Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A Suspicious Mother
When the eyes of all four kittens opened at last, they immediately began to explore the horizons of their newly discovered universe. Their personalities have begun to surface as well. The white male is the most adventurous of the litter. He often wanders far from his Mother and his siblings. 'Far' in relative terms, in any case, as the limits of his world are within two handspans of the 'centre' at most. The little Marmalade kitten is the other adventurous soul, wandering away from his Mother sometimes even when the others are nursing.
These two intrepid explorers nonetheless tend to cry as they wander, whether out of a desire to test their lungs or to make their mother aware of their location, I cannot tell. It is a small cry rather than a desperate one, a voice that almost sounds like a running commentary of the kitten's discoveries.
I know I am reading far more significance into their actions than probably exists. They may simply be stretching their stubby fat little legs or they may be attempting to find the all-important source of milk now by sight rather than smell...
I can hold a kitten now only if he/she is silent and does not cry. If the kitten makes ANY sound, Beauty becomes extremely agitated and I must return him or her to the natural guardian. She differs in this respect from every other Queen I have had. My beloved Isis always trusted me with her kittens and welcomed my attentions. My Princess never was much of a mother and deposited her kittens into MY lap immediately upon birth. My first Himalayan Queen, Tasie (Anastasia) was a loving mother but like Isis, her daughter, welcomed my help. Beauty alone has a very jealous nature where her babies are concerned. Perhaps this is due to the tragedy in September when she lost her entire litter. I wonder if she associates my attempts to save their lives with their ultimate disappearance. Cats DO have a long memory. Trauma suffered by a kitten can influence his/her behaviour forever. I have detected a steely determination in Beauty from the moment she went into heat again after the death of her last kitten in September. This is not something I have imagined, contrary to my creative interpretations of the little Kittens' current thoughts and motives.
Ash still is not at ease with the presence of his own children in his world. He has taken over the old kitten box and peers over the edge of the box at the Kittens with their mother. He and Beauty were inseparable before she delivered this litter. I could not take one from the room without making the other anxious. In fact, if I took Ash from the room, Beauty would cry loudly and angrily for his return. Ash simply would wait anxiously at the door until his beloved sister returned. This new phase in Beauty's life where her attention is directly exclusively towards the four kittens, must have smashed a hole in poor Ash's spirit. He must come to terms with it, obviously. After all, he is half responsible for the existence of the little ones! He always has been a quiet cat and a thoughtful one, and I can see that he gradually is coming to terms with the changes in his universe. I have no doubt that he will be a very loving father when he overcomes his cowardice and Beauty allows him to move closer to the Kittens. I expect that she has warned him off to some extent as well...
Now that the eyes of the Kittens have opened, Beauty has a new voice for them. She makes a small sound to let them know where she is when any Kitten begins to wander away. She does not prevent the Kitten from doing so, but she will continue to make this sound until all four kittens are nursing again. It is rather charming, very different from her voice when she is anxious about them.
Beauty's jealous nature with respect to her Kittens as well as her total focus upon them has distanced her from me, temporarily I hope. She will not sit in my lap now, although she will leap onto my lap for a second in order to be caressed very briefly. She is more likely to do this when I am holding Ashleigh, and in fact, this always was her habit even before she had the Kittens. She is a rather jealous cat in every respect, formerly jealous of my attention and now jealous of her Kittens. I love both Beauty and Ashleigh dearly, but neither of them exhibit the sort of total love that my other Cats displayed for me. Of course, a fundamental difference between my other Cats and these two is that the others knew me from birth and with Queens who shared every aspect of their lives with me, they almost considered me their Mother as well.
Every Cat, like every human being, is unique and one does not replace another in the heart. The deaths of those whom I loved, whether human or feline, has forced me to recognise this. The pain of loss cannot be dispelled by a new love. A portion of the heart becomes a mausoleum where the memories of all the beloved dead reside. If one person or pet could be substituted for another, any memories of former loves would become worthless. As it is, we continue to value each person or pet we have known and loved while widening the scope of our hearts to include new loves.
