Earlier this summer I received a review copy of a memoir, Driving With Cats: Ours For a Short Time by Cat Holm. With a backlog of reading, I cracked it open for a quick peek and expected to add it to the pile. Instead, I couldn’t stop reading about Cat’s remarkable story of her life with cats in rural Minnesota. The stories touched my heart as they will any cat lover who has loved and lost a beloved cat. Teary-eyed, I put it down and just last week re-read it. No tears this time but simply pure pleasure reading Holm’s wise words and practical cat advice. After reviewing best-selling books and those with huge marketing budgets all summer, it’s does my heart good to support a good book from a small publisher, and I you hope agree.
Cat and I had a lovely long chat by phone last week and we gabbed as cat lovers do about life with cats. We share a similar spiritual perspective which colored this Q + A. This book is catnip for the soul and paves the way for her next book which I can’t wait to see in print.Q + A with Cat Holm and Layla Morgan Wilde
LMW: In Driving With Cats, you chronicle life with a few of your cats, but you clearly had a deep relationship with your cat Jamie who died at age 20. Do you believe some cats are feline soulmates, and of all your cats, which one would you consider a soulmate and why?
CH: I don’t know if I could pick one cat, of all my cats, to be a soulmate. I feel as if I’ve had deep relationships with many or all of my cats. What I have found, with both Jamie and Kali, is that when there was a situation where we were clearly going to have time to say goodbye to each other, that the relationship really deepened even more and took some interesting and amazing turns. I found this quite miraculous, and it inspired much of my writing. In Jamie’s case, I had two months to say goodbye; In Kali’s case, I had three months. I am pretty tuned into my cats and spend a lot of time interacting with them. I found that both these cats seemed really to be trying, on their end, to give as much as they could to the goodbye process. I saw them initiate behavior I had never seen before that made our connection during this time stronger, intense, memorable, and special. I felt as if these cats knew that their passing was coming, and they were doing the best they could to give the most they could to our relationship.
I think that definitely, some cats may be feline soulmates for some of us. We probably each have our own way of sensing this. In my case, perhaps Kali came closest to this, though I probably didn’t fully realize it until the last three months of her life. Hospice, for me, has a way of really deepening the relationship with the receiver (in this case, my cats). It is a tender and profound experience and has taught me that I have the capacity to give and love unconditionally. It’s a very pure place that I have been honored to experience.
LMW: You live in a rural area in Minnesota miles from a vet. Can you share any tips learned over the years on coping with pet emergencies?
CH: That’s difficult. I always worry. I try to have a backup plan. For example, there is actually a veterinarian that lives just a few miles from me. That vet is well aware that my main vet is 40 miles from my house. The two vets know each other. I try to keep everyone informed and be prepared for any eventuality. I know the vets well and maintain a good relationship. The weather can be a stressor – I don’t think any of us who love our animals want to have to travel with them in blazing summer heat or in a snowstorm. I am fortunate that a veterinarian is actually not that far from me. Recently when Kali passed, it was a great comfort to me to know that if I had to take her in, the closer vet was ready and willing to help me and could make an opening that day. As it turned out, Kali passed peacefully at home. But I appreciated the smoothness and willingness of the nearby vet to accommodate me in a potential emergency. I always try to have a backup plan or plans, have the cat carriers ready, and have enough gas in the car to get where I need to go in an emergency.
LMW: Another one of your cats featured, three-legged Kali, died before the book was published. What lessons did she teach you while she was alive and might she still be teaching?
CH: Without spoiling the story in an upcoming book (I’m working on a second book that Kali will frame with her story), Kali taught me and continues to teach me about trusting my deep intuition. When I’m in a dicey or challenging new situation, or uncharted territory (such as the hospice journey with my cats), there are times when intuition may be the only thing I can rely upon. Over and over, I had to learn that I can trust my intuition. It’s starting to feel a little more natural. Kali is a very strong teacher!
LMW: Recently a new kitten entered your home and life. Can you share what is special about this cat?
CH: Again, I don’t want to give the story away, but let’s just say that I now believe that cats can come back; or the essence/soul of a pet may come back in a new pet’s body, once the first pet has passed on. I never really questioned reincarnation, but I never thought I’d be fortunate to have a beloved pet come back. I have had this happen twice now, and was clearly directed along the path to finding the kitten who was coming back. I know I’m not alone and others have had this experience. It is quite amazing!
LMW: How have your cats made you a better yoga teacher?
CH: I think my cats make me a better yoga practitioner, and hopefully this spills over into my teaching. They’re huge teachers in my life. Yoga has a set of ethical guidelines, called the yamas (or restraints) and the niyamas (or observances). Some of these guidelines include non-possessiveness (sometimes called nonattachment) and purity. What a great reminder it is of nonattachment when I realize that a cat really is mine only “for a short time.” I have learned over and over again that I really have very little control of anything, and that I can’t possess the life of my cat. My cat will likely pass on before I do. I can just do the best I can, in each moment. As for purity, I write in Driving with Cats that I’ve felt at my most pure, as a human, when I am caring for my cats and quite possibly saying goodbye. It’s been a wonderful lesson for me that I can achieve what feels like purity, even for a very short relative moment in my life.
My cats have taught me how to love purely, how to live in the moment, how to give unconditionally (without attachment), and how to let go when needed. We all find our teachers in different ways and in different parts of our lives – my cats (and dogs) have taught me much and I’m sure will continue to do so.
Visit Cat at her website Catherine Holm on Facebook and at CatsterMerlin gives Driving With Cats his highest rating of 4 Paws. If you’d like to win a copy, simply leave a comment at this post. For extra chances to win, social media share and leave a separate comment mentioning where you shared. This giveaway is open readers worldwide and on until 11:59 pm EST Sept.7. 2013. The winner will be announced on Sept. 8, 2013. Like to read a copy right now? Visit Amazon.
The winners of our Grumpy Cat book giveaway is Edward Trumbo and Cokie the Cat. Congratulations! Look for an email from Layla.