When I was a kid I wanted a house cat. “I already have eight house people,” my mom said. “Why would I want a house cat?” Good point. And we were farmers. The people lived inside and the animals lived outside. This philosophy became firmly entrenched, and I grew into a woman who would never have a house cat.
As often happens, I married my opposite – a cat person. He spent his childhood sharing living space with cats, and thought of them as part of the furnishings. He put up with my no-cat rule until our four-year-old daughter began begging for one. Then he joined the chorus. I resisted. One day our family doctor asked my daughter, as he looked down her throat, if she wanted one of the kittens he was trying to give away.
The battle was over and I had lost. We were now cat people, but I had boundaries. Although the cat was allowed to hang out in the house during the day, she did her litterboxing in the shed and stayed out at night. She was a calico, gentle and sweet, whose only faults were regularly climbing the taffeta drapes that I loved, and eating the fringe off scatter rugs. My husband and daughter adored her. I endured the clawed drapes, fringeless rugs, the rat offerings proudly dropped on our back porch, and the caterwauling male cats who flung themselves at our front door during mating season.
Our second cat was the opposite of gentle. He was a black hellion who tore around the house like a maniac, bit when you played with him, and eventually ate himself up to thirty pounds. He too was supposed to stay out at night, but when his nighttime wanderings turned into three-day absences, and my kids were a grieving mess, he became an entirely live-in cat. We locked him in the laundry room at night for the safety of the house.
Then we moved to a house without a laundry room. We cleverly converted the broom closet to cat quarters, and installed a pet door for him to go in and out to food and litterbox. The plan was to lock him in the closet at night, but he was incensed at the idea. He kept breaking through the pet door screen and escaping. We kept repairing it. One day he hurled his fat self at the screen with so much force that he not only tore through it, but pushed out the frame of the cat door as well. He stalked down the hall to the kitchen wearing the entire apparatus around his middle. We gave up.
Cat number three, which I think of as our Final Cat, is a red tabby from the animal shelter. Affectionate to the point of being a leech, he believes humans were put on earth so that he will have something to sit on. When visitors come, instead of hiding under the bed like a normal cat, he makes a beeline for the person in the room who most dislikes felines. How does he know? And why does he do this? He has other non-endearing qualities. For starters, he sheds continuously, even in the dead of winter. He’s not that intelligent, regularly forgetting where his food and water dishes are and requiring an escort multiple times a day. And I’m convinced he’s plotting to kill me. He lurks silently behind me in the kitchen and I trip over him. Or he shoots across my path like a bullet as I’m stepping off the bottom stair. I think he’s aware that I regard him as the Final Cat, and has determined that I’m going first.
My husband, the cat person, has been adored by all three cats.Each in their turn have followed him all over the house, come running to meet him when he gets home from work, and waited for him outside the bathroom door. And why not? He’s their daddy. He talks to them like babies, carries them around, and buys them kitty treats. He’s the standard for cat people everywhere.
The current state of our household is one man who loves the cat, one coddled cat who loves the man, and one woman who won’t be that sad when we have no cat.
But I do love the man who loves the cat. There’s just something about a guy who makes special trips to Costco for food and litter, who worries that he’ll hurt the cat at claw-trimming time, and in the cat’s old age pours a little milk over the cat food to make it easier to chew.
I hope you’re enjoying it, dear. This is, after all, our Final Cat.