The Great White Belly

Our cat Templeton sleeping on the wooden heating grate

Templeton loved his belly rubs. And with that great soft white belly of his, I couldn’t resist giving them.

Sometimes I’d surprise him, he’d be sleeping and roll over to let off some heat, and I’d gently start to rub his belly. Sometimes he’d make kneading motions into the air with his paws, sometimes he’d wrap his arms around mine, always accompanied by that wonderful purr.

Sometimes, though, he’d use his belly to his advantage. The first time Templeton came to live with me was when I was still in school in Virginia but my wife had already moved out to Oregon. Templeton stayed with me for a few months and kept me company while I finished up my dissertation. I’d be working at my desk and out of the corner of my eye, I’d see him walking in my direction. He’d suddenly stop and flop down on his back, exposing his white belly to the world. He’d watch me and wait for his belly rub. If I didn’t get up, he’d hop up, move a few feet closer, and then flop down again and wait for his belly rub.

I never tested how many times he was willing to get up and move closer, even if I managed to resist the first siren’s call he’d usually draw me in by the second or third time.

Today’s picture comes from just before Christmas 2005, just before that awful night when Templeton swallowed a sewing needle. The wooden grate he’s sleeping on has a warm air vent just below it, so it became a favorite location of the cats our first winter here in Portland. Scout discovered the wonders of the grate first, but Templeton quickly learned from her experience.

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