Our favorite kitten picture of Lysander

Our favorite kitten picture of Lysander

Actually, it’s not all that surprising that I would have more in common with cats than most people do. I was basically adopted at birth by a cat. For the first few years of my childhood, I thought I had three parents: my father, my mother, and my cat. Lysander told me when to wake up in the mornings (although my mother and father tended to disagree with his decisions in that area) and stayed with me when I went to bed to protect me from nightmares. He watched over me when I was sick, worried about me when my mother made me take baths, and was always available for moral support when I was angry with my schoolwork. I think I was about eight years old before I even learned that humans technically run the planet while cats are supposedly just pets. (Unless, of course, they aren’t, in which case they’re strays)

Lysander died of old age nine years and four days ago, and the other two cats that we had when I was little also have been dead for a while.  Now, my family has two cats who are both about eight years old and who both coincidentally look quite a bit like Lysander. It goes without saying that I love them and am very close to them, but I’m close to them in very different ways because they have opposite personalities. Bo is affectionate, energetic, extremely social, and so mischievous that we have to keep an eye on him all the time. That makes him happy; he loves having eyes on him. Bo isn’t exactly a lap cat, but he is the kind of cat who will curl up next to you, follow you around the house, tie himself in knots around your ankles, complain loudly if you leave him alone, rub his face on you, and help himself to your food when your mother isn’t looking. It’s not that he’s misbehaving, it’s just that he expresses his love through obnoxiousness and thievery. Heidegger, on the other hand, prefers to spend most of her time sleeping in places where she hopes that nobody will bother her. She can be sweet and affectionate, too, but when she is, it generally means that her food bowl is approaching emptiness and she’s trying to alert people to that fact.

Heidegger and Bo

Heidegger and Bo

Whenever I’m at my house, Bo and I spend a good deal of our time together, but I don’t necessarily see much of Heidegger. To her, I’m not much better than a stranger, because I only come to her house a few times a year. She remembers me, but she’s usually not entirely comfortable around me until I’ve been there for at least a couple days. Since Bo loves people in general, it’s not relevant whether or not he remembers me. I am one of his people and therefore, I am extremely awesome in his eyes. If it wasn’t for the fact that he likes to run away every now and then, Bo would the ultimate example of the loyalty and love that animals can have for their people. On the other hand, I relate more to Heidegger in many ways because sometimes I see in myself the human versions of many of her personality traits. Basically, I’m like a human version of my Beautiful Princess. Here are some reasons why.

Heidegger1. We both have conflicting desires for privacy and community, which we both resolve by preferring to be near, but not at, the center of attention. Heidegger likes to sit on the stairs or under a piece of furniture so that she is sees and hears everything that happens in the living room, and the sound of human conversation makes her happy. We have to keep doors open for her to go visiting people’s bedrooms when she gets lonely, and we keep the food bowl in the dining room because she likes to eat near us while we’re eating. However, it would not be permissible for anyone to pick her up or to pet her for more than a minute or two. The best way to interact with Heidegger is to sit several feet away and whisper compliments to her in a quiet and calm voice. I think that sounds like a pretty good lifestyle. If I was in a position to completely dictate my interactions with other people, I think I would set them up in much the same way, except with more intellectual conversations and more board games. I definitely agree with Heidegger that it’s often more comfortable to be an observer than to be the life of the party.

2. We both hate being startled, and therefore make a point of being very aware of what’s going on around us.  If we see a movement out of the corner of our eye, we instinctively need to look to see what it is. If we hear a sound, we instinctively turn to see what made it. If we didn’t see anything or hear anything, we instinctively look around us to see what might have happened without us noticing. My sisters tell me that, even when I close my eyes, they can see through my eyelids that my eyeballs are darting around. This amuses them greatly.

Heidegger in her Leave-Me-Alone box, the sanctity of which I defiled by taking a picture

Heidegger in her Leave-Me-Alone box, the sanctity of which I defiled by taking a picture

3. We both need to have some alone time and alone space. For Bo, (and, it would seem, for some people) the idea of solitude for any amount of time at all is completely unappealing, but for people and animals like me and Heidegger, life is overwhelming if you can’t sometimes tell everyone and everything to leave you alone. To this end, Heidegger claims any empty cardboard boxes she can find and uses them as her Leave-Me-Alone boxes. We leave them out for her, and when she goes inside them, she must be left alone. When the Christmas tree is up, she designates it as her Leave-Me-Alone tree, and she must be left alone when she’s under it. Sometimes, if Heidegger is in a bad mood, she demands entire rooms or even the entire downstairs as Leave-Me-Alone territory. When Heidegger wants to be left alone, no one may touch her, look at her, or talk to her, and if they do, she is not to be held responsible for the cat scratches and bites that will suddenly appear on their hands or ankles. Unfortunately, humans can’t insist upon acting according to those same rules. Even if one is fortunate enough to have access to a private place- and I acknowledge that my dorm room does offer me as much privacy as a person can expect to have on a college campus- one still has things to get done and problems to solve. I can sometimes make people leave me alone, but I can never make life leave me alone. I would rather have it the other way around. Still, it is worth noting that, if I had a Leave-Me-Alone box, I would definitely use it.

The Beautiful Princess

4. We both get lonely if people leave us alone too much. Heidegger hates when people are asleep. I actually like when I’m awake and other people are asleep, that’s my Leave-Me-Alone time, but I don’t like the kind of days when I hardly spend any time with other people or when I am not involved in any conversations other than small talk. The sad thing is that, because of my busy schedule and because of the things mentioned in the preceding paragraph, this is fairly normal in my life.

Heidegger taking a nap

Heidegger taking a nap

5. We both wish that life would follow patterns more consistently. In Heidegger’s case, that means that she can’t deal with it when her food bowl gets knocked a centimeter to the side; someone must fix it or she cannot eat. In my case, that means that I must know my schedule ahead of time and I can’t be spontaneous unless I have deliberately put ambiguous plans or multiple choices in my schedule or to-do list.

6. We both like sitting on top of high pieces of furniture, even though neither one of us is as good at getting up there as certain other creatures, such as Bo. Heidegger used to climb the Christmas tree when she was a kitten, but now she satisfies herself with the top bunk of a bunk bed, except when she would rather sleep on the lower bunk or on a sofa. I like to climb on top of my wardrobe. I can’t explain exactly why. It’s just fun to be up there.

7. We both have an urge to spit and run away if someone is annoying us. The difference is that Heidegger can do that because she’s a cat, and I can’t because I’m a person.

She's a beautiful Princess

She’s a beautiful Princess

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