Cats and Cat Napping Learned From Them

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for September 6, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            One of the perks of retirement is being able to take “cat naps” whenever you want to. During the 66 years of employment at one kind of job or the other, I used to think how nice it would be to take a nap in the midst of “wilt-down” time after lunch but was never able to do so.

            After almost a year of my retiring from any and all jobs, my wife and I purchased two recliners for our sun room, the built-on room with all the windows. At last, after so many years, I can take a “cat nap” during afternoon wilt-down time and any other time I want during the day. A “cat nap,” defined as a short nap during the day, is a term first used in the early 19th Century and was suggested by the way cats nap all day long. Much of the time, cats doze off for short periods of time, then move somewhere else and take another short snooze. In addition, at least once a day, a cat will sleep soundly for longer periods of time.

            The old saying that you can’t watch a cat curl up and sleep, and stay uptight yourself is very true, so when our cat Gatsby joins us for our wilt-down naps by climbing onto one of our laps, my sleep can be long and deep. We would like to have a cat for each of our laps, but Gatsby will no longer tolerate another feline in the house, so we have to share him. Since cats take “cat naps,” he curls up on my wife’s lap and dozes for a short time, then takes a five or six-foot leap from her lap to mine and snoozes in my lap until he decides to find a rug to nap on. No doubt he is ADHD!

            All the cats we have had over the years have been nappers, except for one, — Isis (named after an Egyptian goddess, not the jihadist group). I named her “Isis” back then, because I incorrectly thought the Egyptian goddess Isis was the Egyptian “cat goddess.” Statues of the Egyptian cat goddess show her as half cat and half woman, and she was called “Bastet,” not “Isis.” In ancient Egypt, there were many pagan temples devoted to cat worship, so much so that dead cats were usually mummified, and it was against the law to injure or hurt a domestic cat. Cats were considered so sacred that even the Pharaohs imitated their behavior (which may have motivated the first human “cat nap”).

            Confusing Isis with Bastet, I thought the name fit that rather haughty, regal cat. Isis never liked me and would walk under a chair to keep me from picking her up. The other cats we owned were much more loving and loyal cats and were prone to nap-taking, — Patches, Ginger, Genie, Fluff, KC, Pip, and Prissy. In some ways, Prissy reminded me of Isis in that she lived up to her name, “Prissy,” but she, unlike Isis, was a very affectionate cat, whom we all loved dearly. One of my daughters rescued her from a dumpster at the junior high school when she was a tiny kitten not totally weaned yet, and she lived to a ripe old age with us.

            I have never seen a cat before or since that was such a coat-shedding cat. Because much of her hair was white, and she loved to cat nap often and on dark clothing, beds, rugs, and everywhere else, our home developed a cat-hair hazard. Before they would eat any desserts covered with coconut, our kids would want to know if it was coconut or Prissy hair.

            After our daughters left the nest, Prissy became my cat by default. She had to live with me in the studio, because during Hurricane Rita, we reluctantly acquired Gatsby. Prissy, as the resident cat, was the intolerant one, and there was no way she would co-exist in the house with the Great Gatsby. Gatsby wanted to be with her, but she fiercely rejected him with hissing and clawing (actions that entertained and delighted him to no end). Locked in the studio, she would look out and glare at Gatsby as he came to taunt her through the large studio window. One day my wife looked out from the house, and she saw Gatsby, inside the studio, looking out at her. He had swatted out a glass window panel to join Prissy inside. Prissy never fully recovered from the trauma of that, but she continued her lengthy cat naps in the studio loft, and I sneezed my way through our continued co-occupancy of the studio.

            And so now we are retired, with just Gatsby, who has grown old together with us and continues to teach us the true art of cat-napping.


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.


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