him home.

Back at the house I carefully placed his travel basket in the hall way as usual and opened the door. He stumbled out, clearly having lost the use of his back leg. I assumed he’d had a stroke, wailed with anguish, then called the vet. She wasn’t happy and we pretty much decided that he had used up his ‘chance’, but it was late in the day, so we arranged for me to take him back the following day. His leg, although not working, did not seem to be giving him any pain and he followed me round the house on his 3 good remaining ones.

Knowing this was our last night together, I slept on the sofa that night. A few minutes after I lay down, George jumped up and draped himself across my stomach. He lay there all night, purring for much of the time. It was a long, sleepless night for me, but I was so grateful to have that time with him before I had to say good bye.

When we both woke to the light of day, George had stopped sneezing blood. He also had some mobility back in his leg. I called the vet and cancelled the appointment, changing for a few days later. He was now on his second chance.

In the days that followed I went into a tail spin of grief tinged with panic. I couldn’t stop myself from talking about him constantly, whilst also joking to friends and colleagues that I was becoming a ‘dying cat bore.’

There followed many vet visits, injections and conversations about when he should be put to sleep. I started to dread taking him there, feverishly imagining they would grab him off me and forcibly take his life.

Meanwhile he became a cushion cat, barely moving from one spot on the sofa, except to do the daily necessities. Every day for months I dropped antibiotics down his throat to treat the constant sneezing. He was put on a special diet for his kidnies and at the back of my mind I wondered if he lost weight partyly because he hated it. Sneezing was a constant fact of our lives… sometimes it would be a good old fashioned wet sneeze, other times looked infected or bloody, regardless it was constant. It wasn’t fair to let him go on like that, I was coming round to the vet’s point of view and so the question became ‘when..?’

And when I reached ‘when’, I decided that I would stop giving him pills and taking him for injections. And if he only had a short time to live, then he may as well go back to having his favourite food again…

Somehow the autumn turned colder and shifted down towards Christmas. Having reached that far, and his being no worse, I decided to wait until the New Year… Christmas is always spent with my brother. I go for 2 nights and did not want to leave George in the care of anyone else, so took him with me.

My brother, observing the cat, remarked on how alert he was, how well he seemed (despite the constant sneezing) and how he took an interest in his surroundings, including several excursions into the garden. And somehow this little holiday seemed to shake George out of his antibiotic fuelled, cushion cat phug.

He got off the cushion and recognisably became his old self… After months of slow deterioration I had transitioned through the loss of alot of his characteristic quirks – like grumpiness with the other cats, being yelled at if I was the wrong side of a door, or having my belly pock marked with claw prints as he gave a purring paw dance at bed time. And then the sneezing stopped.

He was thin, but he ate prodigiously and often. Somehow we had both got a reprieve. And I always knew that there would be no miracle cure and that his span would still be relatively short, but he was still here. And he was having a good, happy quality of life, drug free, although I did put all the cats back on a more medicinal diet.

So there were months of gratitude that we had this bonus time together. I thanked him endlessly for choosing to stay and I treasured every second of licking and purring along with the constant contextual moments of habit and happiness that he shared with me. Time trickled from Spring into Summer and we would spend our spare time in the sunshine as the gates of COVID-19 lockdown kept me more close to home than ever.

And if I was grateful that George had stayed around, then to have his presence with me through lockdown was a balm. He relished having me working from home and glued his self to my side as I worked for long hours on my laptop and mobile phone. My summer birthday came and went and then so did his – on 10 July 2020, George Eyesapphire turned the ripe old age of 15.

And so I write about him in past tense as I recall the memories and also the present tense, because he is here in this room with me, but in a sense not here too, clearly withdrawing from life as his alloted span runs its course. So I write to manage the pain of losing him, which has already started, for very soon now he will be a creature of memory, made then of fixed pixelated image. Then I will cry more and smile and grieve and be glad that I knew him.

All my cats are different, so I love them all differently. Already I start to feel his loss, where there will be his shape missing in my heart. The flavour of the love I have for George is made of time and temperament; millions of shared moments; simple co-existence; the sheer pleasure of just watching him – sleeping, grooming, being. He is a strong character who holds a definitive place in my soul, so the grieving is starting to gnaw at me and I will give myself up to it soon enough, but for now, I wish to live in the living moments. To try to understand this bond we have. This animal human co-existence is built on and yet bypasses cupboard love. This creature is part friend, part family and it’s a simple primal feeling which is possibly made all the more solid by its very simplicity.

And I’m running out of words now, like my darling George is running out of time. But then again you see, it is his time and given all the love and lessons that we have shared together these 15 years, then I know that this time has been good. And we’ve both been blessed by sharing it.

Postscript: George passed away today. In the past 36 hours he suddenly deteriorated. I will spare you the details. And for all my mixed feelings about vets and euthanasia, I asked to the vet to come to my home as soon as possible, to end his suffering.

So he left the living world with kind words and a gentle cuddle from the creature he was closest to. And I can’t vouch for him, but that surely has to be a fine way to go. He has been in the room with me now for a few hours, so I can say my final farewells to the physical part of him. I have also let the other two cats see him. They sniffed him without interest and went on with their day, so I guess that was more for my benefit than theirs.

My brother is coming over soon and he will be with me for what happens next – when George leaves the house for a while and then returns in altered form. I haven’t decided what comes after that. I can bide my time and let my subconscious and I work it all out from there.

At this moment in time, I am tearful, but calm, feeling I made the last best act of love for him. I am so very grateful to have known / loved him, and he, me, for what is almost exactly 15 years to the day, together.

