Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How I greet a cat

I am not a casual toucher. I do not reach over instinctively when I am talking to you and pat your upper arm as I make some warm point. Outside of my wife my inclination is to avoid physical contact with others. I am not overwhelmed by this aversion. If some man I found a library book for puts out his hand I will shake it without horror. I may hug an old friend after long parting. There is often some hand shaking when I am formally introduced to someone. But my main point is I do not gravitate towards touch. I do not seek it out.

Indeed of all the beings of this world (again, excepting my wife), there is no one and nothing freely ambulatory I seek contact with.

And then there are cats.

No matter if I am introduced to one in someone's house, or wander upon one randomly in the world, if they are open to it, and it is always their decision, I pet them. I pet them, I pat them, I stroke them. They rub against me, or purr, or lean, or just look inscrutable.

The great majority of cats I engage with are complete strangers to me. They, like me, may be wandering about the neighborhood. They may be traveling through my yard, or hanging out on their front stoop, or resting between wild hunts. I see a cat, and if the cat's inclination is not away from me, I abandon what I'm doing for a moment. I crouch down. I make some invitation, just looking, or rubbing a few fingers together, or a small click with my tongue. The cat, a complete stranger, darts over, but it is a cat, so there is always at least some sauntering in the darting. We pause near each other at a respectful distance. My hand moves slowly towards. It pauses until it is allowed. I pet.

We are dear friends for 30 seconds. We are old friends. We hang out on the sidewalk, or wherever we are.

And then, with only the smallest regret, we part, and go on.

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