Cats sleep a lot.
They really sleep a lot.

More than dogs.
More than birds.
Why do they sleep so much?
Well, there’s a good reason.

NOAH’S CATS

By Lynn Schiffhorst

 

    It was a few days before the Great Flood. Noah had just finished the Ark, which sat on the ground like a barge. The barge was bigger than a house.  It had a wide door in the side, and Noah was watching his grandchildren guide the animals, two by two, over a ramp and through the doorway. 

    His granddaughter, Shifra, was on the right side of the ramp. When one of the horses froze and stopped walking, she climbed onto the ramp and stroked his mane. She walked backwards in front of him, smiling, until he followed her into the Ark.   

    Her brother, Joel, was on the left side. When a little guinea pig tumbled off the ramp, he was quick to pick her up and put her back beside her mate.

Noah with the cats  Not far away, Noah was sitting on a crate and holding two cats on his lap. One was a gray and white male named Sammy, and the other was a golden girl called Briska.     

    The two little cats purred as his beard tickled their whiskers.

    “Sammy,” said Noah. “We have to agree about something.” He stroked Sammy under his chin. “Briska,” he went on. “Do you trust me?” Briska licked his hand.  “Good!” Noah exclaimed. “I see that we’re friends, and friends help each other.”

    Pointing to the Ark, he said, “That boat is now our home, and I am the captain of the boat. The captain has to make sure that everybody on board is well and happy.  Do you know what that means?”

    The two cats stood up on his lap and stared at him.

    Noah explained. “Tomorrow there will be two mice on board. They cannot be eaten.” He let that sink in. 

    Then he added, “Now I want you to look into the window on the top floor of the Ark. You see the birds flying around inside?” He raised his finger. “These cannot be touched. Not by tooth. Not by claw. I am putting you on your honor.”

    Sammy and Briska looked at each other. They spent their days crawling after mice through the undergrowth in the fields. They stalked birds in the high grass.  Why should they stop now?

    “To make it easier for you,” Noah said, “I have asked the Most High to grant you the gift of deep sleep. You will sleep for eighteen hours every day during the whole time of the voyage.  And every day when you wake up, you will have a delicious dinner, because I will ask my grandchildren to catch fish for you.”

    At the word “fish,” the cats began to purr. When Noah held out his hands, they rubbed their whiskers against his fingers. That was cat language for “OK, we agree.”

     After that, they jumped down from Noah’s lap and ran over to the animals going up the ramp. They got in line between the zebras and the antelopes. The female antelope was very motherly and stroked their backs with her tongue.

    Once Sammy and Briska were inside, they found a comfortable corner on a pile of hay that was right behind a cow. And in no time at all, they were sound asleep.

    Two days later the rain caused a flood high enough to float the Ark. Noah’s oldest son, the father of Shifra and Joel, brought the children some rods and showed them how to fish. They stood at a window, dropped their lines into the water and waited to get a bite. They stayed at their posts even when the rain blew in on them, because their grandfather had promised they would always get the cats’ dinner.    

     They only took a break to pet their beloved dogs, Benji and Zilla, who were stretched out on the floor beside them.

    As soon as they caught a fish, their mother showed them how to take out the bones so the little cats wouldn’t choke. When Sammy and Briska woke up, the children had the fish ready for them. It was so fresh and tasty, it put a smile in the cats’ tummies.

    After feeding the cats, Shifra and Joel ran through the Ark, playing all kinds of new games. It was fun to climb on the camels and pick each other up when they fell off. They played tag with the chimpanzees. They got the elephants to wrap their trunks around them and swing them back and forth. They made faces at the hyenas and hugged the woolly bodies of the sheep. And before they ate their own dinner, they took Benji and Zilla up to a place in the Ark where their grandfather had made a covered space, so the dogs could run around and stay dry.

     The next morning -- and every morning after that -- they fished for Sammy and Briska.  

      Protected by the broad back of a cow and fed by the faithful children, the little cats had wonderful dreams in their long naps. They didn’t miss their old lives at all. They were even able to sneak in a little milk to wash down their dinners.

    When the Ark landed on Mount Ararat, Sammy and Briska went to say goodbye to Noah. But they stopped to play with Shifra and Joel, so they were late getting to the door. 

     What did they see when they got there?

    They saw how busy Noah was! He was pushing the snakes from under the feet of the hippos. He was yelling at the giraffes, “Look where you’re going!” because he didn’t want them to bang their heads into the top of the doorway! And he was shouting, “Benji! Zilla! Get out of the way!” The dogs were running and barking in every direction, chasing the goats, chasing the gazelles, chasing the kangaroos. 

    Sammy and Briska decided not to bother Noah.

    They ran between the legs of the lions and dashed down the slopes of Mount Ararat. Soon they found a nice comfortable cave with a stream nearby where they could make their home and catch their own fish.   

     Noah stayed so busy that he never remembered to ask the Most High to take away the gift of deep sleep He had given the cats.

    That’s why all of the children of Sammy and Briska sleep for eighteen hours a day.    

    And they still have wonderful dreams! 

 Huge thanks to Aoife McCann for her stunning illustrations.           

    

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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