Daisy and PoppyDaisy and Poppy love Christmas.  They probably don’t actually know it as “Christmas”, more likely as something like “that time the humans put up a lovely sparkling tree for us to play in, and hang all those beautiful things on the branches for us to pull off and play with”, but – being cats – they are fully aware that things are different from normal, and special.  Daisy and Poppy are very different, too – and both are very special.

Any cat’s human will tell you that each cat has his or her own unique personality, and so it is with Daisy and Poppy.  Daisy is capable of great affection, but only ever on her terms.  If she wants loving, her humans have to stop whatever they’re doing and show her love.  She makes it very clear what she wants, and demands it – whether it’s breakfast, a mid-morning snack of cat biscuits or an evening cuddle – with a range of sounds that cannot easily be ignored, and certainly not misinterpreted.  She knows where the cat food and biscuits are, and she knows which seat is most comfy.

Daisy on the wallBoth girls are rescue cats, because they are the best cats.  Daisy had been rehomed several times before her present humans found her – although she is beautiful, with long fur and lovely calico markings, some families found her difficult and couldn’t, or wouldn’t, cope with her manner and behaviour.  The word “high” became applied to her perceived problems – she was seen as highly strung and high maintenance.  Rudyard Kipling could have been describing Daisy when he wrote about The Cat that Walked by (Him)self.

Poppy, though a year or so older than Daisy, hangs back.  She waits for Daisy to eat her food (and often Poppy’s too!) before dreaming of satisfying her own hunger.  She had spent far too long in an animal rescue shelter that kept all its cats in one big room so that at feeding time the big, boisterous cats had their fill before the quieter, lowlier cats got a look-in – and Poppy was the quietest and lowliest of them all.  Read through most of the stories of cats in literature, from Lewis Carroll to Paul Gallico via T S Eliot and Roald Dahl, and you won’t find Poppy.  Perhaps understandably, she had been overlooked by a succession of humans who were swayed by her more pushy cousins.

But she didn’t mind.  She was meek and patient, and certain one day someone would come to recognise her beauty and offer her a safe, loving forever home.

Daisy and Poppy on the sofaCats can teach humans a great deal, as cat-lover Glenn Dromgoole recognised.  Glenn is co-founder of Americans for More Civility, a grassroots movement promoting reason, kindness and generosity in public life and private actions.  In the introduction to his lovely little book about What Cats can Teach Us he points out that “we can learn a lot by closely observing our feline friends – from keeping fastidious grooming habits, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest to nurturing your independent spirit, expressing your individuality and embracing your curiosity.”  The book reminds us of what in life is important to avoid, defend, cherish and enjoy.  This, at last, is a book that could almost be about Poppy.

Pride has been redefined in most cultures as a virtue.  The strong, the beautiful, the powerful, the intelligent, and the privileged take every opportunity to put themselves forward.  Politicians hammer home pride in speeches and debates, entertainers glamorise pride in their movies and lifestyles, teachers and parents teach pride by emphasising self-esteem and making every child a winner (whether they deserve it or not), and sports icons reinforce pride as the path to greatness.  Can’t there also be virtue in meekness?

To many people meekness is the same as weakness, but originally the word was used to describe reining in a stallion – so meekness is power under control.  As well as telling us the meek shall inherit the earth, the Bible also tells us “he who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”  There are many examples, in life and in folklore, about those with the values of meekness and humility doing well – from Aesop’s tortoise and hare to the biblical stories of Jesus.  As the Indian writer Jiddu Krishnamurti put it, “humility is the essence of love and intelligence, it is not an achievement.”

Poppy on a sunny benchPoppy’s meekness and patience were rewarded, and she found her safe, loving, forever home.  Daisy did too, of course – otherwise I wouldn’t be able to tell their story.  Our home is like a microcosm of society, and there is room in the house and our hearts for both personalities.  Their differences sometimes show themselves in fighting, but these days it’s more like play-fighting.  They enjoy chasing each other (usually when we’re in bed trying to get to sleep!) and quite often it’s Poppy doing the chasing!  We love them both, and they repay our love over and over.  I hope and believe Poppy knows she is as important a member of our little family as Daisy.  She’s still backward in coming forward and waits for Daisy to eat before she does – meekness is part of her character.

Whatever your background and beliefs, the Christmas story is about humble beginnings and limitless possibilities.  As Daisy and Poppy play with the tinsel and pull the decorations off the tree they aren’t thinking of that, of course.  Or perhaps they are.

Happy Christmas!

 

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