As I reflect I realise too that I have been incredibly privileged to have been a first hand witness to the complete life cycle, from kitten-hood to old age, of one of the Universe’s many amazing creations. I am blessed beyond measure for the experience.

And that is all for now. I guess my feelings will flux as the shock wears off and I adjust to him not being here. But those are other moments that do not or may not ever exist… and right now, I will inhabit this moment and what ever that entails.

Good bye, my blue eyed Birman baby boy.

S xx

What Cats Teach Us About Life: Cats, Coffee and the Compliance of Civits

Number 27 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

Indonesians Farm Civet Cats To Produce World's Most Valuable Coffee

The ‘Coffee Pooh’ Civit

Over the course of this month’s blog challenge on my twin themes of Coaching and Cats, I have been digging deeper into one of the coaching tools I often employ, which is a psychometric inventory based on the DISC personality assessment system.  The letters stand for the four main personality traits it describes: namely Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.  I have been gently evolving this in to DISCC – ‘DISC for Cats’, since, as well as personality assessment, I also have extensive experience in the field of cat guardianship (not ownership – you never own a cat) and so I shall now be consciously combining the personality and the puss.

The cat trait I shall be investigating today is the ‘C’ of the DISC model, which stands for Compliance.   And my four legged muse to assist me in this exploration, is a very intelligent and self-possessed puss I used to be the guardian of – a handsome ginger tom by the name of Muttley.

Muttley was an urban tiger, twice the size of the average domestic cat and probably three times as clever.  He was a rescue cat I took guardianship of (from a cat charity) when he was, we guessed, around eighteen months old.

On first acquaintance he was neutrally grateful for his warm new home, then gradually, slowly, more of his personality started to emerge.  I only ever had to tell Muttley anything once and he got it.  I soon realised too that this cat understood all the rules of the house instantly, and in fact knew them better than I did.

Not long after he arrived in my life, I went away for a night and left him alone with a cat feeding device – a machine with a timer that was programmed to pop open at a pre-determined time, in order to dispense his dinner.  It was a new fangled, fan dango’ed sort of machine that took me around 2 hours to figure out, assemble and then set up.  Despite this complexity, I discovered, when I returned home 24 hours later, this same device, broken in to little pieces, easily dis-assembled by my cat and now scattered across the kitchen floor…

I never left Muttley on his own again – for he had taught me the intricacies of Compliance – not a sissy, ‘do as you are told’ sort of compliance, but a ‘I know it all, so let me show you how’ kind instead…

The C in this trait stands for Conscientious as well as Compliance.  It is all about detail, preciseness and perfectionism, which was why, when I was casting about for a wild cat to cast as a representative for it, that I thought of the Civit – or to be compliantly precise – the Asian Palm Civet…

Some where, way back, down along their long genetic lineages, it is thought that the cat and the civet had a common ancestor.  Over the morass of millennia, convergent and parallel evolution has produced different animal lines, which because of their common ancestry and habitat may even develop some similar traits, including the ‘C’ one.

The Asian Palm Civet is actually a small, (domestic) cat-sized grey / black, long tailed creature. It has a more pointed muzzle than a moggy – and looks like a hybrid between a cat and a raccoon.  In fact, rather than being a cat, it is more closely related to the modern mongoose.

It is a carnivorous creature, living most notably in Indonesia and feeding in the wild on rodents, insects, fruits and curiously (for us humans), coffee berries.  Because of its’ coffee habit, this Civit has a paw in the production of ‘Kopi Luwak’, a coffee that is prepared using the coffee berries which they eat and partially digest.  The beans are then harvested from their fecal matter.   The reason that this coffee is so prized, is that Civits only eat the finest and ripest beans – since by sense and smell they know exactly which are the very best.

The civet’s efforts allegedly add to the coffee’s prize aroma and flavour.  As such, this ‘Civit Pooh Coffee’ is therefore the gold dust of the caffeine world, commanding big dollars in comparison to its’ non-digested coffee cousins.

So just as my mog Muttley could see exactly how everything worked, consequently the ‘coffee pooh’ Civit can also only select the correct coffee berries.  It is, of vital importance to the ‘C’ trait, that things are done exactly the right way and according to the rules.

This all works when the ‘C’ characteristic knows what the rules actually are… I remember taking Muttley with me to stay with family for Christmas, and on the first night he wandered around the strange house, dis-planted from his territory and meowing constantly, whilst the rest of us attempted to sleep… At this juncture, if he were a human ‘C’ – out of his comfort zone, his meows would be signifying a whole range of questions – where, why, how and what..? All asked in order to re-establish the direction of his internal compass.

The ‘C’ then, is most comfortable when things are ‘right’.  So they tend to be motivated by getting things right and hence, by being right; and they are very good at it, for they are great listeners and attentive to corrective detail.  Then, with all these details established and to hand, they can then make sure and certain decisions; yet without all the data, statistics and cogent facts at their disposal, they are reluctant to commit to a conclusion. C’s do not tend to thrive on tension and will avoid it or will pick at the holes and flaws of its’ concern, (which they can see a hundred paces ahead), in order to steer clear of combustible conflict.

So where Muttley knew his territory, tricks and escape routes, he would stand his ground, yet where there was any element of uncertainty he would flee, back to his safe home and to me. So whether human, cat or small, (lithe-bodied, nocturnal), mongoose like mammal, the ‘C’ has its’ detailed role to play – notated and checked to the nth degree – to check and perfect and to get life right.

