Cats With Jobs

Chaos stalked through the halls of the nursing home with an air of entitlement.
And it was beautiful.
A large fellow, with a thick, soft, ginger-tabby coat; huge green eyes that looked right through you; and a lovely, blue collar with a bell.
Bear was his co-conspirator, with luxuriously thick and soft grey fur; beseeching yellow eyes and a lovely, green collar with a bell.
Both were without their front claws, a steep price to pay for their new jobs.
They came from the same family, in their previous lives.
But they had to find a new home.
Now, in their present lives, they patrol the halls of a long term care facility.
They are non-plussed that their tails are ever in danger of being run over by a wheelchair or walker.
They are elegant ambassadors, furry and four footed.
They are happy to be unceremoniously picked up, cuddled and canoodled.
Their payment is an endless supply of food, and a convenient tray of litter.
They are stoic in their employment; never showing any emotion, be it happy, sad, fearful or otherwise.
They seem to understand that they are there to “help” us humans; another species, which seems to need their presence.
They seem to be the catalyst for many a human interaction, which may not happen otherwise, without them.
Everyone, total strangers, seem happy to bond over a cat, fawning over them, chatting about them.
They are the perfect companion for such a situation; clean, quiet, unassuming, unneedful.
There are many such “therapy” cats who make the rounds of retirement homes, hospitals, long term care facilities, etc.
They seem to know their place, and are happy to oblige.
Cats have always had a job, in one way or another.
In ancient times when they first came into the acquaintance of humans, they chased the mice away.
During a recent tour of Quebec City, the guide explained that cats were kept in the basements of the fortresses, barred in, in order to keep the mice at bay.
Not such a cushy job for a cat, to be locked in a cold, castle basement, but it assured the cat of meals-for-life.
The world of research and development often employs cats in its experiments; again, not a desirable job at all for a feline, however, until it met its death, it was fed, at least.
Even after their death, cats have jobs.
I remember biology class in high school.
The black and white cat was kept in a plastic bag, in a cardboard bin.
Solid and stiff with rigamortis and formaldahyde.
Its veins filled with red and blue plastic.
Its job, post mortem, was to help educate us about the inner workings of our bodies.
We had to dissect those cats, as part of our class.
I didn’t mind it back then; I was much less squeamish than I am today.
That cat helped us learn about the circulatory system; organs; anatomy; biology.
I didn’t appreciate it then; but I do now.
The cats of today have the job of being our companions.  A job for which it is well suited, always being the closet hedonist.
But some cats suffer from depression in those jobs, deferring to sleep endlessly to stave off boredom.
Yes, even cats need stimulation; engagement.
In the wild, chasing prey was their job.  Their livelihood.  Their survival.
In domestication, they need something to do.
It doesn’t take much to engage them.  A flick of a feather toy.  A toss of a stuffed mouse.
I read somewhere a mere 15 minutes a day will do it.
Just enough to make them feel needed and loved.
Wanted and purposeful.
For we all need a purpose.
Even cats.

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