I’m going to admit something that, for a guy, is tantamount to confessing about wearing lace undies or lipstick on a regular basis.
I like cats.
There! I said it! I’m a cat person. Always have been. I mean, there was a point when I was a kid that I had a dog. It was a very short period of a few weeks when I was around seven or eight that my parents took in the beagle that belonged to a family friend who had to get rid of her. The dog’s name was Muffin and I can remember two things about her: she howled a lot and she used to eat Limburger cheese.
After the first weeks of doggie-ownership passed it was determined that Muffin was not a good fit for our home. I’m not sure if it was the howling, the inevitable dog farts that came from a Limburger-heavy diet, or a seven-or-eight-year-old’s lack of enthusiasm for walking the dog every day and cleaning up accidents inside of the house. But something made my parents decide that it was time to bring Muffin to the home of some friends of the family. Friends who owned a farm.
Ten years later, when I was a Senior in high school and I tried to adopt a dog for a girl I had a crush on, the SPCA turned me down for adopting a puppy since my family brought a dog to them a decade ago. I said, “No, that’s not true, my parents gave that dog . . .”
And then I had one of those moments like that scene in The Usual Suspects when Chazz Palminteri’s character realized that everything he just heard was a lie and he just let Keyser Soze get away. I almost slapped myself in the head and said, “But we don’t know anyone who has a farm!”
So, long story short, my parents were big fat liars. But that’s beside the point. The real point of this was to say that a few years after we got rid of Muffin we adopted a tiny black kitten from our neighbor whose cat had a litter. Living in the city and not knowing much about animals, my parents did what pretty much every other unknowing cat owner did; they let Blackie out of the front door whenever she wanted to run out. She was never fixed, never declawed and, sadly enough, one day she never came home.
I was sad, but I don’t remember aching over the loss of Blackie. But I do remember feeling a loss to the kinship I had with Blackie. So, when the same neighbor’s cat had yet another litter of kittens a year after we lost Blackie, we took in yet another black kitten. His name was Lucky.
Lucky was a great cat, but he was given the same freedoms as Blackie. Freedoms that, during that same Senior year of high school, had me find Lucky limping up the front steps to the porch one day as I was leaving for school. I thought that he had been in a fight with another cat, and let him in the front door. I was concerned, so when I got to school I called home and my mother broke the news to me that it seemed that Lucky was hit by a car and managed to make it home before passing away.
I was devastated. The rest of the school day was a blur and I’m not ashamed to admit that at seventeen years of age I still cried at the loss of a pet. In school, no less.
It was quite a while after that until I was ready to have a pet again. Part of me realized that having a cat in the city meant never letting it out of the house, and my parents could not be trusted to prevent that from happening. And there was one other hurdle.
I am terribly allergic to cats.
Not all of them, mind you. But certain ones will still send me into sneezing fits and leave me with a face so swollen that it looks like I have been stung by a hive full of bees. I’ve taken every allergy pill imaginable, both prescription and over-the-counter. I’ve gone through years of allergy shots. And I’ve done it because a part of me always wanted to have a cat in my home.
I’m very thankful to have met a woman who feels the same exact way.
When Nicole and I rented our apartment, we took Nicole’s parents’ cat with us. It turned out that Cleopatra (yet another black cat) was having a difficult time realizing that peeing on a carpet is a bad thing. So we took this six-year-old cat from one end of Montgomery County to the other and introduced her to an apartment filled with hardwood flooring and void of the temptations of shag carpet. She adjusted quite well and, most importantly, seemed to be one of those few cats that didn’t set off my allergies.
In the summer of 2006, Nicole and I came across another cat that needed a home: a year and a half old Exotic Shorthair named Sakura, who looks like a cross between Wilfred Brimley and a bunny rabbit. Our cozy little apartment was now a home to a married couple and our two four-legged children. I became a Cat Dad for the first time and it felt great.
Sure, there were some growing pains involved. Cleo hated Saku in the beginning. He was still a kitten in a sense and wanted a playmate. She was an adult cat and just wanted to sit in the window and chirp at birds.
And neither one of them were ready for what we had in store a few months later when we bought our home.
TO BE CONTINUED…
(where we meet a new dog, thirteen kittens and the world of being a foster parents…)