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The Sassy Sandpiper: The Zen of Cats

Sassy Sandpiper | Cat | Columns

By M.R. Wilson, TB Reporter

Look to cats to find the classic Buddha nature.

Until Father’s Day 2013, when a heavily pregnant Bengal-mix cat paused to eat on my porch with a neighborhood cohort, I owned dogs and birds my entire adult life. Cats were prohibited by those-who-shall-remain-nameless. I pined for a kitty, remembering Ivan and Felix from childhood. My feelings were that one must have dogs for the heart, cats for the intellect, and birds for the soul. My heart and soul still ache for the dogs I’ve loved and lost, and for parakeets and cockatiels—hand-fed, feathered embodiments of hope and happiness.

Dogs rule. Cats refuse to acknowledge this assertion.

I’ve learned much from cats, especially that mine, at least, dispel many myths and stereotypes about felines. Far from aloof and independent, these companions are affectionate, humorous and even jealous at times. They choose to be nearby. They care. They will obey the command “Out!” and leave Mama Cat Boa’s almost exclusive dining area and restroom. Sometimes they even come when I call. Pixel often hurries to greet me at the door upon my return home.

What’s most intriguing, however, is a cat’s Buddha Nature. Key characteristics of an enlightened being are eating when one is hungry and sleeping when one is weary. Sounds catlike to me.

The cat stare is classically Zen. Effortless meditation, or what appears to be. Cats immerse themselves in details we humans cannot see. Their meditation is more truly a kind of fascination—the sun-gilded scales of a lizard, for example.

Purring is akin to chanting. Why and how cats purr is a mystery we have yet to unravel. Purring does seem to be a self-calming mechanism, as cats also will purr when they are distressed. Research suggests snuggling with a purring cat bestows healing powers upon us, as well.

As you are now assured of the Zen of Cats, you must read the joyful and wise Eightfold Path for Kittens. Check it out on Alan Peto’s blog here.

I cannot claim that my cats’ behavior is always enlightened, however. Cats will be cats, after all. Dominance battles still erupt between Pixel and his rival brother, Bruiser, a competition dating back to nursery box tussles. Despite spaying and neutering for all, boycats still attack girlcats with obvious motives—teeth, claws and screeches—oh my! I scream and stomp to break them up. And suffice it to say, they don’t always find a litter box. Or they miss.

Occasional naughtiness aside, cats have taught me the value of calm centeredness, when to walk away, to nap when I need to. They’ve made me laugh out loud with arched backs, fluffed tails, and sideways scampers. They check on me to make sure I’m awake and soon to put food in their bowl, and growl protectively when the community cat Peaches ventures too near.

I will never understand people who “hate cats.” I fear rather they hate something within themselves, which a cat in its grace reveals.

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The Sassy Sandpiper: The Zen of Cats
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The Sassy Sandpiper: The Zen of Cats
Look to cats to find the classic Buddha nature.
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TB Reporter
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