In our 52-plus years of marriage, Ann and I have shared our home with three different cats.
I have mostly been distant from them. It is not that I don’t like cats, it’s that I believe that once a human being takes on the responsibility for caring for an animal, a pet, the human being has a profound obligation to that animal—especially those that are unable to care for themselves due to their captivity in a home.
Our first cat came to live with us while we were in Alaska. When the Vicar’s wife said, “Wouldn’t it be nice for your daughter Cathy to have a cat?” A litter of kittens had been deposited on the Vicar’s doorstep. The one offered to our daughter was a silver tabby of no particular distinction. I said, “No.” The reason I said that is there were too many regulations concerning pets at Fort Richardson and it seemed to me an added burden to all the other burdens we were dealing with living there—mostly adjusting to parenthood. Needless to say, the cat came to live with us anyway and stayed around as we moved from border to border and coast to coast for nearly 20 years.
Not only was it a mean cat and in my estimation should have been put down the first time it attacked a guest in our home, the cat had special skills such as retrieving things thrown at it and bringing them back to be thrown again and jumping through my arms as I made a hoop—it was a natural thing for the cat, it was actually attacking me.
I warned people to leave the blasted animal alone. Few took my advice. The cat attacked our daughter and one time brutally attacked a baby sitter.
I had to bring back to life when it contracted pneumonitis by shoving pills down its throat with the rubber end of a pencil. The elderly cat died of a stroke one day as it approached its food dish. I was grateful.
Then in New Mexico, Ann brings home a cat a year or so after that mean one died. It was a cute calico Ann named after a teacher with whom she worked. This cat liked to box and was very vocal. One day, when I didn’t wish to box with it, the cat snuck up on me as if I were prey and bit me on my bare bottom—I was in the midst of dressing after a shower. The cat knew immediately it had made a mistake. Running for its life it out raced me. I had to stop racing about the house when I realized I was naked—not a pretty sight. This hapless animal lived with us for 16 years.
Well, that’s that, I thought. No more cats, no food dishes in the kitchen, no litter boxes stuck away to prevent them from be offensive, and no more attacks from self-centered cats—all cats are self-centered and have little regard for the humans the allow to share their space.
A friend tells Ann there is a photo of a cat in the newspaper she should see. The local shelter publishes photos of animals in need of a home. So, Ann finds the photo and the next thing I know, we are on our way to the animal shelter to pick up the cat. It is a shaggy Maine-coon with a delicate face and coat that is often described as tortoise shell—a variety of blacks, browns, white, and yellow, almost a calico but not quite.
We have had this cat in our home for 12 years now. I need to be clear here, when a cat comes to live in one’s home, it is no longer yours; you are its house guest.
This cat is so self-centered it makes the other two look like paragons of charity and love for others. This Maine-coon cat demands constantly for personal attention. Is now diabetic—the cost of feline insulin is through the roof—and leaves patches of it coat around the house along with the largest fur balls I have ever seen.
The cat jumps up on the bed when I am putting on my socks and shoes and punches me with her paws demanding her head be rubbed and scratched. This cat will not let me read the newspaper and interrupts my meals—I am caring for the animal alone while Ann is in the hospital—and is a general nuisance demanding a new diet daily—she likes shredded fish one day, then the next wants a pate of a fish “medley.” There are four different dry foods available. I can never tell which one the cat will eat from day-to-day. I have threatened to throw it outside and let it fend for itself for a while. Maybe then, this cat will not be so discriminatory.
The upshot of all this is, when the Vicar’s wife asks, “Wouldn’t it be nice if your daughter had a cat?” be firm and adamant. The answer is, “Ask my wife.”