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This is what Rex looked like 10 lbs. ago.

We had an interloper in our yard today.  A dusty-colored tabby cat, presumably male, visited the carport.  As I walked up the driveway, I saw Rex creeping ever closer to something.  Every black hair on his back was on edge.  He slunk along, moaning in that whale song of cat dominance all the while.  The tabby cat just sat there.  He wasn’t moving.

Something you should know about Rex is that 1) He’s at least 20 lbs., and 2) He’s a great hunter.  In fact, he brought a dead mouse in for us on Thanksgiving night.  Apparently he saw we made no dinner preparations nor did we eat anything and he was concerned for our welfare.  Jonathon quickly pitched the carcass outside.  Rex, fruitlessly searching for his “gift”, had to be deposited outside soon after.

Rex is very territorial.  Chloe doesn’t like other cats in the yard, either, but she’s a girl.  And she’s very mellow and sweet.  She would probably befriend whoever it was.  She has in the past and made several boyfriends, much to her confusion.

I was not surprised to see the standoff. Ruby, fascinated by the new kitty and Rex’s guttural tones, went outside to monitor the situation.  The new kitty – newly christened by Ruby as “Rita” – loved to be petted and mewed with gratefulness, arching its back and rubbing its face on Ruby’s hand.  We warned her not to get in the middle of the catfight.  Things could get ugly.

I got cleaned up from  my run and looked out the door.  Only Rita remained, sitting smack dab in the center of the carport.

“Where’s Rex?” I asked Ruby.

“He’s behind the chairs,” she replied.  Rex, apparently all noise and no fury, was hiding.  We have two old chairs waiting their turn at the dump.  Rex found a hidey hole behind them.

I called him.  He responded by growling.  He was not happy but wouldn’t do anything about it.  He seemed paralyzed with indecision and fear.

This has happened before.  Chloe had a persistent male admirer we named Henry, summer before last.  Henry loved Chloe so much he’d call to her from the other side of the screen door.  Chloe would hide.  Henry would try to come in, mewing and pawing at the back door.

Rex was not pleased at this turn of events.  He would charge out the back door and chase Henry away.  Henry never put up any resistance that I could see.  His attachment to Chloe puzzled her.  He was like an orange shadow, following her around in the sunshine.

Rex met his match in Rita.  Rita laid down in the carport, determined to assert his superiority and stake out a claim to the cement slab.  Rex never emerged to counteract his claim.  Eventually, Rita got bored and left.

The question remains:  Why didn’t Rex assert himself?  He had the right to do so.  He has the authority in his yard.  He’s the alpha cat, despite all of Chloe’s taunting and chasing.  You could say he is non-confrontational, to put a positive spin on it.  I’ve thought about it quite a bit.

As much as I love Rex, he’s not a fighter.  Oh, he has a great war cry, but there’s nothing behind it.  If the other cat runs, he will chase.  But if the cat refuses to back down, Rex has no heart to strike head on.  I’ve had female cats that were braver and much smaller than he is!

At bottom, Rex doesn’t know who he is. It doesn’t register that his girth alone brings him a certain rank.  He’ s not a kitten either; he’s in his prime (thank you, Miss Brody!).  Those teeth and claws that kill rodents on a regular basis would be just as lethal on the feline species.

Don’t we do the same thing?  Don’t we have areas that are ours – raising our kids, how we eat, exercise, spend money – that we abdicate because we don’t know our own selves or the authority that resides within us?  We stay paralyzed with fear, afraid to make a move.  We are afraid to do it wrong, to fail once again.  We can’t stay there.  We have a responsibility and gifts we need to use in this world.  We have to stake our claim on the things that are in our sphere of influence, to change them for good, God willing.  Once we do, the obstacles will become clearer and manifest as their true size.  And we can take them, head on.

I’m not willing to lie down and hide.  Are you?

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