Adopted one Sunday morning from the Larchmont street farmers market in Hancock Park, Oscar has been with me for 9 years, ever since he was a tiny kitten. He was indescribably cute and fierce in his early days, whether locking his jaws onto a feather wand like a little piranha or cuddling with an ugly doll. He used to curl up into a little ball by my neck when we were sleeping, or ride around inside my shirt when we had to go some where. To this day he loves sleeping in my clothes.
Adolescence changed things between us. Unlike other cats I've had, Oscar and I have an unusual bond. He follows me from room to room, sits near me, and sleeps with me every night; but he generally does not like to be held. Intimate affection makes him very uncomfortable. It seems I'm always trying to pet him passionately and he's always tiptoeing away from me like a coy feline, keeping himself just out of my reach.
While Oscar still manages to go limp and purr if I scoop him up and put him inside my shirt (a regressive reflex?). Every time I have to pick him up, panic flares in his eyes, his body goes stiff, and a somewhat desperate struggle to escape my grasp ensues. This has come as a huge disappointment to both of us, creating a learning curve for our relationship. In full disclosure, Oscar is my second meezer; his predecessor Winston and I had something of an infatuated relationship with each other. Winston left me the night I moved in with Mylo's father, and after a few months of desperate searching and grieving his disappearance, I adopted Oscar, hoping to fill a void.
But as everyone who's ever attempted to fill the void left by one relationship with a new relationship learns -- it never goes according to plan. Everything is always new, no one can ever replace anyone else.
This is not to suggest that I am dissatisfied with Oscar in anyway -- he is unequivocally the most polite cat I have ever owned. A true gentleman. Oscar is very quiet, not just for a siamese cat, but any cat. Instead of meowing, he uses psychological techniques to make his wishes known. Usually he just stares at me, critical eyes filled with emotion, reprehension, condescension:
I have often compared Oscar to Count Dracula, due to his anti-social behavior and strange habits. For many years he would sleep in my closet during the day, only to come out at night. When people came over they had no idea I had a cat, and would often be startled by his sudden appearances in the room. Once I started to learn about behavior intervention and began rewarding Oscar with treats every time he interacted with the world, he became less of a wall flower and started coming out during the day to interact.
In 2014 I had bathtub revelation is about love (my best revelations always seem to come to be in the bath). While I was soaking, Oscar came to visit. He loves to watch me take a bath, I think it confounds him. Sometimes he watches me take a shower too, standing on the edge of the tub, shielded by the clear plastic liner.... Anyway, I observed him watching me from the edge of the tub that night, and I realized that I had never really made a committed effort to pet him on his own terms, so I let him come to me. As it turns out Oscar likes affection very much -- just very soft, gentle, patient strokes, and he wants to call the shots by keeping himself at the safe distance of an arm's length away. The more tuned in to his style of affection I became, the more he wanted me to touch him.
Then it occurred to me that love is a lot like this -- appreciating the other enough to learn their needs, meet them with attention, and let the doing of such provide its own gift of satisfaction. If the relationship is reciprocal, then a great mutual love is possible, in which both parties feel "loved" in the way they like best, and the accomplishment of this for eachother is totally fulfilling in and of itself. This may be obvious to some, but it came as a little epiphany for me that day because though I'd had the experience of being "in love," I had never loved someone with attuned awareness.
Oscar has been great with Mylo. He was present in the room when Oscar was born, so I think he has primal understanding of our parent-child relationship, as well as a sort of protectiveness of him. Oscar has always been a fan of sleeping with/on Mylo and I. During the day, Oscar is happy to run in the other direction when he sees us coming, or simply freeze until Mylo releases him from his grasp. But when we are asleep, I think that's how Oscar likes us best: motionless. I cannot tell you how many nights I have woken up to Oscar curled in a ball upon my chest, purring with wild abandon, only to pet him and have him slink away as soon as he knows I am awake.
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Where's Oscar? See if you can find him in these photos.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle.
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