The long exhalation of January has begun… the Christmas decorations are stored away for another year and have been replaced by new piles of gardening catalogues, decorating magazines, novels, and cookbooks.
And cats. More cats than I’ve recalled tending over the past few months.
I always liked having two cats. It seemed sensible and within the bounds of social propriety.
But five? Five seems borderline crazy, yet what are you going to do? They each came with a sad story of a now-or-never need for a home; tiny Fergus even followed me all the way down the trail in the cold rain of a dreary November day, as if determined to prove both his worthiness and desperation…He may have paused to wheeze a bit, very Oliver Twist-ish, to tug even more deliberately on my heartstrings. My “Foolish for Felines” sign must have flashed extra-brightly that day. And I do have a weakness for them: I think I carried Fergus the last 20 yards home. (“Sanctuary!” he cried.)
The house is big enough that they usually roam and catnap wherever they like and they seemed to disappear amidst the festive Christmas brilliance. I guess they hid under the Christmas tree or in their strategically-placed cat beds all during the holiday season. But now, in January, they seem to have multiplied and become very present along the back of the couch, or standing near windows, or strolling through the living room and hallways. They remind me of the nuns in my childhood who always seemed to glide around together in groups of two or more. Cat-clusters.
Not a problem this past week, when frigid temperatures and snowy gales kept schools closed and all of us huddled indoors, except to dash out and refill the bird feeders.
Even the dogs, it seems, have been comforted by the cats’ added body heat, content to lie at the window or in front of the fire and tolerate the feline members of the family with mature grace.
So, we’re settling in for the restive season: time to read, and nap, and dream of gardens-to-come, and soups we’ll have to make, and projects we’ll have to tackle. Cuddling with each other, a couple dogs, and a company of cats, life seems cozy indeed.
Hello again, dear reader. The human who calls herself my mother has dashed out once more to weed and mulch gardens between our current, intermittent thunderstorms. While I do not know precisely what these tasks entail or why they must be accomplished, I have seized upon her frenzied behavior as a welcome opportunity to once again share my wisdom with you.
This time, I do not address fellow felines, but seek to widen my ever-increasing circle of devotees by directly addressing humans and instructing you, from my superior vantage point as a rightly-adored member of the species felis silvestris catus, in the fine art of napping, something we cats know about and practice deeply and intensely.
I deduce this to be due to humans’ lack of sleep, observing as I have that it is both a pleasure and spiritual practice you largely avoid. Thus, if I can successfully remedy your need and capacity for sleep, your training as better servants to cats everywhere can resume.
Using my siblings—and, of course, myself—as models, I will illustrate approaches to restorative slumber that you may not have previously considered or attempted. While some human scientists encourage napping as a method for recuperating one’s mind, body, and spirit, I instead encourage you to consider it as an art form, and the highest calling one might pursue, for true Art, in itself, is rejuvenating.
And, please, banish ideas of “power-napping” and other such obscenities from your vocabulary and mind. These are euphemisms used by “success-oriented and managerial” types to suggest a nap is something accomplished quickly and with the utmost strain, in order to achieve the most beneficial results regarding your increased productivity. (Their gain, your loss; such is capitalism, my friends, and believe me, you derive no nap-like benefits from buying into its tireless resolve to suck your body and soul dry…but I digress.)
I will return to my political ideologies in another post, but, for now, I must again emphasize that you eradicate such filthy terms and faux practices as “power-napping” from your mind and life. Instead, I would submit that the neophyte napper must accept that the fine art of napping requires sustained periods of self-accepting but resolute practice, resulting, one hopes, in up to 16, perhaps (I can dream) 20 hours of sleep every day.
Behold: a photograph of my mother “napping” in an automobile many years ago, captured by my father, who may have better used his time focusing on the road before him.
While I would hardly recommend a moving vehicle as the most welcoming spot to pursue one’s naps, we shall see that location is best designated through personal preference. At this time, mother’s method, as you can plainly see, lacked delicacy and the controlled “athlete in repose” image one aims to achieve. Still, for a beginner, there were aspects of her approach that might have encouraged a professional tutor of my distinction, but, sadly, her apparent need for a drool cup–an unfortunate lapse in mother’s style and form that continues to this day–made problematic the likelihood she would ever attain a true mastery level in her napping, a forecast many (many) years have proven true. Study and learn from this, dear reader.
