Monday, October 10, 2011

The Masks We Wear

The ingenuity and innocence of cats amazes me. Anyone who is a pet owner knows that these small furry creatures (or scaly or feathery) become our family. Mine are also my muses. I have three cats. The newest of which is just under a year old. My point in adopting her was simply to get my younger cat (who is six) to get up a play a bit and not beat on my older cat so much (she’s 13).

I went to a few shelters to look at cats, which always makes me feel bad because I want to take them all home. The problem of course is not all the cats want to go home with you. I saw a beautiful great stripped cat with playful tendencies, but she had no interest in me. The shelter had a lot of issues because it was a no kill shelter so they make you jump through all these hoops and interviews to get a cat. Probably better in the long run, I’m sure she found a good home.

At the humane society there were a lot of cats. Another that was cute, black and white but again had no interest in me. I petted a white cat for a while. She liked to play but was very skittish and again didn’t seem all that interested in me. While putting the white cat back and little black cat meowed at me and stuck her paw through the bars. So we took her into the room to play. Not only did she like to play she kept coming back to rub on my leg.

Now rejection even from a cat is hard and I’d had several that day already. But I took the risk and I brought her home. A few months later she’s really part of the family now and my baby Houdini. And she cuddles with me on occasion, but never makes me feel like I’m just an annoying person in the room.

Proud parents of cats probably know a lot of the personality of these creatures. They are smart, yet silly and sometimes dumb. Innovative, and mood, but funny as hell. My new kitty was a stray and I’ve discovered some fun facts about her that will likely come into play in later pieces as I write more about Sei in his lynx form and other shifters I have ideas for.

First off, she’s a mouser. Having had inside cats for most of my life I’d never encountered this before, but give her a fuzzy toy mouse and she’s got all the fur ripped off in a few seconds. I pity the poor mice. Thankfully there are no real ones in my home.

The second thing is that she’s a garbage cat. She used to live off garbage. She knows how to get in it. Knock it over, or even dig through whatever to get to whatever she may perceive as edible. This of course makes her very interesting to watch. She climbs on top of the cupboards to jump onto the covered trash and peel the cover off.

She can push open non-handled cabinet doors with her paws to get to food, rip open packages, push things off the tops of cupboards. And when I put her sister’s food bowl in the toaster oven to hide it from my always hungry kitten, she shoved the door open and slid the grate out to eat the food.

When they chase bugs around, or freak out when a squirrel is on the balcony, I love to watch their tail fluff or eyes widen, ears twitch, and back arch. They are very expressive creatures.
Unlike humans they aren’t taught to hide their feelings. They just go with it. Meow if they are bored. If they miss me the run through the house crying until I look at them and say hello, then they walk away content.

I suppose if I had children or lived with roommates I’d probably have more observations about people who aren’t hiding who they are. Since living with folks for a long time helps us let down our guard and forget about the mask we wear most days. Sometimes I just have to stop because I’m so tired emotionally, not because life is stressful or whatever, we all have that. But because the mask I wear is so heavy.

To my family I’m the independent strong daughter with no worries. To my friends I’m outspoken and helpful ready to listen when needed. To my co-workers I’m a hard worker who pushes hard to succeed. To myself, I’m a quite girl with a lot of anxiety issues who doesn’t like to stand out.
How many obstacles do we let stand in our way? Other’s view of us, our view of ourselves, our fears? Why can’t we climb on cupboards and tear up toy mice? Sure there are people who’d walk by use and make our tails bristle with rage. Sometimes the leap hurts, but who knows what good things can come of it.

I wonder if wearing the mask all the time hurts us more than letting go? Do we mold it, or has it shaped us? Can we ever reach that openness that we see in our furry friends? I think that’s why I like to mix up the real struggles with the cat. Seiran wears a heavy mask, but each month he’s forced to be the cat in form and mind. Those times are freeing to him. I envy him and will continue to put the mask down more often.