When I started learning Tarot, I would scour Pinterest for spreads. I had used the site to collect recipes when I was a vegan, and it now helps me in my Tarot and witchcraft. I have collected recipes for teas, spells, and infusions (the elderberry liqueur was delicious; definitely making that again). Upon my search for spreads, I came upon a few for your pets, where you ask them a question and then lay a card for each one.
One night as I was preparing for my nightly reading, just for fun, I pulled a card for Archie. He is always around when I read, possibly due to the crystals I use. The jade he loves batting around on the bedspread, and the raw amethyst it one he tries to put in his mouth. My Labradorite stone, however, is a bit too big for him so he usually gets into ‘cat loaf’ mode when I use that. That night, I had found a four-card spread for cats, but I decided to pull just one.
I asked him, “Are you happy?”
I pulled Strength, the eighth card in the Major Arcana.
When I adopted Archie in August 2020, he had gone through three shelters in ten days. According to the local rescue, he was found as a tiny kitten in a barn in Kaiser, Oregon on the Fourth of July. This date was established as his birthday since he was so young when found. I’m not sure if he was alone in that barn, if he got lost, or if someone just dumped him, but a couple with two senior cats and a dog took him in and gave him a home until they couldn’t take care of him anymore. They said on the report that he was starting to play rough with the older cats and would climb the curtains and destroy furniture. This didn’t worry me, though. Sounded like a normal cat to me. I saw the photo of him on the rescue organization’s site and immediately was drawn to him. The only photo was of him cowering in his kennel, his ringed tail puffed up and the pupils of his bright blue eyes wide in fear. The description under him said he would do well as the only cat in a quiet home, so I applied for adoption that morning. A few hours later, I got an email of approval.
I picked him up from the rescue shelter on a Sunday afternoon. At this organization, you get a free bag of dry food with every cat you adopt. The volunteer that day gave me two bags and a box full of different brands of canned food. Apparently, during the five days he was at the rescue he was so scared that he didn’t eat and had to be fed intravenously.
As suggested by another volunteer, he stayed in my bathroom for a few days so that he could have a ‘safe space’ while getting acclimated to his new home. He would hide behind the shower curtain every time I came in, and he would hide behind the toilet when I had to use the shower. When I had taken him out of the cardboard carrier his first day with me, he screamed as he puffed up his tail and went stiff when I picked him up, but then he became quiet. The next evening, he was still behind the shower curtain and he hadn’t eaten the wet food I gave him. I knew this not because the bowl was full but the strong smell of shredded, gooey salmon hit my nose when I opened the bathroom door. I threw out the food, cleaned the bowl, and scrapped the idea of opening another can. Instead, I put dry food in the bowl and pulled apart some leftover baked chicken breast I had and took the bowl back to him.
The volunteer that interviewed me suggested that I read to him so he could get accustomed to my voice, so I did. I sat by his bowl and read passages from Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity and all of Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg (my favorite). When I started on Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentis, he poked his head out from under the shower curtain. I’m sure it was the smell of chicken that made him appear, but he approached my outstretched legs, sniffing my bare feet and along my jeans until he reached my hand. He quickly sniffed my fingers and licked one (probably because they still smelled like chicken) and then approached his bowl. I continued reading and teared up with relief when I heard the crunch of his small teeth against solid food.
Every cat parent knows how adorable that crunching noise is, but I didn’t make a move to pet him. I called him a good boy and continued reading. After he ate, he sniffed me again and then curled up in the bed I had set up for him, a cozy, fleece-lined one that I put my Star Trek blanket in so he could get used to my scent. He took a bath, purring all the while as I read, and then curled up and fell asleep.
After about ten days, he started becoming curious about what was on the other side of the bathroom door, so one Saturday morning, I left it opened and watched TV. He would poke out his head and then meow before running back behind the shower curtain. Then he would take a few steps out into the small hallway and then to my bedroom before running back to the safe haven of the curtain again. The third time, he saw me on the sofa in the living room and his eyes grew huge when he saw how much was outside the bathroom.
Was he realizing that he was in his new forever home? I’d like to think so because after smelling and exploring every new thing around him, he jumped onto the sofa and loafed up next to me and took a nap. Later that night, he jumped into bed and curled up against my stomach and stayed there all night.
I worked with him every day and gave him space, and every day he got braver, chattier, and more curious. He’s now at my side every chance he gets, wondering what I’m doing, studying my every move. He digs through my makeup bag as I get ready in the morning, he perches on the bar of my kitchen as I cook, no doubt hoping for a vittle of something (which he does get), and he tries to get in the bathtub with me to save me from all the bubbles.
So what does the Strength card have to do with my cat’s happiness? The card depicts a maiden taming a lion, representing one’s courage and persistence. It’s a card that represents patience and overcoming fear, and that you have the power in yourself to persevere through any obstacle. Archie got braver around me as I calmly gave him space and cuddles when he wanted them. The moment he walked out of the bathroom and found that he was home, he showed me more of the cat that he was: curious, playful, affectionate.
And no, he has never climbed my curtains, and because of this I have to assume that he didn’t get a lot of attention at his last home. I don’t blame his former owners for anything. They rescued him and kept him as long as they were able to care for him, so in my eyes they did a good thing because if they hadn’t found him in that barn in Kaiser, he wouldn’t have ended up behind my shower curtain and then at my side.
I tell my mom all the time that Archie and I have a strong connection, that we’re on the same wavelength, like we know what the other is thinking. I’m sure every cat parent feels this connection.
But does the Strength card prove that Archie is happy? He seems to be. He’s certainly spoiled. But he’s become my other half and the reason I get out of bed every day (and not just because his bowl is empty).
He had just turned two years old when I adopted him, and this July he will be four. I’ll give some sardines for his supper and he will no doubt chase a new toy around the apartment and then fall asleep in my lap. I sometimes wonder how long he’ll be in my life. His vet told me that she had a flame-point Siamese and they lived to the age of fifteen. What will Archie be like as a senior cat? What will I be like as an old lady?
I don’t dwell on these questions too much. I’m just glad we complement each other so well. No matter how long we’re together, it will be time that I will never get back. So in the Stoic way I try to live by every day, I live in the present with my little familiar who likes to dig in my makeup bag and steal my crystals.
“A cat has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” — Ernest Hemingway