Here, then, a Beginner’s Guide to Napping, today covering the basics of location, form, and duration.
Location: Sun-puddles are the finest places for napping, wherever they are found. Rugs, window seats, boxes, sinks, commercial cat-beds (if one must), and, of course, human beds are recommended, but please explore your unique napping preferences and be willing to experiment. One of my favorite places to nap is atop the clothing and blanket dryer when it is running full throttle, and Murphy (although I cannot recommend the general sloppiness of his postures, save for Pose #3; see following) often naps high above the living room, on top of the TV cabinet.
I would caution you to refrain from napping anywhere in the kitchen, especially on a counter or tabletop, as our mother (if her acknowledged odd behavior can be extrapolated to other humans) pitches a royal hissy fit when we dare to attempt this. I have responded with my keenest “Calm yourself, woman” glare to no avail, so have abandoned this location as acceptable. For now. (As I have referenced, she is aged and I will likely outlast her.) You may have better luck with your family members, or may live alone, so I say have at it, if your kitchen counter is calling.
Posture: This is where the true artist emerges. The first position I would suggest is the casual magnificence demonstrated here, by moi, in the Crossed Paws Pose. Note the peaceful maintenance of the head’s position.
Alternately, but with greater practice, for it is much more advanced, one may hold the head just so, at a jaunty angle.
As you progress in your art, you may attempt the following: Moving from position one, above, a yawn (still napping, of course) is executed, and then one drops, almost imperceptibly, to the “Perfectly Prone” position. A trifecta of nappage postures, as it were. Do not try this too soon in your learning; you are bound to be discouraged when you fail.
Sometimes examples that demonstrate the antithesis of a lesson best teach:
Sadly, and once more, no.
Another pose to master is to rest on one’s ventral side, casually, the One Paw Extended Pose. (Casual to the beholder, of course; one’s focus must be riveted.) You can see my attempts to teach Murphy (a.k.a., “The Ham”) are ruined by his relentless inability to focus on anything but the camera.
The third pose, however, resting one’s head like an infant upon one’s forward, sweetly-curled paws, The Neonate Pose, is one of Murphy’s specialties. It makes adult humans say, “Oh, how cute! How precious! How darling!” If one goes in for that sort of childish thing, this pose may be your favorite.
The fourth and most challenging “solo” position is to execute a perfect circle of contentment, as I am doing here, in the aptly named Circle of Contentment Pose.
This cannot be forced, but rather demands elegance, the perfect coiling of the tail completing the circle, the head resting on all 4 paws…Mulligan comes close; when he is not licking himself, he can be a most surprising student in mastering what would seem far beyond his troubling intellect.
Sadly, the new sibling, Fergus, falls far short of the circle pose, but we are practicing diligently and daily.
Lastly, I would say a supreme pinnacle, a “mountaintop” you may want to hold in your napping dreams, is the Happy Family Nap Pose, which, as is plainly apparent in this photograph, my siblings cannot yet grasp. Here, I am almost at wit’s end trying to elicit cooperation in this most strenuous of poses. As you can see, Murphy has positioned himself far too closely to my posterior and then immediately fallen asleep. Synchronized sleeping is key in the HFP. Fiona and Mulligan are clearly seen to be out of alignment; in addition, Fiona is looking scornfully at the camera, while, again, Mulligan’s fascination with licking himself has robbed him of focus entirely.
Finally, I must address the duration of napping that a true artist would demonstrate. To aspire towards anything less than 10 hours would reveal one’s permanently amateur status. Begin, I caution, with the stated 10, and build up your endurance to the Mastery Level of 16 hours, and then 20 hours (the latter conferring the status of Supreme Master). I humbly admit I have achieved this level, and seek to guide my siblings towards similar perfection. Mulligan, if I can deter the licking, may do well. Fiona seems to be developing her own system of napping. We shall see: these secondary schools of form and content are so often drenched in inferiority; for example, consider Pantanjali and then Iyengar, if you catch my drift. The mind quickly turns from such blatant perversion. Perhaps Young Fergus, if he can vastly improve his form, may be most likely to succeed as the next Master, but he has years of practice ahead of him.