In amongst all the mnemonics in DISC I can see the need for ‘C’ and all the different elements in my world.  And, like a lot of people, cats and civits, have many of the traits blended to a certain degree, to make a constant and evolving recipe of me.

PS: Sadly the Asian Palm Civit’s coffee talents have been abused by some in their native Indonesia, who have force-fed them a debilitating diet of coffee berries in diabolical living conditions, in order to harness their excreted harvest.  Fortunately there is now a campaign under way to encourage ‘ethical’ civet coffee…

PPS: Today’s Civit centric information has been digested and regurgitated from the websites o: f A-Z Animals, Wikipedia, messybeast.com/cat-prehistory.htm, and Cat Poop Coffee Inc.

PPPS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, cats and all?  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a purrfect present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

What Cats Teach Us About Life: The Steadiness of the Leopard

Number 26 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

leopard

As a Coach and an admirer of Cats, I realised some time ago that these two things need not necessarily be mutually exclusive; in fact they could cogently combine, and so I find, that I am constantly developing my philosophies of and musings on, ‘Coaching with Cats’.

As a qualified Occupational Tester, one of the tools I use most often is a psychometric inventory based on the DISC personality assessment system.  The letters stand for what are regarded as the four main personality traits – Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.  I am now gently developing this in to DISCC – ‘DISC for Cats’, since, as well as personality assessment, I also have extensive experience in the field of cat guardianship (not ownership – you never own a cat) and so I shall be combining the personality and the puss.

The trait that my cats and myself shall be scrutinizing today is the ‘S’ of the DISC model, which stands for Steadiness.   And my assistant in this task today is the living, loving teddy bear that is my cat Taz.

Taz is not always the most obvious of creatures, (apart from at meal times), and rarely is he bothering and badgering me for attention. A sweet but solitary creature, he often likes to hide out at the top of the stairs, squeeze into dark corners or park himself behind curtains – under desks or any where that offers him a good view and a secret blanket of safety.

He reminds me of a small Leopard, one of those graceful and powerful big cats closely related to lions, tigers, and jaguars.  His wild cousins have territories spread across the vast reaches of Africa and Asia, and have been known to humans throughout long millennia, being featured in the art, mythology, and folklore of many places, from Arabia to Britain and far beyond.

Leopards are in nature elusive, solitary and largely nocturnal, of which aspects Taz quietly draws upon.  The key thing about personalities that belong to this type is their rhythmic pace and steadiness, and as such they can offer a calm predictability.  They are very grounded in the present, but are also great at meeting dedicated deadlines ahead of time.  Hence Taz will linger around for food, insinuating him self into my presence often two or three hours ahead of the pre-prescribed time.

Taz is definitely a lover rather than a fighter, preferring to do things the peaceful way – yet if the occasion calls for it, he will see off intruder cats from the garden, simply by staring them out.  It is a magnificent thing to observe – seeing him in his silent, steady power.
For all his independence and secrecy, Taz is too, very loving and steadily affectionate.  He is naturally friendly with everyone, but like all ‘S’ types, will take some time to get to know you before he loves you.  And since he is a true creature of habit, he likes to demonstrate his love, for me, with regularity, at round about 10.00 pm each night, when I will be sought out, then head butted, paw pounded and purred at.

It is always a two way scenario with this little Leopard and so I must, of course love him back…

Taz is one of the quietest cats I know, but when he has something to communicate, he draws on rich variety of methods.  Leopards too produce a number of vocalizations, including grunts, roars, growls, meows, and purrs.  My favourite Taz talk is his ‘thrup’ or what is known in the wild cat world as ‘prusten’ – a blown breathy nostril snort also made by tigers and snow leopards, as a sound of happy recognition.

Since they are such good communicators and excellent listeners – S’s tend to be great problem solvers too and will often reach their conclusions through group consensus.  Hence more and more Taz is to be found hanging out with all members of The Pride – especially during his patterned and favourite time of evening.

Taz rarely pushes or forces and loves to be quietly adorable and agreeable, even under pressure.  And unless it is a matter of food or safety, he would rather I called the shots and made all the decisions. This means that he can then just quietly takes his purring place in The Pride…

Taz is truly my own little Leopard.  He is a sweet hearted and gentle panther of a fluffy black cat, and a beautiful constant, quietly making his presence felt in my life and in the circle of The Peachey Pride.

PS: Today thanks go to the Wikipedia and National Geographic websites for their excellent information on Leopards.

PPS: A collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a book.  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a ‘purrfect’ present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

The Gorgeous Serendipity of Cats, Writing and World Book Night…

Number 25 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

World Book Night 15

Yesterday I received an email, which began:

“CONGRATULATIONS! We’re thrilled to tell you that you’ve been chosen as a World Book Night 2015 volunteer! You will be joining thousands of other volunteers across the country to share your love of reading and inspire others to begin their reading journey.”

I have taken part as a volunteer for World Book Night before, for a number of reasons – not least because I have a love of books and words, which I got from my father (now departed), who read to me every night as a child.  As a result I was transported to exciting new worlds and introduced to a host of characters; I learnt and grew my vocabulary: and to this day love where writing can take you, in every sense – allowing you to escape (from the every day), to learn, and to grow, and all this whilst being entertained.

Of course, not every one has had the start that I did, nor have formed a reading practice for what ever reason…

Run by The Reading Agency, World Book Night is celebrated in Britain on 23 April and the Their Website explains what it is all about:

“Reading for pleasure is a globally recognised indicator in a huge range of social issues from poverty to mental health, yet in the UK 35% of people don’t regularly read.

