It was my birthday today.

[Fey lying on the bed with her head up. I am lying with my ear on her side listening to the purring.]

[Fey's head is tilted to one side and lifted so her forehead is against my face. My nose is on her head, with our cheeks brushing together.]

[Fey is in the same position. My forehead is on the top of her head.]

[My nose is rubbing her head.]

[My cheek is rubbing the top of her head.]

[My ear is pressed against her side listening to her purr. Her head is turned around touching my face a little.]

The 15th that is. I'm 32.

Fey has been the best part of a terrible day. I am going off one migraine medication to go on another. And my body is reacting badly to switching things around. So I haven't been feeling well at all.

So anyway getting to the cat part. I ate crab rangoons, fried meat dumplings, and frozen key lime pie. Fey apparently thought this was an amazing dinner. Because she nuzzled my face. And she stopped to smell my breath like she always does. But this time before I knew it there was this little sandpaper tongue licking the inside of my lower lip. Which indicates extreme food approval. Unfortunately for her, my food is usually much healthier than that. :-)

We've been snuggling pretty much ever since I got home. Right now she's alternately purring and washing herself. The purring and the surprise dinner-approval are my favorite parts of the day. Same with the nuzzling and the watching her sleep and bathe.

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I also love listening to her purr, too.

 

 

 

[Six pictures in dim light with Fey's head in different positions. Behind her, my ear is pressed to her side. In some, I am scritching Fey on the face, side of neck, or head.]

I like to press my ear against her side and listen to her purring. Purring isn't just one simple vibration. It's a combination of different vibrations at different rates, rhythms, and volumes, each one rhythmically pulsing in and out, and almost fractal-like in complexity. Most people don't listen to it too closely, but if you do, it's an amazing sound.

Cats purr when they are happy or relaxed, but they also can purr when anxious, annoyed, or in a great deal of pain. Kittens and their mothers use it as one of their first means of communication apart from smell. And there's a good possibility that it has medical properties as well, including the amazing ability to heal that gives rise to the idea that cats have nine lives.

Different cats have different tendencies when it comes to purring. Fey has a purr that is often hard to hear unless she sticks her nose in your ear, or you out your ear against her side.

I wish I could not just take pictures, but somehow record the feel of my ear against her side, the sound of her purr resonating throughout her body, and the feel of the vibration penetrating every part of my body she is pressed up against. Images aren't enough.

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I love the way her fur smells.

[Two images of me and Fey looking at each other in the dark, with her only visible as a silhouette from the back.]

Seriously I do.

She just came up to me to lay down. This usually involves a long ritual of smelling each other, rubbing faces, her rubbing her face on my fingers, sniffing my fingers, sniffing my breath, and responding to my breath by making any of a number of (good or bad) faces. (If she appreciates the smell she licks the air in front of my mouth. If she really appreciates it she sticks her face in my mouth and licks my spit. If she doesn't like it she narrows her eyes and flicks her ears back, sometimes pulling away from me.) Then she shifts around over and over until she finds the precise position she's comfortable in. Sometimes she makes little rumbling sighing noises as she settles in.

All of which gives me plenty of opportunities to smell her fur. Every cat smells different, although they can have elements in common. She smells like autumn leaves and warm milk and something a little sour, something else a little musky. She smells different on different parts of her body. My favorite areas are the top of her head, and just behind her ears.

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Sitting on flat objects

[Fey sitting on a paper towel.]

If there is something flat lying on the floor, Fey will usually prefer it over the floor. Whether it's paper, clothes, paper towel, just about anything, it becomes cat furniture.

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Hiding in the bathroom with Fey

These pictures were taken while Fey was hiding in the bathroom during an especially loud thunderstorm.

[Fey hiding under her cat stairs with huge frightened eyes.]

[Fey still hiding but lying down instead of Crouching. Eyes still huge.]

[Fey scratching the door to get out after things quieted down a little.]

[Fey staring up at me by using the mirror, just before I open the door.]

It’s funny. She learned about mirrors on her own, but I had to show her how to meow and scratch at doors. She used to just sit patiently outside doors for hours waiting for me to open them. One day after I discovered her doing that again, I decided I had to show her how to do it. So we went outside. I closed the door.  I got on the ground with her.  And I repeatedly meowed and scratched at the door and then opened it. She must have got the idea because she started doing it. I’d never realized before that cats have to learn that skill.

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This has been one of those perfect mornings.

In terms of cats, anyway.