This brings me to an equation for Love that includes Need. In the old Northern Rune system, the Rune Nauthiz signified Need or Need-Fire, the power of a fire kindled by necessity, and indeed the physical form of the Rune is that of a firestick and the twig that is rubbed against it to produce a flame. The love of a mother for her child is permeated by Nauthiz on both sides. The child's entire existence for the first couple of years is based on Need for the Mother's love and her ability to give sustenance. The love between any Pet and Owner is founded on the same sort of Need. A Pet usually cannot survive without the Owner's care and this deepens the bond for the owner as well as the animal. It would be the same if our society permitted ownership of Slaves. The bond between a Slave and a good Master or Mistress would have a very strong foundation based upon mutual Need.
In terms of the Love between equals, however, it is said that Need is a a negative element in the equation. True Love should not depend on Need but be free of all considerations of personal interest. If this were the case, however, one would be in the position of a Saint whose love for each and every creature must be equal. One could not elevate any individual over any other in the heart, for if we remove the element of personal interest from the equation, what remains is essentially impersonal. We could base love then upon value in terms of character or the actions of an individual but that creates a foundation for Admiration and Respect rather than Love.
Love must be based either on Need or upon some psychic connection between individuals, whether it is initiated by sexual or another sort of attraction. Attraction is not Love but it creates the spark that initiates it. Need and Attraction often are combined and the equation of any relationship between 'equals' never can be defined properly in simplistic terms. Where the relationship between any human being and a Pet is concerned, although the equation is not as simple as basic Need, it certainly is an inherent part of its foundation.
It is part of the human condition to need to be needed by some one or something. It validates us as breathing, living entities. It provides us with a place in the universe in connecting us with others, whether they are human beings, animals, Nature iteself or another philosophical, political or social Cause. The individual who is afraid of Love tends to cut himself or herself off from others completely. I have known those who, having lost some one, whether a member of the family or a Pet, vows never to become involved with any one again. The reason for this is fear of Pain.
Yet the pain of intense loneliness can be as sharp or relentless as the pain of loss when some one beloved dies. Without Love, no creature can thrive. Without wishing to become a Slave either of any human or any animal, I actually love the sense of being needed by my Pets. My heart expands in the knowledge that my actions improve their lives. When my own life is particularly difficult, I am inspired to continue struggling in the face of potential despair by the knowledge that I am needed. Is this a weakness of character? I do not believe it is. I believe it keeps me connected with the universe and by opening my heart to love, I receive a blessing that is as essential to my spiritual welfare as sunlight is to the body.
In any case, despite Beauty's insistence on being the sum total of everything her babies need, they all need me and she relies upon me to keep her fed and to keep her home clean and warm. It gives me joy to provide for my Cats and sustains my spirit when life is rather grim. My spiritual need for my Cats is as intense as their physical need for me. I know that the emotional bond is equal, that my Cats would grieve if they lost me. I have seen it in other Cats who lost their Masters or Mistresses. They never forgot them, even if they learned to love a new Master or Mistress.
The spiritual and emotional benefits derived from interactions with our Pets has been studied and documented. In fact, there are those who take Cats and Dogs to retirement homes and hospitals for visits and the results have been extremely positive. Simply petting a Cat or Dog can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and lighten the burdens of the soul.
The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as sacred creatures and that attitude actually is neither primitive nor illogical. For the ancient Egyptians, animals and human beings shared a common foundation and their depictions of their Gods therefore were half-human, half-animal. Their vision of the afterlife encompassed all the creatures of Nature, including plants, rivers and seas. In fact, later religions incorporate some of this, both in Christian and Islamic views of Heaven. In Islam, Heaven is described in terms of Gardens and Fountains. Christianity describes Heaven as a place where the Lion, a predator in this life, exists in harmony with the Lamb, the most helpless of prey here on Earth. Any one who loves Animals and has Pets would like to believe that the Afterlife would reunite them. Furthermore, contrary to some dogma in Christianity, Islam and other religious philosophies, I believe that ancient depictions of Gods as part-human, part-animal served to remind humanity of the fact that they erred if they believed they somehow were superior to other creatures in the eyes of the Divine. When we forget our place in the Universe, we are in danger of destroying that Universe. Any environmentalist can provide evidence of the damage humanity has done to OUR environment. We can pretend we are superior to other creatures but, in the ultimate analysis, our survival is linked to that of the same Earth that shelters ALL life. It is only by recognising that all Creatures are part of the same entity that we will thrive.