I’m on my way out the door, trying to remember a dozen things at once while keeping a hold of my keys and my purse, when I swiftly check the cats’ locations. I always make sure I know where they are before I leave the house, to be certain they’re not accidentally shut in a room for the day. Today they’re easy to spot; Mia crouches on the sofa (a forbidden napping place, which just means she usually avoids it when I’m home) and Simon sits near the shoe rack, straight and elegant.
They’re not lounging in their usual repose, indifferent and self-absorbed. Today they stare at me, every muscle tense and eyes unblinking. They know what I am doing; I am leaving. This is the daily routine. But suddenly I am aware that they don’t know what I do when I leave, they don’t understand why I have to go. I can feel the pull of their combined stares, heavy and difficult to shake off.
I wonder how they think of me, a person who feeds them and provides a cozy lap to sleep upon. When I’m too sick to go to work and I spend the day in bed, Mia and Simon are in their element. I don’t move much, and they cozy up without being disturbed. They purr and sigh and relish my fulfillment of their desires. I’m convinced I don’t get sick often enough to suit them.
I am still standing in the doorway, our gazes locked. I want to explain why I have to leave; but even if they could understand, I’m sure my work, appointments and errands would have absolutely no importance. It’s obvious I should ignore the outside world and spend the day feeding them kitty treats and rubbing their tummies on demand. They are decided. There is no room for debate.
Yet I muster the strength to break the contest, finish gathering my things and head out. I coo my apologies to the disappointed felines as I shut the door. They hop up to the window, giving me one last chance to change my mind. I think about the Egyptians and their reverence for cats just like mine. I had characterized it as an extreme display of affection; now I wonder if it was hypnosis. Cats are so certain of what is best. They don’t need words to command, just their eyes.