Fey and I snuggled pretty much from the time I woke up until someone came in to give her breakfast. She even stayed with me during my bed bath, which is unusual.

But there's different kinds of snuggling we do. Different comfort and interaction levels. This was a day when we were both unusually comfortable.

There was a lot of face nuzzling going on, and both of us initiated it about equally. At one point I pulled back to give her some space, closed my eyes, and rubbed my head on the pillow, the same way I've seen cats do when they're very relaxed and stretched out and comfortable. When I opened my eyes, her nose was so close to my eye I could feel her breath and hear loud purring. All I had to do was move slightly towards her and she was rubbing her cheek on my face.

There's different kinds of face rubbing, which seem to mean different things. Fey can rub her face on me in a way that's fairly harsh and doesn't mean anything good at all. Today all the face rubbing and nuzzling was as gentle as possible, which is always an affectionate thing.

A lot of people seem to not notice the variations present in different things cats do. A cat can purr when they're happy. But there's a different purr that means anxious and uncomfortable, and another one that means severe pain. (Fey sometimes uses a similar one on me if I'm the one sick or in severe pain, which makes me suspect people are right that purring aids healing. Cats probably do this for each other too, whether it's intentional or automatic.) There's rarely such a thing as a single broad category of gestures (like “face rubbing”) that all mean the same thing.

Another mistake people make in interpreting these gestures, is to get into this weird mentality where a cat can't possibly be doing what it looks like they're doing. Like people often say that the only reason a cat rubs their face on you is to mark their territory. It couldn't possibly be affectionate, they say, because cats also rub their faces on objects. And there's always an undertone of “love is a human thing”, often with an additional undertone of “I know more than you do.”

But cats do rub their faces on people because they like us. They're also, at the same time, rubbing their scent on us. Cats like their friends and family to share smells with them. And while I'd never just assume the following to be true, it's conceivable they may feel affection for objects. Just because many humans see objects as dead doesn't even mean that all humans do, let alone other species.

Anyway, we spent the whole morning between waking up and breakfast snuggling, purring, and rubbing our faces on each other in the gentlest possible way. There wasn't any discomfort for either of us, we were both completely relaxed. I love mornings like this.

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Snuggle pictures

These are pictures of me and Fey snuggling. Fey is a grey tuxedo cat with white whiskers, yellow-green eyes, faint tabby markings here and there, and lighter fur at the tips. I'm dark haired (looks black or brown depending on lighting), pale skinned, fat, with semi-visible chin hair, and sometimes wearing big clear plastic glasses. Further descriptions under each photo.

Here Fey's head is in profile, and I'm sort of in the background, with one arm lying near her.

Here we are touching foreheads.

Here we are lying with her cheek over my eye, both looking more or less forward. Two of her paws are on my arm.

Here she is with her head almost upside down, resting on my cheek.

Here she is almost in the same position, except her chin is sort of tucked in so she's not leaning back as far.

Snuggling with Fey is one of my favorite things to do. It's never something one of us can (or should) force on the other, although Fey sometimes tries by swatting or biting me if I try to move away. She's not the kind of cat you pick up. She knows full well she's not a stuffed animal. She snuggles exactly when she wants, which is what I always hoped for when she was growing up.

Someone saw us snuggling once. And she'd seen us snuggle before, dozens of times. She said, “I want a cat like Fey. All my cats turn mean and hate me.” I didn't tell her that Fey wouldn't like her either — probably would dislike her faster than other cats would.

I'm writing an entire, long post on how to have at least vaguely the kind of relationship Fey and I have. (It boils down to knowing how to choose what cat to adopt/notice when a cat wants you, treating a cat with respect (which includes doing your very best to get to know the cat), and the rest is up to the cat and to chance.)

But the biggest thing that makes Fey like you is if you treat her with the respect she's due. It's not that she's a special snuggly kind of cat who is totally like those “mean” cats. She's actually touchier about respect than average — she demands it Or Else, like Anne's cat Nikki. She's a person. And people decide who they like. And if you keep crossing boundaries they don't want crossed, they don't generally like you very much. (Although some will learn to submit to you,)

Normally I'm the only person where Fey will sleep curled up next to my face. My father visited and crossed a line she didn't want crossed, and she put her teeth on his arm as a warning. I taught him how to behave respectfully towards her. Suddenly she wanted to sit on him all the time. And one night he woke up in the middle of the night. And found her curled up sleeping, snuggled up to his face.

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