On the Softness of Cats

Smooth, silky, yielding, plush, downy, velvety…as I stroke my older cat’s chest, fingers skimming over the bones beneath that pure white fluff, I feel her warmth, the warmth that radiates along my side when she stretches beside me at night.

I hold a paw in my hand, feel the velvet pads and the firmness of the sheathed claws at the end of those dainty paws, the brush of the claws reminding me of the dichotomies of cats: soft pliant bodies with piercing claws and teeth.

She rests her head on my arm, and I stroke the space underneath her chin, brushing one finger back and forth as I feel the slight vibrations of her purr. She likes to rest her head in my palm, opening and closing her green eyes, brown lashes shading one eye, ginger lashes the other.   She may sleep thus for many minutes, completely content, or bite my hand and twist away from me simply because she can.

When she entered my apartment that cold night, many years ago, I could tell she was a stray by the roughness of the hair along her back, the leanness of her body. Soon, the roughness disappeared, as did the leanness, though the latter was due, I soon discovered, to pregnancy not simply regular meals. Not many weeks later there were six additional soft shapes in the house with varied coats, in color and length, yet all with a look of their mother. I found homes for five kittens, and I kept one: a downy fluffball who has grown and grown.

And while my older cat is a poem of softness, from her silky belly, white with a faint blush of pink skin beneath, to her black-tipped tail, I think the softest spot in the world might be the top of her kitten’s head, right between those velvety ears. When I am sad, at my own unkindness or the world’s, or despairing in the face of foolishness, cupidity, anger, I reach out and touch that spot, let my fingers rest on that warm, yielding plushness; sometimes, that is all I need.

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