World Book Night brings together a powerful collaboration of national partners – publishers, printers, distributors, libraries, booksellers, private donors, trusts and foundations – to inspire more people to read. Thousands of volunteers share their love of reading by giving out books to people in their communities who, for whatever reason, don’t read for pleasure or own books. National, regional and local events up and down the country celebrate the difference that reading makes to people’s lives.”

As an avid reader and a published author, my wish is that as many people as possible get the opportunity to receive and read.  Every year there are a number of titles that are donated by publishers to give away and when you apply to be a volunteer, you also apply for which particular titles you would like to give out.

The organisers weren’t always able to give everyone their first choice, but did manage to allocate volunteers one of their top three choices.  I am delighted to say that I got my first choice and I chose my title for a very specific set of reasons.

So, on the evening of the 23rd of April I will be giving out 18 copies of: ‘Street Cat Bob: How One Man and a Cat Saved Each Other’s Lives. A True Story.’ This is a brand new, ‘Quick Read’ edition of a book I read several years ago called: ‘A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets’.

Street Cat Bob

The book tells the true and uplifting story of James Bowen, a drug addict, busker and Big Issue seller, living off the streets of London, and his cat – a ginger tom called Bob.

When the author found this injured street cat in the hallway of his sheltered housing, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. Soon the two were best friends, and their funny and sometimes dangerous adventures would change both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts.

It is an easy and inspiring read, taking you into the world of James and Bob and detailing the slow, not always easy redemption of each of them.

As a reader, writer and cat lover, it was therefore the perfect choice for me, not least because I am currently exploring ‘What Cats Teach Us About Life’ in a series of blogs that I have been posting online this month, as part of a blog challenge I have set myself.  My brief is to write a piece every day of the month of February and it has been a fabulous experience, exploring how cats can give us so much pleasure, support and if we choose to see it – learning too.

The serendipity of World Book Night offering the opportunity to be a volunteer (acceptance is not guaranteed); then offering this title (they offer a wide variety of options which are different every year) and then accepting me as a volunteer to give out this particular book, all in this month when I am writing about cats and what they can teach us, is completely perfect and also an opportunity for which I am gorgeously grateful.

Alongside this, I will also be giving away some free copies of my own book ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’, showing how the simple act of writing a letter, can be a healing release that any one who can write, can do…

During March, World Book Night will be releasing details of events across the United Kingdom so you will see more from them, me and the army of volunteers gearing up for the evening of 23rd April.

I now have to decide where and who the books will go to… I live near Coventry in the West Midlands, so will be staying as local as possible.  I already have some ideas, but would also welcome ideas for organisations, groups and individuals that would really love the opportunity to start, re-discover or develop a new reading routine.  Please feel free to contact me through my blog with any suggestions that you have.

I have three cats of my own of course – so George, Taz and Sophia – whether they know it or not, they are all lending me their support.  And this year, as far as I am concerned, four paws is most definitely the way to go…

Watch this space for more World Book Night news… 

PS: World Book Night can be found and followed on Facebook and Twitter.

PPS: A collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a book.  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a ‘purrfect’ present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

What Cats Teach Us About Life: How to find the ‘I’ in Serval…

Number 23 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

Serval

I am blending and blurring the lines of my life… Linking the disparate and disciplined, making a whole picture out of all the multi coloured jigsaw pieces of my creation – born and made. And by doing so, I am bringing more of me into who I am and what I do, in everything, so that life is more natural and more easy… Blissful sigh… Smug pause…

Whilst I am practising the art of being more of myself, being more ‘natural and easy’, cats of course, are just getting on with it.  And the elements of my life that I shall be drawing together today, are the observation and interaction of (human) personality theories, as applied to cats…

As a qualified Occupational Tester, one of the tools I use most often is a psychometric inventory based on the DISC personality assessment system.  The letters stand for what are regarded as the four main personality traits – Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.  I shall now gently develop this in DISCC – ‘DISC for Cats’, since, as well as personality assessment, I also have extensive experience in the field of cat guardianship (not ownership – you never own a cat) and so I shall be combining the personality and the puss.

The trait I shall be investigating with my cats today is the ‘I’ of the DISC model, which stands for Influence.   And my four legged muse to assist me in this exploration, is the youngest member of The Pride – my kitten-cat Sophia.

I know a lot about this particular trait since I, most definitely am a ‘High I’, so far be it from me to chastise Sophia for displaying all its’ inherent aspects – really loudly and really intensely.  Now, aside from the delivery, the ‘I’ is about influencing, so Sophia always wants me to be on her side and therefore keeps up a constant barrage of conversational mews, meows, trills, chirrups, and squeaks. These linguistic gambits play on a constant, incessant communication – of what she wants, how she feels, and where she is.

In the wild cat world, this would make her a Serval, a creature which lives in the savannahs and grasslands of Africa. Servals are show off cats, being the only wild feline that has both spots and stripes, allowing them to camouflage perfectly in to their grassy habitat. This helps them to be both an efficient hunter and a hider – ensuring that they are not seen by larger predators.  And just in case they then happen to be happened upon, the Serval also has markings on the back of its ears that look like big, scary, ‘leave me alone’ eyes.

Servals fit into the ‘I’ trait in that they are very well adapted to their environment. Most I’s have a quick paced flexibility to react to and fit into their surroundings; and also with their peers.  They will also have a tendency to hide from trouble rather than meet it head on. Servals have very large ears, enabling them to hear prey from up to 20 feet away, just as Sophia can hear the opening of a cat food pouch through walls, doors and fields away.

