Domesticated & Wild

Our eldest cat, Calamity, died. She was 16. Everyone is sad around the house. My wife and I got her from a shelter when we first moved to Maine ten years ago. We’re all going to deeply miss her.

I didn’t always like cats, though. The kind of pets I have always wanted are a fox or a crow or a hawk. But my wife keeps telling me these are familiars, not pets. She’s right.

But I’ve come to love cats, their independent nature, their aloofness, their sleeping habits, their intelligence, their sensualism.

And their wildness.

Yes, they are domesticated animals, but just look a cat in the eyes and you can sense their wild nature staring you down. Dogs on the other paw are completely domesticated. You’d have a hard time witnessing their wild nature, unless, of course, they bit you.

But cats! Even the way they stretch is wild and unpredictable. You feed them and house them and, yet, they still hunt and kill and at the first opportunity will make a run for it when the front door’s opened.

I know that’s why I like having them around. I like to know there’s some wildness in my life. I don’t live a crazy, stormy, turbulent and boisterous life. I live a quiet one: I work at my job, spend time with my wife and two girls, clean the house, shop for food — I do all the never-ending chores of a domesticated existence. (Like Flaubert wrote: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you can be violent and original in your work.”) And I enjoy it — there is a pleasure in just simple things.

But having cats makes me remember that I have a wild nature, too. I’m not just a domesticated, civilized human being. I am also a wild creative person. That’s where my wildness lies, in the imagination, when I sit down to write at night, typing away, immersed in my fiction, my cats racing around the house, playing and caterwauling, hunting and prowling, stretching and jumping from one height to the next.

That’s when I feel like I’ve chosen the perfect familiar.


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