We here at Spirituality & Practice are great cat lovers! Frederic and Mary Ann have fostered countless cats through the years, finding loving and nurturing homes for them. Others became permanent residents and members of the Brussat family. Currently they live with Rumi, a brown tabby Maine Coon, and Shams, a red and white tabby Maine Coon.
Cats are our teachers, companions, playmates, and so much more. What better way to celebrate them and all their feline relatives than with their own special day (though they most likely think every day is their day!), National Cat Day.
Founded in 2005 by Colleen Paige, a pet and family lifestyle expert and animal behaviorist, National Cat Day helps to galvanize the public "to recognize the number of cats that need to be rescued each year and also to encourage cat lovers to celebrate the cat(s) in their life for the unconditional love and companionship they bestow upon us."
As Charles Dickens once mused, "What greater gift than the love of a cat?" Today cats can be found in 34% of American households, making them the most popular house pet in the United States. But there are some startling statistics about the fate of cats in the U.S.: "Estimates reveal that there are approximately 4 million cats entering shelters every year with 1 - 2 million being euthanized." What a terrible waste of opportunities for the sharing of love. Even if you can't adopt a cat, you can make a donation to a local rescue. Or you can volunteer to clean a cage or sit and play with a cat for a while. Who knows? You may just fall in love!
Cats are masters of attention and being present, but that's just the tip of the tail of what they have to teach us. In honor of these precious companions, we have gathered some of our favorite resources to help you see all the myriad gifts cats bring to our lives.
To Name This Day:
- "When night is dark
my cat is wise
to light the lanterns
in his eyes."
— Aileen Fisher in The Children's Book of Poems, Prayers and Meditations edited by Liz Attenborough.
- "Having five cats around the house helps me have no expectations. They are not goal-fulfilling creatures in any human sense. There is little one can expect of a cat."
— Clarice Bryan in Expect Nothing
- "The same attitude of relaxed gentleness is most beautifully seen when you watch cats climbing trees. When a cat falls out of a tree, it lets go of itself. The cat becomes completely relaxed, and lands lightly on the ground. But if a cat were about to fall out of a tree and suddenly made up its mind that it didn't want to fall, it would become tense and rigid, and would be just a bag of broken bones upon landing. In the same way, it is the philosophy of the Tao that we are all falling off a tree, at every moment of our lives. As a matter of fact, the moment we were born we were kicked off a precipice and we are falling, and there is nothing that can stop it. So instead of living in a state of chronic tension, and clinging to all sorts of things that are actually falling with us because the whole world is impermanent, be like a cat. Don't resist it."
— Alan Watts in What is Tao?
- "The love we give to a pet, and receive from a pet, can draw us more deeply into the larger circle of life, into the wonder of our common relationship to our Creator."
— Kevin E. Mackin in Blessing the Animals by Lynn L. Caruso
- "With my cats, I am learning the lesson of the sufficiency of the moment. No yesterday, no tomorrow, only the magic of today, of this single instant. No remorse, no regret, no yearning, just the play of now."
— Jeffrey Masson in The Spirit of Silence by John Lane
- "Cats, in particular, teach us to be ourselves, whatever the odds. A cat, except through force, will never do anything that goes against its nature. Nothing seduces it away from itself. Contemplate ways we can strengthen our resolve to live our lives as who we really are. See the beauty, for instance, in foregoing an 'important' meeting or gala events in favor of a warm fire at home and a restorative nap. What makes us purr with contentment? Find it and let it, easily, find you."
— Alice Walker in We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For
- "Brother David Steindl-Rast says that anything we do with a whole heart is prayer. By way of example, he recommends that if you come home from a long day too tired to say an Office, to pray a shower. Also to be prayed are gardens, walks, thunderstorms, conversations with cats and other creatures — any awareness or action that engages the core of stillness in which our hearts find wholeness."
— Maggie Ross in The Fire of Your Life
- Cat Sense by John Bradshaw offers a mix of fascinating history about cats and helpful suggestions for caring for these independent animal companions.
- Guardians of Being by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell is a celebration in words and illustrations of dogs and cats as spiritual teachers of stillness, joy, and being present.
- The Karma of Cats edited by Diana Ventimiglia is a wonderful collection of stories by spiritual teachers illustrating their appreciation of their cats' roles in their lives. See the excerpt for Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat's essay on what they learned about respect and authenticity from living in a household of ten rescue cats.
- The Soul of All Living Creatures by Vint Virga is an intriguing book about the connections between animals and humans.
- Zen Cat by Judith Alder and Paul Coughlin contains quotations matched with pictures of cats and kittens.
- Captain Cat by Inga Moore is a rousing tale of adventure, cats, and greed based on an old Italian tale.
- The Cat with Seven Names by Tony Johnston is about a gregarious and wandering cat who visits six lonely people in his neighborhood and becomes their reliable companion.
- The Coconut Monk by Thich Nhat Hanh is set in Vietnam and models the path of peace and nonviolence through the example of his two animal companions, a cat and a mouse.
- Homer, the Library Cat by Reeve Lindbergh recounts the quest of a cat who lives in a quiet house with a quiet woman to find another place in his town where silence is appreciated.
- I Am Tama, Lucky Cat by Wendy Henrichs is about an adorable cat who in return for a monk's kindness brings good fortune to the temple.
- Moo Kitty Finds a Home by Valerie Lee Veltre is a heart-touching tale about an abandoned cat and his quest to find a new home.
- When Cats Dream by Dav Pilkey takes a trip with cats into their dream world.
- In Getting Older Better Pamela Blair offers new vistas for women over fifty. Here is an excerpt on love and how she turns to her cats for physical comfort when her husband travels.
- Kim Rosen's Saved by a Poem is an astonishing presentation of the transformational power of poetry. Here is a poem by Jane Hirshfield in which a cat is saluted for being able to live "amid the great vanishing."
- Caryll Houselander (1901-1954), a Catholic writer, artist and visionary, offers what she learns about faith and prayer from her cat in this collection of her Essential Writings.
- Puss in Boots is a razzle-dazzle animated feature about an outlaw cat who dances flamenco; he's a survivor able to handle all challenges before him.
- The Rabbi's Cat is a French animated film about the unusual quest of a rabbi, a skeikh, and a talking cat to discover the essential unity of life.
- When the Cat's Away is an irresistibly charming film about the magical and surprising ways in which community is created in large cities.