After the Cheetah, the Serval is the fastest of the wild cats, reaching running speeds of up to 30 miles an hour.   Any one who has met Sophia will know that she displays the typical High I characteristics of being incredibly fast paced, virtually all of the time.  These adaptations serve the Serval well and so this cat catches nearly half the prey that it goes after, in comparison to the lion, which only catches about 30 percent.  Sophia too is speedily adept at being the first to the food bowl, to the lap and out of the cat flat, all three achieved, usually within the space of speedy seconds.

If you were to ask an ‘I’ how to go about doing – just about anything, you would invariably find them carrying it out in the most fun, sociable or brightest way.   Servals and Sophia alike, want to get to the bottom of things and so as a type, are typified by the question ‘why’, and as arch socialisers, will want to know ‘who’ too. Sophia is always whizzing around, focussing on the next best thing, paws flying definitively towards the future.  She loves to be acknowledged and praised and will squeak back her undisguised pleasure at your ministrations, be they physical or verbal.

She is, most definitely an ‘I’ in that she is like quick silver – sensitive, reactive and intuitive, blowing with the wind or racing like a Serval across the Savannah (of the garden).  Her mission is to entertain and amuse you; but put her under stress or cross her, and the claws will (literally) be out and she will hiss out her (rare) displeasure.

The Serval type is a natural motivator, coercing you firmly and positively towards the end goal – usually of food or love.   This can all become all too much when a salvo of deliberate posing, posturing and purrs can just amount to manipulative attention seeking tactics, with  desperate striving to get to something or some one, regardless of whether the object of all that forced attention, wishes for the same thing.

Usually though you are on the same page, and visitors are enchanted by her obvious charms.  I had a recent guest who had not met my I-type cat before and wondered where she was. I explained with a twinkle that one thing is for certain – you will never miss Miss Sophia’s entrance into any room; and sure enough, in she soon flashed, meowing her little head off, demanding every one’s attention and then enthusiastically checking them all out.

I like to think that some how I am more soothing and subtle to be around, yet appreciate that this I-trait, is after all, all about the ‘I’… And in that respect Sophia and I are most definitely twin attention seeking souls…

PS: The source of the Serval information was: georginadp6.weebly.com/characteristics.html

PPS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, cats and all?  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a purrfect present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

What Cats Teach Us About Life: How to be a LION…

Number 21 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

lion 1

I commenced this blogging challenge with the intention of playing around with some concepts for a potential book and then, how like me… I start getting ahead of myself…  My blog posts are splurges of various themes, concepts and embryonic ideas.  And having already published a book, I now know that for me to write the next tome, demands that I grab all these disparate elements and turn them into some sort of sensible structure.  The (not yet) book is cat and coaching themed and has gone by various working titles… For the longest time it had the vanity title of ‘Peachey Cats: Lessons in Love Life and Litter’; then the simpler ‘Coaching with Cats’ and most recently, the ‘does what it says on the tin’ title of ‘What Cats Teach Us About Life’.

The (not yet) book is a constantly evolving concept, with various possibilities and opportunities to explore.  Today, three quarters of the way through my 28 day blog writing challenge, an idea for a structure, struck me, like these often do, like a soft thunderbolt…

It has arisen out of one of the recurring themes that has come up during this spate of writing, which is that whereas the various aspects of my life (work, dreams, hobbies, interests, etc and so on) used to be compartmentalised; now increasingly they have merged… So it happens that I am currently writing a book about cats, being a coach and about me, weaving in anecdotal strands about my cats, my clients and myself.

The structure will reveal itself all in good time and for today, I will start to add in some of the more major structural elements, even though as yet, they will still lay scattered about, rather like a jigsaw waiting patiently to be pieced together, to create the whole picture…

So the elements of my life that I shall draw together today are personality theories and cats.  I doubt very much whether I shall be either the first or last writer ever to do this, but I know I shall be the only one ever (I trust), to include four particular cats called George, Sophia, Taz and Whiskers as my muses and (four pawed) metaphors.

I shall now start on the Personality Piece:  I am a qualified Occupational Tester, which means that I have been trained in and practised, for an incessantly long time, a number of inventories that assess a number of things, including personality traits, aptitudes and emotional intelligence.  Much as I love to think that I intrinsically know people and can quickly get their measure, I have found the use of such tools invaluable, not least because they provide a model for measurement, comparison and discussion that can be used in many and various ways, not least as a coach.

One of the tools I use most often is the DISC personality assessment system.  The letters stand for what are regarded as the four main personality traits – Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.  I shall now be promulgating ‘DISCC’ – or DISC for Cats, since, as well as personality assessment, I also have extensive experience in the field of cat guardianship (not ownership – you never own a cat) and I now shall be combining the personality and the puss.

The first trait in the DISC model is Dominance and the first cat in The Pride is George, so it is natural that one should signify the other.  In the cat world this trait is firmly and fairly represented by The Lion.

So how does George demonstrate the facets of being the Dominant Lion?  Firstly, despite his fluffy, charming exterior, he clearly regards himself as both the Head and Alpha Male of the Pride.  Lions easily can turn on their strong directed charm, if it gets them what they want. Of all the cats in the Cave, George has the most dog like, ‘standing in his own power’ characteristics.  The phrase that most fits him is, ‘I want it my way’ – not yours, not theirs’, but my way and mine alone. George is very exacting in his wants – he wants the best sleeping spot (next to me), he expects to lead, never to follow and even it if is dinner time – that or the mere fact that the other cats are starving, is of no consequence – he will demand to be fed, when he wants to be fed, not led by minor dinner dictates set by the rest of us in The Pride.

