How Much They Care

five cats in the kitchen

Five cats just hanging around.

I know there are people who think their pets are cute mindless little critters with no manner of expressing emotions and compassion who like us because we feed them, but I have never been one of those. From my relationship with my first cat way back in the dark ages, I knew she cared for me even though she was barely anything you’d call affectionate, in her manner of affection, in her expressions, and simply intuitively.

I happen to live with the seven most loving cats in the world. Okay, I know we could argue about this all day because, really, each of our pets is the most loving—each to their own people.

But I would strongly argue for my current household. We never know how much they care for us until the need arises to show it, like a minor medical emergency.

two black cats on desk

Time for Work

Despite all my plans for work to get done, photos to post on The Creative Cat and Today, art to be completed, my continuing studio reorganization, I began a gall bladder attack in the early afternoon that worsened through the day until evening when I actually had to go to the emergency room. This had never happened to me before, but it runs in the family.

I am lucky, I have never even had a cavity, no broken bones, only minor stitches in my leg a few years ago but never anything serious or internal. But my lack of experience made it difficult for me to understand that this wasn’t just some gastric upset, it was a serious condition. I apparently needed some guidance.

five cats on bed

Nap Time

Despite the urging of the Big Four, I never lie down for a nap in the middle of the day, but I found myself on the bed trying to rest until the pain went away, surrounded by the ministrations of four large black cats and one little tortie. Giuseppe rubbed his face against mine then stretched out along my body—I swear he’s almost as long as me from his nose to his tail.  Mr. Sunshine pressed his face under my hands to open my clenched fists and gently chewed on my fingers, not minding when I squeezed him now and then. Mewsette offered a deep massage in exactly the spot where I had the most pain. Jelly Bean marched around me and sat on my pillow, emitting his most fervent healing purr, the one that vibrates the bed. All of them purred in unison, despite my acrobatics in trying to find a good position, and accompanied me to the bathroom when I needed to…expel the demons, you know what I mean.

I felt a little better, got up and went downstairs, and Mimi stood in front of me at the computer, talking and headbutting me, not letting me work. Admittedly, I’d been walking bent over with my arm at my abdomen and was likely grimacing, but I don’t think she needed the dramatics to figure things out. She is, after all, a mom. She made her point as I decided I’d just get some ginger ale and go back to bed.

slender cat

Kelly talking to me.

In the kitchen, Kelly wore her most concerned look, talking non-stop and gently touching me with one paw. Cookie looked at me, assessing the situation, and when I went back upstairs she followed and laid on top of me, the four black cats surrounding me once again.

When the pain reached an unbearable level, they all accompanied me to the phone as I called my sister, understood the disappointing bowls of dry food for their dinner, and simply waited for me to return.

After all my tests and the pain had passed naturally, I saw at least three silhouettes in the front window as my sister dropped me off. Nearly all came to greet me, from upstairs, from the basement, from my office, following me into the kitchen.

tortie cat sleeping

Yes, in the tomatoes again.

Cookie was there, in a deep sleep, and I was immediately concerned about her because even when I awoke her she seemed lethargic where earlier she had been truly enjoying her day, messing up files on my computer, slipping out the door, trying to steal my food. I felt well enough to drive to emergency, but what was the cause?

tortie cat expression

Cookie studying me.

Through most of our lives together, Cookie has been my best friend, my lady in waiting, my companion who absorbs both the good and bad from me, sharing my joy and easing my grief. I could always see in her expressive eyes that her emotions were flowing with mine and by her quiet presence with me anywhere in the house that I was indeed her responsibility.

When she was younger she simply took it in stride. Now that she is 19, though, things are different. I noticed last year when we lost Peaches, Cookie truly slowed down with her own grief and mine, slept extra and seemed a little lethargic, and while the appetite of the orphaned and starved kitten had always been legendary, it now waned. I worried, fed her special canned food and even baby food, gave her a few doses of sub-q fluids until she began to feel and look like herself again.

tortie cat on steps

Cookie waiting for me.

Then came the process of losing my mother, and as I intuited that my mother’s passing was imminent and simply became scattered and confused, Cookie followed me around, constantly making eye contact and touching me in reassurance, truly grounding me in my daily activities. This took a toll on her as well when, right around my mother’s death, again I needed to give her special foods, fluids, and added a few reiki treatments to get her energy back in line.

In between this, we’ve diagnosed her with hyperthyroidism and been working to normalize her medication, and in addition to that she’s developed a little heart condition.

So I must have really worn her out yesterday with my flailing around and moaning. She’s fine today, as am I. I can’t hide anything from her, and things always happen, so I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye on Cookie the next time around. Small price to pay for a lifetime of loving vigilance.

