“You shall serve and obey,” her eyes said. “I know that. Now, will you..?”
I suppressed a sigh. Showing any hesitation in the presence of such a beauty would be just too impolite. I got up from the sofa, walked to the pantry and reached for a can of cat food. The lady approvingly rubbed against my legs. She had her way, as always.
When she appeared at our house, she was a little thing, all skin and bones. She was adopted from a shelter and nothing about her suggested she had a long, illustrious pedigree and cats like her lived with humans already at the time of Tutankhamun, and well before that. They were sacred. There are thousands of little sarcophagi and mummies of little cats, gazing enigmatically and slightly contemptuously at gawking visitors to Egypt archeological sites and museums. They symbolized and belonged to Bastet, the cat goddess. Cats could protect the household not only from pests, but also from cobras, just like Bastet, also known as Lady of Flame and Eye of Ra, protected the whole of Lower Egypt. With such a distinguished ancestry, it was no wonder that our new family member quickly established herself as the ruler of the house.
Every morning she insists on entering the master bedroom and proceeds to nibble on any exposed toes, provoking indignant cries from the human mistress of the house. She will promptly occupy any warm spot, which was accidentally vacated by an unthinking human owner. Then, of course, a breakfast needs to be served, less our eardrums were shattered by earth-shattering yowling. We are well trained at this point and are able to feed the goddess with a minimum of fuss. The dish is then sniffed at, and rejected if it does not meet the specifications. These include at least a whiff of tuna. Assuming the food passed inspection, it is promptly devoured. Then she curls up in a carefully selected, soft spot on one of the sofas, and promptly falls asleep. This, being her favorite “activity”, is occasionally interrupted by frenzied running, jumping, playing, attacking everything in sight, and more feeding. Of course, one should not forget that at least an hour every day is dedicated to staring at the family hamster and wondering how to get him out of his cage. The hamster, feeling safe, ignores her with a quiet dignity. He is probably the only member of the household, which did not submit to her rule. Given her links to the pagan goddess and her position as the queen of all she can see, one had to wonder what she will think of Christmas.
The first signs were not encouraging. The huge green mass of the Christmas Tree was greeted with suspicion as it passed the doorway. She cautiously approached and sniffed at the fragrant needless. One careless turn by the mover and a touch by a branch later, a black and white streak flashed by and disappeared upstairs to hide under a bed.
Finally the tree stood and ornaments found their way on its branches. The queen came out of her hidden chamber and decided to reinvestigate the invader. The glass balls and birds were interesting and so were the low-hanging branches. The tree stand made a convenient water bowl. Then the tree started to shake as a hidden force beneath it tried to pull it down, and a ribbon came off. The pagan goddess was caught and after a major struggle separated from the symbol of Christmas. This was not going to end well. Then I remembered. If you are of the Central European persuasion, you think a proper Christmas dinner is a fish rather than a turkey, so there is always a fish around the house at this time of the year. Perhaps a bit of bribery would work? A piece of carp was graciously accepted. However, the household went to sleep rather worried about a potential religious war taking a place in the dead of the night.
The night was quiet and not a sound disturbed the morning hush as I descended the stairs. A relief washed over me, quickly replaced by suspicion. Where was that cat? What was she plotting now? Oh, there she is, sleeping peacefully under the tree, on a bed she made of gold and silver tree chains. I absentmindedly turned on a CD player and the sound of Christmas carols filled the air. The goddess yawned and went back to sleep. A truce was established between Bastet and Christmas. I went into the kitchen and picked up another can of cat food. If she is served well, we may make it through the holidays without further hiccups. I hope. But then, Christmas is the time of hope, isn’t it?