George is a ‘what?’ cat.  He always wants to know what is going on – and always insinuating himself into my coaching sessions, or my reading, or writing and what ever else is going on in the Cave and basically taking charge, just like any lion.

His focus is always about ‘now’.  He wants what ever he wants right here and now.  I may have a fourteen inch screen laptop perched squarely on my lap, but such an obstacle will never stop him if he has decided he wants to lay across my legs.  Rebuffals will be met with a persistent nonchalance and an utter determination to get to his goal.

It is not about the anticipation with the leonine George, he is instead, motivated by getting things done / completed / sorted – all as they should be, which is always as he decrees.

When it comes to decisions, he is all about the impulse – what ever is the quickest thing that will get him to where he wants to be.  And the timing for that destination, will always be now. Lock him out of the bedroom where I and the sweetest sleeping spot is, and he will loudly yowl his right to have that door opened for and to him.  Like the lion he is, he will keep on yowling, until he gets his result. Put him under stress or duress, and suddenly the Cave becomes an Autocracy – and George will take charge and deal with the situation.  He will ensure that he gets the result he wants – even if that means that he has to be aggressive in pursuing his point – as any unwarranted human or feline who breaches the confines of the cave will attest.  He will doggedly pursue any intruders and see off the cat sized ones in an instant.  The human sized ones will be swiftly sussed out and then quickly either accepted or rejected – placed in their Pride order and so acknowledged or dismissed.

So that is the DISC personality theory according to George.  And George being the lion that he is, knows exactly what he needs to know about all that…  The Lion has roared…

PS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, cats and all?  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a purrfect present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

What Cats Teach Us About Life – How to find the Gift in Good Bye

Number 20 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

cat ribbon 2

Beyond The Peachey Pride of three cats and my human self, there is a continuum of and connection to many other cats… There are the cats who are a part of friend’s lives; there are the many images I see on Social media; and there are the memories of many cats, living and passed on that I have known over a life time shared with them.

And amongst the many memories I have, are some stored away about a delicious little she cat called ‘Peanut’.  She lived with my ex boy friend Cliff and she was a true gem of gorgeous girl.  Peanut’s major trait was her sweet stupidity – hence her name, since her brain was as small as the proverbial nut…  She never seemed to understand commands, tried to walk through (rather than over or round) objects and generally / happily seemed to have a low cat IQ.  And no one ever minded this, since she was so sweet tempered and good natured, that what ever she may have lost in cat-like cleverness, she always absolutely gained in childish charm.

When I moved in with Cliff I knew that Peanut had a limited time to live.  She was an old lady by then and her kidneys were gradually failing her.  We charted her decline with sad hearts and then one day, came the awful day when she left – us and life, aided by the vet who came to our home.  Quickly and quietly she died in the arms of two people she loved.  I reflected at the time that it was a good way to go, but still I remember that it was a few years before I could think of that furry little friend of mine without feeling tearful.

That first horrible shock of loss has now slowly transmogrified over time into warm and happy memories… And Peanut is not the first cat lost from my life and she probably will not be the last, so I wanted to write a love letter to her and all the other feline companions from my past and future, for myself and my friends and for any one who will read this, who has ever lost a beloved pet in recent or long lived ago time.

Dear Loved One

You are gone.  No more here in flesh and fur.  Never to be by my side, ever again.  Never to rub against my legs, to meow for food or love, nor to purr and gently paw at me.

It is time, greatly to grieve, and to let out my tears, allowing my sorrow its’ way out of my soul.  Time to be sad.  Time to just feel loss and lost.

It is a sweet, deep, natural thing, the love for an animal, for not tied by human complications or obligations, it fills a special sweet part of the heart with it’s own best kind of pureness and simplicity.  With it gone, there is a sudden breach of sense and place as there is with all types of loss.

Along with loss, it is time too to celebrate you – to give thanks for knowing you and to thank you for being in my life.

So what was so special about you?  Let me remember the myriad ways.

You my friend, were a gift from and a creature of, God.  All of you magnificent creatures, in what ever pet form you take (cat, dog, rabbit, goldfish, mouse, etc, etc) are on loan to us lucky humans.  That you were on loan for what feels like too short time feels hard to bear.

But what a gift you were and are my friend!  I learnt so much from you, got so many purrs and rubs, got so much laughter and pleasure and so now I want to choose your loving legacy.

So… you were a gorgeous gift tied up with proverbial red ribbon (and you being you, the ribbon wouldn’t stay on for long…).

You were a kitten gift to me – a fluffy ball of wonder and laughter, of teases and scratches, off mewing and purring.

As a gift from God, you were on life loan to me and such a gorgeous present in so many feline ways, showing me how to live life constantly in glorious cat techni-colour, matching the colours and tones of your fascinating fur.

You were so many things to me – so giving, loving and deliciously capricious.  You padded along the lanes of life with me, leaping and sleeping through it with your easy grace and soothing purrs.

Now matter how long we were together, it feels like you were taken from life too soon.  Too soon for us, any way.  Is that fair for any one?  That is what I have felt, but not what I know, when I think with love of where we are.  For me, the most comforting knowing is that you had your time.  That was the thing about you my friend, it was always YOUR time and so thank you, so much for giving it to me. That is indeed a very rare gift.

I am allowing myself time to grieve and be sad, for that honours what I felt for you, my furry friend.  Because you gave me so much, I feel so much now.  Yet I shall celebrate you too.  To rejoice in the distinct spark of living light that you were.

