My family’s black and white tuxedo cat plopped down in the center of the kitchen floor. He sprawled out to his full, magnificent length, strategically between the stove, refrigerator and sink. In a hurry to cook supper and serve it to my hungry children and husband, I looked down at him and questioned, “Flicker…really? Why did you choose this place to stretch out? You know I’m going to accidentally step on you one of these days or else trip and fall over you!”
The beautiful black and white cat looked up at me with love in his large expressive golden eyes, slowly blinking in his adoration. Benevolent love radiated out from the tip of each well defined white whisker on his black muzzle. He rolled over a little more to expose his belly. Unable to resist, I leaned down and pet the soft expanse of his white underside. He purred loudly. My daughter Tammie said, “Cats show their bellies to people they love and trust.”
One of the saddest facts of pet ownership is that these sweet little animals don’t have long lives. The kittens and puppies we introduce to the family when we have toddlers usually die of old age by the time the children are ready to leave for college.
Since I have always believed that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, I keep adopting new furry children. Most of my adoptions have worked out well. As Flicker grew older, I found Berry, another tuxedo cat, abandoned along the country road near my home. Berry loved Flicker. When they cuddled together in patches of sunlight, I’d tell the children the two formed one big kitty puddle.
As Berry grew older, I adopted Oskar, a tuxedo kitten. Oskar grew to be as old and venerable as Flicker and Berry. Oskar and Berry loved each other and cuddled in patches of sunshine.
Shortly before Oskar died, I adopted Jonah, a brown tabby stray and Louie, a mostly white cat with black markings. For the first time in my life, I have two cats who hiss at each other and never lay cuddled together. Jonah likes attention, but if I’m walking around she seems to think I’m going to kick her. Louie likes to be play, but I often end up being scratched or bitten as he expresses his love more aggressively.
When Louie was still a small kitten, my daughter Tammie said, “When he grows up, he’ll be a nicer kitty.” She was right. He is nicer now, but I do have to be careful. Even when he shows me his belly, I sometimes get scratched for touching it.
The last time I prepared a meal for my daughter Tammie and me, her cats, Carla Cat and Mac wove in and around our legs. Seeing a jar of specialty olives on the counter, I said, “Let’s have olives with our meal.” I scooped up the jar, popped the lid off and fished one out. Holding the open jar out to my daughter I said, “These are really good. Do you want one?” Mac made a funny-sounding meow and plopped down on his back on the floor between us.
Tammie looked down and said, “Oh-oh! Catnip and the smell of olives causes Mac to act like he’s drunk.” When I leaned over to rub the marmalade cat’s large belly, she said, “Don’t do that! He’s a mean drunk. This is his olive belly. He’s likely to scratch you.”
Straightening up, I said, “I didn’t think your cats ever scratched and bit like Louie does!”
My daughter said, “Louie is just overly playful and doesn’t know what he’s doing. When Mac is under the influence, it’s best to leave him alone. No matter how cute he looks while showing us his belly; never try to rub it after he’s smelled olives!”
Back home later that week, I sat down at my desk. Louie and Jonah came into the office to keep me company. Suddenly, Jonah hissed and Louie chased her out of the room. A moment later I heard Jonah coughing asthmatically. Louie sauntered back into the room, flopped down on the floor next to me and rolled over on his back to show me his belly.
I warily eyed his huge, inviting expanse of soft, white belly fur and asked him, “Louie, do you get high on winning fights, just like Mac gets high on olives? I’m afraid to rub your belly. Even though you didn’t just sniff olives, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have an olive belly.”