Pets and the Divine
Like many people I found myself struggling as COVID altered the reality that I found myself living. I do not handle change well and I had friends leaving the area, a school semester that didn’t end well, the fact that transitioning from school to work is coming up, clubs not meeting in person (and I’m a person that does better getting to know people face to face), and classes going from in-person to a weird combination of online and in-person. In October however I got a reminder about how when we work with the Divine they will always make their presence known.
To simplify the story: when I was struggling the most the opportunity to get a cat came into my life. And she got me thinking about the relationships between people and Gods.
I had been feeding a stray cat in the parking lot of my apartment complex since late summer. My hope was to eventually get them to the humane society (a no kill shelter). My apartment was not pet friendly and I had no way to afford the start up costs of a pet of any kind. One night I went outside to check on the moon (a school assignment, actually). It was also one of the hardest days for myself mentally. And there under my car was a set of yellow eyes looking at me. It had been a few weeks since I had seen the cat around and immediately went to get it food. The cat came pretty close to eat although they were skittish and not wanting me to touch them. I talked to them and felt myself feel better than I had in days. Later that week my mother mentioned that she thought an ESA animal could be beneficial and that she was willing to help me with start up costs. My therapist agreed a cat could be useful and I got the letter and things sorted with the managers. And that cat literally walked into my apartment. Something I didn’t think was possible or feasible happened. I was grateful (still am) and knew that God was involved. I could practically hear Him say “I got you”.
I found out her gender and got her fixed and vaccinated (yay humane society). Then there was adjusting to living in a space with another living creature again. Something I have not done in over 3 years. Looking around my apartment to see what I could do to make the cat more comfortable. Moving around an apartment with a shadow of a cat that, when up, is constantly around my feet. No matter how many times I accidentally start to kick her or actually stumble over her. Figuring out why she went from eating and drinking happily to not. Turned out she prefers wide mouthed dishes (okay, not prefers- requires). Adjusting that I want far more physical contact than she would prefer.
But one day I found myself contemplating something. How does my cat view this relationship? Does she see us as equals? Does she understand that I want to protect her? Does she see me as a food dispenser that is generally non-functioning? Am I a weird cat to her or does she understand that I’m not a cat?
That lead to me wondering how much is this dynamic like the ones with God and myself? To clarify, I don’t see myself as a pet of God or vice versa. But how much are the emotions involved alike? Assuming deities feel emotions. My feelings of love and affection for her when she is being cute. Joy when I pull out a cat wand and her pupils immediately go wide. The wave of delight when we have a breakthrough moment (the latest one being she went back to sleep and didn’t move away when I nestled my hand next to her in her cat bed). Exasperation when she nags me for food when I just fed her and I’m making my own meal or when she hisses at me because I about fell over her AGAIN because she insists on diving ahead of me into any room. Frustration when I struggle to communicate with her, like when she gets her claw stuck, starts to panic, and just panics more when I try to help.
In terms of power alone I get the owner is more like a deity. Does my cat view me as having a bunch of power? I know she gets I’m larger than her and a potential danger. I’m sure she also struggles to figure out how to interpret my behavior at times. She works to communicate with me and get me do do what she wants (meowing, purring, rubbing against me at times when food is conveniently involved). She knows that much comes from me: the wand only seems to fly when I’m around, I dispense food and treats-frustratingly not on command. I want to protect her, make sure she feels safe, keep her stimulated, and I want her to be healthy. So, fairly parental in feeling. Which fits with much of my relationship with God that I do feel it is quite parental in nature. In terms of her rights and privileges I consider her to be equal in deserving of respect. This means I do not get to touch her whenever I want or how I would like to touch her. I do not get to fall asleep with a ball of fur and purrs next to me. At least not yet. When leaving the door open to air out the apartment freaked her out significantly I closed the door. I have the power to change the environment in which she lives.
But to think that she views me with the awe that people generally view deities with I think would be inaccurate. To think that she understands things like that fact that I have the ability to utterly change her environment is a bit of a stretch. I mean, I have done that. I closed the door when she walked into my apartment. And she did not like that at all. Gave me a demanding, angry, meow at the door that I’m sure would translate along the lines of “Open it back up right now!” (I resisted a pun there, you are welcome). Ironically, now she is terrified of the outdoors. I have forced and tricked her into her crate multiple times for visits to the humane society and the vets office. But I don’t think many animals have the capacity to understand how another creature may affect their environment, let alone few creatures are able to exert significant change on their environment.
Basically the longer I contemplated it the more I saw some overlap between that of God/devotee and owner/pet. They are not the same in many ways of course. But there are some similarities. A connection formed with varying amounts of choice and enthusiasm. A connection between two different beings. A power dynamic that is not equal. A good relationship involves the development of trust and respect between both parties. This is done by the actions of both sides. Attempts from both sides to communicate clearly. Events that seem scary or possibly harmful but that have larger picture implications (having to repeat classes, vet visits, unhooking stuck claws, COVID). Implications which may never be comprehensible by one party (me with God or the cat with me).