And, my Little One, what ever any one thinks about what is next, nothing changes that I knew you, that you will stay in me and with me for ever, and that you made such a marvellous difference to me.  Yes you, sweet friend, were and are a true giving gift.

I miss you so much and constantly think that you are near, but the body was just one part of you, so farewell to that one physical element of you, my little lion… the gorgeous, perfect gift from God that you are, were and will always will be, to me.

With love, strokes and scritches…

From me xx

PS: Some time later Cliff and I parted company, yet I am always grateful for the gift of Peanut the cat in my life and I can never thank him enough for the fact that he also gave me the present of my perfect puss, the lucky black cat that is Taz, too.

PPS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, cats and all?  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a purrfect present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

How to Love Like a Cat

Number 19 out of 28: This piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Coach and Writer Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

Geo Laptop 2

George, as ever, is helping me to blog…

Real Time Writing: I was just settling down to write this latest blog at my office / come sofa, when I was interrupted by the attentions and ministrations of my cat George. He has decided that right now is the absolutely perfect time for lashings of affection and that my lap is the only place in this world that he wants to occupy.  He wishes to lay upon my legs, purr loudly and look adoringly into my eyes.  And given the theme of this blog, I didn’t really feel that I could refuse – so instead of rebuffing George’s advances and occupying my lap with a laptop, I have perched my IPad (other tablets are available) on the sofa arm instead; and am now precariously typing away with one hand, whilst loving and fussing my demanding feline friend with the other.

And so George has left my lap, so now it is time to continue on my laptop and start the blog ‘proper’… The title of this piece ‘How to Love Like a Cat’ does not refer to the biting, yowling act of procreation promulgated by that species to increase their species.  What I will be exploring here, is what we can learn from cats when it comes to feeling, giving and receiving the bounty of love.  My cats here will act as a prolonged metaphor to both understand them and the concept of love more deeply, and to learn more about both.

Before we get into the whole romance of life and love with cats, let’s clear up the whole ‘cupboard love’ scenario.  Every one needs a cynic in their life and mine is my brother Aidan… I can hear him now: “It’s cupboard love – if some one else fed them, they would love someone else”…

I understand his point and actually I see the truth in it, yet my whole truth is that the provision of food is the starting point of my relationship with the members of The Peachey Pride.  They also get shelter.  They also receive and give affection.  Finally, they have the freedom to leave and still they choose to stay.

And is it really any different in the human world? Why do we love some one?  Is it because fate has randomly thrown them in our path?  Or because they pay us more attention and spend more time with us than the rest of the world? Is it because we share our similarities and possibly even celebrate our differences?  Or because they are attracted to us and we to them? Could it be because they feed us in any number of ways – in the cupboard love way, or in a nurturing or stimulating way?  These are just some of the many sweet little mysteries of the whole feeling phenomena of love.

So what can we learn from my four legged metaphors?  The first thing I really appreciate is that when any of my cats are ‘feeling the love’, they express the emotion unreservedly – they let you know in no uncertain terms just how they are feeling.  They meow, they knead away at you (like a kitten does its’ birth mother), and they want to be completely up close and personal.  And then they purr out their rampant and uninhibited pleasure that you are having a gorgeous loving moment with them.

Unlike my cats, for a long time I found it really difficult to even say ‘I love you’ to any one, let alone demonstrate it in any other way.  I would play games and pretend that love was something that I never felt; all as a protection over the soft creamy centre of my heart.  The odd thing is that I found that I never really could mitigate against that same heart being hurt, by either covering it up or leaving it open to the elements.  Yet what I also discovered is that, just like my cats, I have a never ending well of love that I can draw up on.  I even wrote and published an entire book about the subject of love and how you can see it in any one and any happening – no matter how happy or horrible; and still I could write another library full of such books, for love is long

As well as demanding love – cats are clever at giving and receiving it too.  All the members of The Pride will seek me out, at different times of the day… Sophia loves her love and cuddles in the morning time (and in real time writing, on cue as I write this, she has just leapt up onto the sofa and is now at my side, placing a front paw on my leg and purring out her pleasure). Taz, of long kittenish habit, loves a fuss and a purring hug just before bed time; and George will pursue me at all hours, devouring my attention, feeling my presence and showing me his constant devotion.

All my cats give love beautifully and they receive it gorgeously as well.  Reach out to them at any time of day, and they will graciously and joyously receive your adoring attention, your affection, and your soft words of worship.  This is something that I have learnt well too.  Where for so long I rejected and rebuffed, now I receive; and allowing myself to receive means that I receive even more love back and more often, when ever I make a loving connection – easier, both on myself and on those I form a bond with – be that for a second or an eternity…

There has long been an urban legend that the cat is a lonesome, independent creature and I know that I thought that of myself in history, too.  The reality is, that most cat species in the wild live in family groups.  They hunt together, take care of young, form bonds and favourites.  Their thriving therefore has an instinctual centre in a Pride mentality and most perfectly, this manifests itself in ritual and deliberate acts of love.  And as always I could stray into anthropomorphic territory here, so suffice to say, that cats will love in their way, not in some poetically ascribed version or twist that I could put on to their behaviours and favours towards me.

And still I will analyse what makes this human / feline combination of love so special… For me, because they are loving animals, the complexities that colour so many human relationships are stripped away and what we have together is a more primordial bond, some thing as deep as nature, something that is pure, easy, and endless.

Because of all this I used to joke that I was planning to become a mad old cat lady, who would die one day surrounded by her 22 cat soul mate.  It seemed easier some how to laugh my way to a future that I could populate and control, and make full of feline love.

