I’ll pick a cat over a castle, any day

I spent a not insignificant amount of my time in the Middle East petting cats. Cats are often present in the Arab countries I’ve visited: 2/3 the size of well-fed American housecoats, some stable balance between feral and tame, with the same amount of normal cat sociopathy I get a lot out of them.

It’s not just that they’re soft, though I do have an autistic child’s affection for creature comforts, particularly of the soft-and-furry kind. And it’s not that meeting them is always nice–of the two cats I tried to make friends with in Petra, one bit me and one scratched me (though neither broke the skin).
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These cats I met outside of Gibran Khalil Gibran’s burial site in the mountains of Lebanon.

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As I’ve mentioned before, cats have a funny social place in the Middle East. Most people think of them fondly, though not everyone–several friends from the trip skipped and skirted away when cats approached, clearly uncomfortable and freaked-out a little by the ankle-height carnivores staring at them.

They’re treated with affection but no ownership, as far as I could observe. People like them, and will pet them, but there’s no dry food or tooth brushing or litter boxes. Sick kitten die, old cats die, some young cats die too. They’re not pets; they’re natural features.

But even after I got clawed and toothed, I kept trying to make friends with the cats I met. I used good kitty etiquette, which is international. Squat down, don’t make eye-contact, be easy to escape, offer them something you can snatch away quickly to smell, don’t put your hand over their heads, pet them how they like it.

In continually reaching out, though I never knew my welcome, I felt like I was putting good energy into the universe, like by trying without expectations to connect, I was practicing for how I wished to connect with the humans I met.

Inspirational Quote:

Now I’m goin’ down to the river Jordan
I’m goin’ down to the river Jordan
I’m goin’ down to the river Jordan
Goin’ down to the river Jordan One of these days

One response

  1. I’ve had similar reactions with many cats. However, when you live with them you become part of their family and things change, experiences change them and you. When Wade died and the house filled up ASAP with many large men in uniforms carrying equipment of various kinds (some idiot had dialed 911!) and my cats totally freaked out and ran out the back door. Eventually we got the girl back, but Loki, the boy, vanished and was gone for weeks. After over three weeks with a lot of posters, calls, etc. a lady came to the door and said maybe your cat is in our basement? I saw a movement there – I ran over and sat in her large, dark, cluttered basement for a while, heard a noise and started calling “kitty – kitty”. He came with huge cries I’ve never heard from a cat before and rushed across the room and lept into my arms and nuzzled! it was mother time for him and he has never changed. There is a very strong bond from that moment that is always there. Of course I got both of them from their mother so maybe that made a difference, but pet animals usually recreate their family if you will let them. Why not try it? But only if you can keep them near you for a long time!

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