Mother-daughter: Meow

Whenever I wonder why I’m spending more each month on cat food than on Internet/cellphone access, I take modest comfort in knowing that I’m not the first to be thus exploited.

So where’s the meditation? (photo credit: MCT)
So where’s the meditation?
(photo credit: MCT)
This is a meditation on mother-daughter relationships.
Among cats.
Fair warning: Those whose understanding of the feline does not extend beyond “They’re so adorable!” – perhaps you ought to stop reading and go watch some cat videos on YouTube. But if you are, like so many of us, a connoisseur of family dysfunction, press on.
According to one theory, long ago humans first domesticated dogs, and then cats domesticated humans.
Specifically, cats noticed the good things available around the fire or in the cave. Unlike dogs, they had no intention of working, and indeed had nothing to offer, save that which they were going to do anyway: chase rodents, annoy birds, etc. Still, much to the disgust of the more responsible canines, they meowed their way in.
And today, whenever I wonder why I’m spending more each month on cat food than on Internet/cellphone access, I take modest comfort in knowing that I’m not the first to be thus exploited.
Back in the Old Country, we adopted several feral cats. Then we made aliya to Beersheba (which my wife, who loves desert resorts, apparently confused with Eilat) and discovered Israeli cats. As the tale goes, the early Zionist pioneers brought them in to deal with rats.
They forgot that well-fed cats breed.
Cats bred. Feral cats ran all over Beersheba, their numbers periodically diminished by disease and murderous governmental round-ups. Yuck.
Then we went North and found the situation entirely different.
Our little town has feral cats aplenty. But the city controls them under a “catch, spay/neuter, then release” policy. They also clip one ear as indicator of attentions-paid, although why they have to clip male ears when they’ve already clipped male other ends, I know not. Perhaps as a convenience for the workers.
Anyway, our little town enjoys a plethora, a plenitude of pusses, mostly tame, affectionate and amply fed at various outdoor feline kibbutz dining areas. Indeed, my wife, a former professional dog trainer who can actually herd cats, has befriended several. There’s The Big Louie, in Hebrew Ha’Louie Ha’gadol, a dominant male who comes when called, even out of trees. There’s Ben Cheetah, an obvious cross of a domestic cat and some wild beast, who follows her around demurely. And there’s one calico cat, as yet unnamed, who snuggles endlessly when we’re at the burekas place but fails to recognize her anywhere else.
None of these is Samantha.
Samantha, a.k.a. Protekzia, was born outdoors in the spring of 2013, her family members of the Municipal Cat Choir that hangs around our quarter and gives occasional midnight performances. Several months later, she showed up at our apartment door with an expression of “I’ve been to every apartment in this place looking for a home, and you’re the top floor and it’s a miserable schlep up – but this is the end of the line, so just take me in.”
Like all the generations before us, we did.
Samantha’s a goodly puss. She no longer dines at the trough. She sleeps around, messes up the knitting basket and, since we’re on the top floor with trees right outside, intently studies the birds from an unusual (for a cat) perspective. Indeed, she rushes to the windows whenever she hears them, and we’ve often found her on her hind legs, front paws firmly on a windowsill, sometimes even doing feline pull-ups. To adapt the signature line from the classic Fantasy Island TV show: Da birds, boss! Da birds! Then, a while ago, we noticed a large female cat, markings almost exactly like Samantha’s, who turned out, according to local human gossip, to be her mother. We knew this because of her behavior. At first she merely glared at me with the traditional “You good enough for my baby?” disdain. Then, for days, she nagged her daughter. Loudly.
“You never write. You never call.
We never see you. You move in with humans, and all of a sudden you think you’re too good for us. God only knows what they feed you and where you sleep. If your father were here . . .”
Samantha generally sneered it off and headed, tail high, up the steps.
Then, a few days ago, we heard this hideous yowling. There was Samantha’s mother, fighting with Samantha . . . and with everyone else.
Poor Samantha.
Hard to respect your mother when she argues with everyone in the neighborhood.
So where’s the meditation? Maybe just this: Mother-daughter relationships, especially when the generations embrace very different cultures and values, can be volatile, intense and hurtful. Fortunately, the victory rarely goes to the female with the sharpest claws.
And in the end, most realize that which binds them is more important than that which divides them.
Samantha would agree. As soon as she figures it out.The writer is an American oleh whose cat sleeps at the foot of the bed – which, she discovers nightly, is where the feet are.