Mat on Cats

Mat on Cats
Pre-mat version of my cat

She purrs on my lap as I focus on one section of fur. Finding a sliver of space to slip the comb in, I slowly work the teeth of the cat comb back out.

My best guess is that as my cat’s blood sugar got out of control with her developing diabetes, my cat didn’t feel vey good and her grooming suffered. However it happened, she developed large mats of fur along each hip.

So now we work each day working them out. My job is to keep combing until we hit pay dirt – a section of matted fur pulling loose and getting free. Her job is to allow me to do it.

We’re making headway, the two of us. In some ways it’s become a meditative time, an exercise in mindfulness as I focus on the fur before me. I think it may also be a pretty good metaphor for the healing process.

1. We don’t always know our lives are getting matted up until after it’s done.

One day we realize that everything’s in a tangle. We have to do something different.

2. It can be a slow process and you’re not always sure you’re making progress.

Some mornings I work, not really sure if we’re making headway or not. The mat looks the same. Or, it’s become more disorganized with raggedy patches of fur now sticking straight out but still matted up. All I can do is keep working patiently, trusting that even the little bits of fur that are coming out are a step in the right direction.

Likewise, as I work on my life or help someone else work on theirs, there are stretches in which it feels like nothing is happening. We’re focusing on making different choices but everything feels the same. We’ve been working on our insides but our outsides look unchanged. All we can do is keep trusting the process, trusting that all of these small steps are yet leading us to better places.

3. When we least expect it, a big chunk breaks free all at once.

As I work on my cat, something starts loosening up. I pull gently with the comb, and suddenly a large chunk of fur breaks free. One more piece down.

Most of our journeys are travelled by one small step following another. But when we least expect it, a lightbulb moment breaks upon us. We find the one puzzle piece that fits everything together. In a moment of clarity, we realize that everything our therapist has been telling us is ACTUALLY TRUE – and we see that relationship, that job, or even ourselves in a whole different light. Something shifts inside and we know the ground has shifted beneath our feet, in all of the best ways.

So, as you consider the work of healing and change in your life, remember my cat and be patient with your own mats.

One of the ways lives get tangled up is with grief. Sometimes part of the tangle is not realizing that what we’re feeling is grief – or that we have a right to grieve. If that’s you (or someone you love), check out the recording of my webinar, Is My Grief Weird? Find it here.

For other webinars, visit


So long, Rosie

Rosie, 1995

The first time I met her, I hated her. I was waiting at the veterinarian’s office with my very sick cat, Sam, who was about to be euthanized. Rosie and her sister were tiny kittens playing in a cage in the corner, up for adoption. They’d been abandoned outside of a KMart. Only a few days old, some kind soul rescued them and nurtured them up to adoption age. They were tiny. And cute. And so abundantly alive.  I resented it their liveliness on the day Sam’s life would end. Especially since Rosie was a brown tabby, just like Sam.

That was on a Friday. By Monday  I was calling the vet to see if the kittens were still available. That’s how Maxie and Rosie came to live with me.

Rosie was destined to be a perpetual second banana. With Maxie, there was no doubt who the alpha cat was. Maxie was sweet and loving but in a curmudgeonly sort of way. She had the mouth of a sailor and little patience. Rosie just stayed back and let everything roll off of her. Several years later when  I rescued a stray kitten who’d wandered into my yard, Maxie was all bluster. Rosie let the kitten play around her and play at her until her long-suffering soul had enough and she gave the kitten one swipe of the paw. That was all and that was enough.

In her old age she had to suffer the indignity of dogs, particularly Oakley who liked to check on her by sticking her entire long nose up under Rosie’s body. Rosie gave an irritated meow, but otherwise took it in stride. When Maxie developed a fast growing malignant tumor, I took Rosie with me to the vet. Her carrier on the table, she watched carefully and solemnly as her sister slipped away. She seemed to take it in and never looked for Max or asked about her again.

For over three years Rosie was a diabetic. She quickly adapted to this new routine of twice daily insulin injections, only complaining when I got sloppy and careless with her shot. One day I came home from a trip and found her in a coma. The emergency vets performed a miracle in getting her back from the threshold of death’s door but she lost a good portion of her eyesight. She never complained and it never seemed to bother her. She just kept on keeping on.

Maxie and Rosie

The one place in which she took a backseat to no one was her hunting. One summer in our old house I kept count of how many voles she’d killed (voles look like moles but are about the size of mice.) At least sixteen voles bit the dust that summer. Each time she’d proudly leave her gift at the front door. Occasionally I’d catch Max picking up the dead vole and proudly bringing it around again, as if she’d killed it.

I came home last night and prepared for bed. When I was ready to give Rosie her nightly shot, she wasn’t in her bed. I finally found her in another room, peaceful and still. She lived to be seventeen.

My pastor tells me that the one question he gets asked more than any other is if our pets will be with us in heaven. I do not have the definitive answer, but  I cannot imagine anywhere being all that heavenly if our four-legged (and two-winged!) family members are not allowed to join us.

If we are open, we may learn many lessons from our pets. Oakley teaches me that you can be fierce and protective and loving at the same time. Ralphie teaches me about all out joy. Maxie taught me about asking for what you need (okay, demanding.) And Rosie taught me that it is indeed possible to have a Buddha cat – not holding on to anything, being in the moment, finding contentment.

So long, Rosie.

And thanks.