It was a Sunday morning… a weekend and Mika (teen age Berkeley Buddha) was sleeping late when her parents woke her and reminded her the family was going to their temple at 10:AM. Slowly…very slowly… Mika got out of bed and began to get ready to go to Dharma school. She was still only half awake when her mother said it was time to go and she heard her brother and her parents closing their bedroom doors and walking toward the front door. Then, as the group was passing by the breakfast nook, she heard her father “going ballistic.”

“OMG..Look at that mess! Look what that X#*&#X cat did. There is food all over the place. We have to clean it up… We are going to be late… Where is that X#X#X# cat… I’m going to beat it with a newspaper and teach it a lesson it will never forget.”

Cats don’t understand English. They particularly do not understand profane English but the kitty could sense from the tone of voice that things were not good here in the breakfast nook and she scurried out from under the table where she was still eating some of last night’s left-overs.” Feeling very frightened, she ran to Mika who immediately picked-her-up and began to comfort her… holding her close and petting her.

Mika’s dad continued his rage. “Mika! Why are you petting that cat. Don’t reward her for making this mess. Cats are not supposed to go on the table and we certainly don’t want her to think it’s OK to do it again. Put her down and give her a boot! Then come here and help clean-up the cat’s mess!”

Mika held the cat and continued to pet her. For a few minutes, there were no words as Dad, Mom, and her brother began to sweep and clean. Finally, Mika began to speak.

“Daddy, I love you but….why do you say that it is “The cat’s mess?” Is it really the cat’s responsibility? She was just being a natural cat. I think it is a family mess. We are all responsible for watching television instead of washing the dishes and putting the left-overs into the refrigerator last night. Why should I beat the cat with a newspaper just for being a cat?” 

Mika put the cat down and grabbed a wash cloth and began to help wash the dishes. There was still very little talking in the breakfast room area. By the time they were finally ready to go, her father had calmed down quite a bit and as he was stepping out the door, he turned and sternly said to the cat “Be good while we are gone.”

“Mika turned to the kitty and said “Be a cat while we are gone.” 

Mika’s father turned to her and smiled and said “…and we will all try to be good humans when we return home.”