Lately I’ve been suffering from a particularly virulent – ahem – strain of viral bronchitis. I’ll be fine, but anyone who has had a bad bout of bronchitis knows it can take quite a long time to clear. Fortunately, I have plenty of chicken soup, herbal tea, and a devoted night nurse, i.e., The Cat.
Cats often get short shrift from non – cat owners. They’re viewed as largely selfish, detached, and less intelligent than dogs. In my experience however, a good cat is a good furry friend indeed, particularly when you are under the weather.
The other day, I was having a painful time trying to breathe. I had overextended myself in trying to return to my normal level of activity too quickly, and returned home short of breath, frustrated, and a bit frightened. I lay on the couch, worried that my bronchitis was turning into pneumonia.
Into this situation sauntered The Cat. At first she climbed up on the back of the sofa, settled herself on top, and stared at me for a long time. After awhile, she came down, snuggled into the space between my right side and my right arm, and put her paw on my right ribcage, where my pain was more acute.
If this sounds surprising to you, it wasn’t really to me. Some years ago, when I was suffering from runner’s knee, she came into bed one night, settled down next to my bad knee, and did the same thing. She just knew.
Now, how a creature with a brain the size of a walnut can be so perceptive about human illness, who knows. A friend reminded me of the story of Oscar, who used to visit patients in the nursing home a few hours before they died. I don’t think The Cat here at home is a harbinger of my impending demise, of course, and yet there is a similar, uncanny ability on her part to know not only when something is wrong, but occasionally, exactly what hurts.
At night then, when not feeling my best, I can be reasonably sure that my night nurse will turn up, meowing and head-butting me, just to make sure I’m alive, and to stay with me until I fall asleep. It’s not a job I expect her to perform, and I don’t quite understand how or why she does it. And yet a little, furry comfort like this is certainly a gift from above that I am not about to question.