I’m taking care of my friends’ cat while they’re away on a month’s vacation, and Dixon is both incredibly loving and incredibly needy. He needs to be petted the entire time I’m home and awake, which is by turns endearing and annoying. More to the point, he goes on hunger strikes unless I pet him the whole time he eats. He won’t eat while I’m at work. He won’t even eat if I’m petting him while eyeing a magazine. Even if I pay him my full attention, he’ll eat a few mouthfuls and then run away and look at me, needing me to invite him back, needing to know that I really want him to eat. It kind of reminds me of how, when I was a kid, I needed my parents to say they wanted to give me my Friday night blessing; I needed to know I was really welcome. Which helps me be more sympathetic to the cat; I know what it feels like to want that reassurance.
What this means is that for fifteen minutes every morning and every evening, I need to stand by the food bowl and stroke the cat and make eye contact with him. And for someone who has never gotten the hang of meditation, standing and focusing on my breathing in a state of relaxed attention and compassion is a very good thing on more than one level.