The Feline Commonality

My regular blog readers have seen me post a number of short stories written for creative writing groups or as part of the Idaho Commission on the Arts “IdaPost” pen pal program, which I have participated in since its inception three years ago. For the latter, the staff at the Arts Commission randomly matches writing participants up as pen pals for the duration of the annual program, and the current Idaho Writer in Residence sends participants a prompt every few weeks. The pen pals swap their stories or poems resulting from the prompt and at the end of the program participants can submit their favorite pieces for publication in the IdaPost Zine. The fourth and final writing prompt asked us to use the information we had learned through our pen pal exchange to make a connection with our pen pal, considering especially the ways in which the places we wrote about might bridge a connection. Unfortunately, my pen pal quit half way through the program without a word. But for my part I am a writer and so I continued to write, using one facet of information I knew about my pen pal to craft my final IdaPost story. (For the other three prompt stories, see the posts labeled “Gazing In,”  “Auditory Learner,” and “A Pin on My Memory Map”).

The Feline Commonality

© 2023 Carolyn Fenzl

Our shared love of housecats was evident. And in many ways, my pen pal seemed catlike: elusive and fickle. As a person, her behavior makes a connection difficult to develop. But as a cat, she would probably enjoy living in my home where the oddities of the feline mentality are encouraged and given free range.

The Elusive Feline

One of my cats is particularly elusive during daylight hours. But when the lights go out for the night and the humans sleep, the demons in her cat brain emerge to fuel the night crazies. Suddenly every shadow is a bug to chase, every creak of the walls or shift of foundation sends her darting around at top speed. Kitchen counters and other places off-limits by human standards, are now new worlds to explore. Does my elusive pen pal suffer insomnia that holds dreams at bay leaving a night battle with inner demons inevitable? Or, like my cat, does she simply appreciate the company of felines to that of people?

The Fickle Feline

Our ficklest feline doesn’t like the other cats. She prefers human company except when she prefers sleeping alone in her green cat bed. She favors wet food unless she favors dry food that day. Is salmon or turkey her favorite? Sometimes both, sometimes neither. Her favorite activity is when her person brushes her long, silky fur, unless the attention gets too much. Then she might send a message by urinating on the bed. Perhaps you can never know a fickle cat, or perhaps you know that cat best of all from the certainty of the uncertainty.

During my pen pal correspondence, I wondered if she enjoyed the act of writing, or only sometimes, or not at all. Did her brief shares and long silences suggest an indecisive relationship with writing? Her actions indicated writing was not for her, but her external voice disagreed – until her correspondence stopped coming. Perhaps like a cat, her relationship with writing is fickle, both simple and complex, at once a pleasure and a sacrifice.

The Feline Agent

The key to a successful human-cat relationship is recognizing that the cat wants complete agency, and you must let it believe it has complete agency over its own actions, or risk getting ignored or even scratched. When you don’t play to your cat’s innate personality, you could become frustrated, just like you might with a human who acts catlike. You may expect a human to complete their obligations or communicate effectively, but expectations we put on others denies them agency. Just like the four elusive and fickle cats that call my place home, my pen pal claimed her agency in a very feline manner making the home I wrote about for IdaPost an attractive place if she was actually a cat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *