“Mandatory.”

A few days ago, I instituted a system of mandatory morning and night cuddles with the kitties. The concept is simple. When I emerge from my bedroom in the morning, the three boys get picked up against their will and squeezed (this sometimes includes embarrassing cooing) before they get fed. When I get home from work, they endure the same process.

So far, mandatory cuddles have not been a hit. Blackie and Curly would rather hop into my lap at their own volition – Blackie especially if he needs to get a bit of kneading out of his system on my soft, unfit belly – and Poppy prefers to crouch at my feet like a bloated turkey and fix me with an accusing glare. The extraneous manhandling is a transgression of our 9-year-long territorial understanding. It’s pretty safe to say the kitties do not regard mandatory cuddles as an improvement to their living situation.

It’s obvious, except to the most oblivious pet-owners, that what animals need are pretty different from us. Beyond regular feeding, litterbox clearing, and the occasional body warming, I doubt my kitties need anything else from me. There is little in a kitty’s life that a spot of sunshine and a snooze or ten wouldn’t fix.

But me? I suspect one of the key reasons I have not yet unravelled is their very presence in my life. I recognise that, if not for me and my paranoia about the dangers of the external world, these three boys and my one girl would be out and about, doing their own thing, being their own actualised feline self. (They would probably have been dead by now, though. I think my paranoia is well-founded.) Still, for years, I selfishly kept them close, safely caged up in my home. And now that my life increasingly feels like a drowning wave, I tread water and cling to my furry life-rafts with unwanted cuddles and cooing and caresses. 

I suppose, as a wise woman once said, when the going gets tough, the not-so-tough cuddle their cats. 

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