I must be a real basket case to need seven good cats to take care of me. I couldn’t hope to be in better paws.

five cats in kitchen

Someone has to keep an eye on me.

If you enjoy the articles, photos and artwork you find on The Creative Cat, please nominate me in the Petties 2011, Dogtime’s Pet Blog Awards. You can nominate for more than one category, but The Creative Cat seems to fit in the Best Designed Blog because there is no life without images, all those photos and artwork and visual ideas I love to share. You could also nominate me for Best Blog Post if there is a particular blog post you find memorable. I would send any award money to FosterCat for all they do in finding foster homes and permanent homes for cats who have no other chance. Here is the information you need for nomination:
Name: The Creative Cat
Nominee URL:
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Click here to go to Dogtime’s Petties 2011.

18 Comments on “How Much They Care”

  1. […] of her love for animals, especially cats.  The first post I ever read of hers was  titled “How Much They Care,” in which she shared her opinion that cats have an enormous capacity for emotion, love, […]

  2. I agree with all said above, a most lovely piece and evocative and moving. Helen

  3. Bernadette –

    This is my first visit to your site and I must say, despite us being complete strangers, you have moved me to tears with your heartfelt and sensitive portrayal of how intuitively connected you and your beloved felines are. We appear to have many a parallel in our lives – I too, share my home, heart, and life with seven furry companions who appear to know me better than I know myself sometimes. And while I did not have a medical situation such as yours, I went through a very bad emotional time in my life due to an unexpected layoff and I can say without hesitation, that it was the love and lessons I received from my cats that changed my life profoundly for the better. Because of them and the renewed sense of spirit they gave me, I was inspired to follow a dream of mine and write a book about these extraordinary creatures that will be published this fall. My book completely echoes your sentiment – that a cat has an endless capability for expressing emotion and compassion.

    I also feel deeply for your relationship with your beloved Cookie. I had a Cookie of my own for 18 years named Kit. She came to own my heart one day as a stray who showed up in my driveway, but I digress as usual. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and personal story. I am glad you are doing better and I hope to learn much more about you and your wonderful feline clan.

    Deb Barnes of Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection

    • animalartist says:

      Deb, I’ve read about your book and after some current projects–and new glasses–I hope to catch up on all the reading I’ve been missing! There’s just no telling what our cats will lead us to do, but unless we start hoarding it’s never a bad thing.

      The kitty who saved my life and read my mind and taught me to listen was the black cat who rescued me in college, and when I finally decided on how to portray him in his portrait it was of one of those moments when he was rolling on the floor, making a fool of himself, because I was obviously in extreme emotional distress. It worked every time, and probably saved me from a few disasters.

      I can feel Cookie reading my mind every time she looks at me. Don’t worry about digressing! Thanks for visiting.

  4. Glad to hear you’re doing better, Bernadette. I’ve noticed the same thing with my cats when I have a migraine or cramps. I read somewhere that there is an honest-to-goodness healing frequency in a cat’s purr, which is why they purr when they’re sick — they’re self-meidcating. And, I might add, doing a far better job of it than we do.

  5. Geralyn Mott says:

    when i broke my leg in 2002 and was more or less bedridden, i guess stanley (my tortie over white, 2 years old at the time) was concerned that i wasn’t eating enough. One afternoon i woke to find little bits of cat food strewn all over and around me … he must have made a trip to the bowl and back to the bed repeatedly to bring his dinner to me!! my other cat, cammie, aged 9 at the time, never left my side and sat by my head when people came over … the only one she didn’t growl at was the woman who bathed me daily for 2 weeks. They do care. They are irreplacable, each and every one of them.

    • animalartist says:

      Geralyn, at first I was sure you were going to say he brought you a mouse, but bringing you bits of cat food is even better! All that work to keep you fed. I just can’t believe people who claim they have no real intelligence, no ability for compassion and emotion–they’re just not “there” yet.

  6. Us kittehs know best! So glad to know yoo is feelin better now. Did yer kittehs git sum nip as reward fer bein gud nurses?

  7. animalartist says:

    Thanks, guys, it’s just the truth! Many people would roll their eyes, but you know better.

  8. I HAVE CAT says:

    Bernadette, as always you’ve done a beautiful job observing your clowder and bringing them to life for us all regardless of where we live. The love you have for your cats, and they for you, is amazing. You are the most observant mommy ever. They are so lucky to have you my dear. I nominated this post for BEST BLOG POST! 🙂

  9. Ingrid King says:

    This is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

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