It’s an old joke now.  I don’t intend to be an old maid, made just for the company of cats.  I’m creating my own alternate loving reality for now and then, because that is another lesson I have learnt from my feline friends – how to live and love life to the full.

Well… that and the fact that I have discovered that a Pride of just three cats is truly enough for this loving woman…

PS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, cats and all?  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a purrfect present, whether you be a cat lover or no.  All of human life is in this gorgeous book – all the fear, light, dark, and of course love, for any one who wants to be entertained and to know that they are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you, even if it isn’t all about cats… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

Taz the Teddy Bear Cat, teaches the life skill of Flexibility…

Number 16 out of 28; this piece is part a Blog Challenge to write and publish a post, every day of the 28 days of February 2015, from Sandra Peachey – the author of ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’.

It is Day 16 of my February Blog Challenge and despite the fact that we are now over half way through, I promised several days ago to effect some introductions… So far I have just (formally anyway) introduced you to my Number One Cat – George. Now it is the turn of my next feline friend, and whilst I would also claim to have a poor memory (since it seems that I am forgetting my manners), let me start to put that social faux pas straight and introduce you to Number Two Cat – Taz.

Taz 1

Now the Numbers denote only the order into which my marvellous moggies came into my life; they in no way delineate their ranking or the degree to which any of them is loved. I couldn’t actually love any of the cats of The Pride any more or less – for one of the many splendours of love, is that you love differently, every time, with every one…

And so to Number Two Cat: Ladies and Gentlemen, please say hello to Taz, a beautiful boy, covered by a coat of long black fur, but definitely not black or bleak in personality.

He is, in the furry flesh – a living, loving, breathing teddy bear of a cat. So when a Polish friend of mine told me that the word for teddy bear in her native language is ‘Misiu’ (pronounced ‘me-shoo’), then this naturally became Taz’s nick name. It also means a cute and cuddly personage, and my Taz-zy boy is all that too.

When ever I return to the Cave, love and social decorum dictates that all my cats are greeted in turn with a hello and a humo-feline hug. When it is Taz’s turn, I pick him up, and this despite the fact that he weighs a proverbial ton. To hold him is like draping a soft, furry hod of bricks over your right shoulder. But that heaviness melts into a solid hunk of love, as he stretches out in purring, nuzzling pleasure, and we are lost, for a few seconds, in an adoring connection of female and feline affection. Then reality and gravity weigh back in, the loving burden becomes too heavy and so I put him back down on the ground, with all four paws on the floor again.

Down at ground level Taz then leaves me in no doubt as to where he wants this relationship to go next. He demands to be fed. So after the formalities are over, what ever the time of day (or night) he tries to guide me to the area of the kitchen where the feeding bowls reside (since he knows I have a bad memory and that I may have forgotten).

Guiding aside, he will also try to stare a meal out of you. He has the hugest pair of green gimlet eyes, which he can widen and intensify at will, turning them on you, to bore into you like two lightening laser beams.

Taz, in common with most cats has a survival instinct which means that he and the others of The Pride will flexibly and happily take food from where ever it is offered, meaning that Taz and all the cats will guzzle their grub from any source in the house, be that a human house mate, friend or whom so ever.

Taz though takes this to a whole new level. Our cave acquired a new human house mate a couple of months ago, called Pia. She is an early riser and offered, almost immediately, to feed the marauding moggies of The Pride when ever I am not around. Not being a morning person, I am almost never around first thing…

As well as being an early riser, Pia tends to go early to bed, and firmly closes her bedroom door against the world. Taz will then almost invariably stand (or I should say sleep) guard – curling up tightly, to snore – by that same door; waiting out the long, dark hours until she rises and is ready to feed him again, or else trip over him on the way to the bath room…

Taz has that flexible feline trait of learning quickly and taking action there on, in abundance. It is a characteristic which has served the domestic cat and their wild forebears well. I once read in fact, that it is this flexibility which has made Felis Catus – the tamed cat we are all familiar with, one of the most adaptable and therefore successful of domesticated creatures.

And it is this flexibility that is one of the fundamental lessons that Taz teaches me. I like to think that in a world full of flux, I can constantly evolve and easily adapt. And when like Taz I accept change, I can then most easily make the necessary changes to cope and then to thrive.

When I am inflexible and entrenched instead, that, so often is when difficulties arise. It is when situations and life get harder. Despite all my life’s work and personal development, there are still times when I bemoan my fate or my choices or what impact some one else’s actions are having on me. It is like having my feet stuck in setting concrete – even though I can shout and wave my arms around, when I refuse to accept and adapt, it means that I am well and truly fixed to one, solid spot.

Flexing my flexibility muscles sometimes takes some effort – I have a life time of pre-disposition and experience at my disposal after all. Yet if I can be flexible in my thoughts and my approaches, then it follows that I will naturally start to have more choices. To ‘think cat’ in this instance is to accept, then flex and adapt and in doing so, learn more deeply and move on more quickly. And then, I will find that the concrete boots holding me painfully down, have started to dissolve and will invariably crumble to dust, and I will find myself free and bare footed – always my favourite way to travel.

And Taz, for all his fine feline intelligence is still a simple, kitten soul, who values, food, independence, and also I am delighted to say – love. He gives and receives of love in its’ most simple, unaffected and affectionate guise.

So Taz really is, in my completely inflexible opinion, the most magnificent of lucky black cats…

PS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, cats and all?  I’m completely biased of course, but it makes a purrfect present, for you or the cat lover in your life… You can buy it from book websites any where in the world, including Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)