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Wednesday, 26 December 2007 00:00

The honesty of a cat’s purr opens my eyes

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By John Armour

We have two cats: Weasel, a grey female calico, and Orion, a male orange and white tabby. Orion is a big, lump of a cat, twenty pounds if he’s an ounce. He’s taught me a lesson for years that I finally realized today. He teaches by example.

Orion showed up at the door four years ago in the fall. He was obviously a house cat, not a feral or wild one. He had no collar. We brought him water and food.

He wanted to come inside, but we didn’t let him. He was obviously someone else’s cat; we shouldn’t prevent him from going home.

Winter came. The wind chill dropped to its mean minus ten at night. Orion had apparently gone home. Then one morning in the snow, I saw little cat prints from the barn up to our door and back. We started putting out food and water, and changing the water every time it froze.

We kept watch. We saw the orange boy, much thinner, and with a cut on his cheek, from a fight with another creature. Eventually, we got Orion inside.

For more than a year, he was frightened of me, but not of females in the household. He would skitter and run when anyone attempted to hold him or pick him up. In time, we found he had a knot on one of his ribs where it had been broken, and healed badly.

So, we knew his story. He was abused where he used to live. He was kicked, probably frequently by a grown male in the house, and suffered a broken rib. We showed him nothing but kindness from then to now.

How has this sweet creature responded? He obviously has deep affection for his folks. He sleeps with us, usually on the far side of Michelle, nearest to the window. Especially on cold winter mornings, he wants to be first in line for the warming sun of dawn to wash over him, and warm his fur.

He no longer fears being touched or held. Quite the contrary, he will curl up within touching distance of one of his humans. And, when you scratch him under the chin, he will often respond by rolling over on his back, catch your hand with his paw, and encourage you to rub his belly.

Mind you, please don’t tell this to the President of the Cats’ Union. Orion will be drummed out of the Union if word about this leaks out.

The most telling thing that Orion does is a deep, rumbling purr whenever he is generally satisfied, which is most of the time. It is such a loud purr that, unlike most cats, when he is in full fettle his purr can be heard from way across the room.

It took years for Orion to reach that point of being at home and comfortable, so he will curl up close to his humans, invite rubs and scratches, and purr to beat the band. He was doing that this morning while I was reflecting on the political debates that I have watched (that have been inflicted on me recently).

I follow politics closely. As I listen to national politicians speak, I can spot about one bald-faced lie every 30 seconds. Yes, I’m being charitable. There is exactly one of the candidates for President whom I think is telling the truth all of the time. And that makes him all the more frightening, that he actually believes what he is saying. No, I won’t name him. And thanks be to Heaven he will never be elected to any nationwide office.

But this morning as I watched one more spectacular sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and over Michelle’s shoulder, and over the ears of an orange, purring cat, I thought of the difference between Orion and all those politicians. Orion is honest at all times and in all ways. And every aspect of my relationship with him is based on trust.

Can you say that of any politician you know? I can’t. So, I suggest this standard to use when you are listening to, or reading, any speech by a politician: Is this as honest as a cat’s purr? The answer to that first question will be no. So, you can follow up with mille-cats. Rating a politician at 400 mille-cat means he/she is 40 percent as honest as a cat.

(John Armor practiced in the US Supreme Court for 33 years and lives in Highlands. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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