Get A Cat

I have to admit it—I never liked cats.  Actually, to be more accurate, they never liked me.  Where dogs would always drool and fawn, the cats I knew as a child were reserved and aloof, and heaven forbid you should touch them in the wrong place.  The reward could be bite marks and a row of painful scratches down the back of your hand.  When I was thirteen, I found an abandoned kitten.  She was tiny and jet black and I smuggled her into our house inside my coat, thinking that I had found the answer to the mystery of cats—one of my own, who could teach me how to be a proper cat owner.  She snuggled against me as we fell asleep that night.  Sometime later, I was awakened in the dark by a tiny monster gnawing at my earlobe. My screams of terror woke my parents, and likely the dead too, and by morning my little secret had been deposited at the local animal shelter.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, our old dog passed away, and we were amazingly without pets for three years. While I realized that with a toddler and a full time job, a large breed puppy would likely be the proverbial “straw” to break my back, I was still longing for a dog.  My best friend in Boston said, “Why don’t you get a kitten? They are SO much easier than dogs.”  I said, “I don’t like cats.”  She said, “That’s because you’ve never owned one.”  Couldn’t argue with that!  The next weekend we were at the Animal Rescue League, picking out a six month old plain gray tabby who approached us through the bars of his cage.  That boy must have known he needed to behave like a dog to win my heart, and so he did.  He came when he was called, enjoyed having his belly scratched, begged for food, and greeted me at the door every night.  His name was Max, and he taught me to love cats.  He also taught me that a cat that goes outdoors when you live next to a hundred acre nature preserve is a short lived cat.

Fast forward to 1995.  I met a woman who was a breeder of Bengal cats.  She had a litter of three kittens and she invited me over to see them.  The dam of the litter was stunning, a golden yellow with beautiful rosettes decorating her entire body.  She had three kittens, all yellow and striped.  I said, “Where are their spots?” She said, “Oh, they get them when they get older.”  Four hundred dollars later, I took home my Bengal kitten and christened him Timmy Tom.  When I took him to the vet for his shots, the receptionist took my information, the cat’s name and birthday, and wrote down “Domestic Shorthair” under breed.  I said, “Excuse me, he is a Bengal.”  Twenty minutes later, the vet pronounced my kitten healthy.  I said, “Do you know when the spots come out?”  He looked at me, smiled, and said, “How much did you pay for your yellow tabby?”  When I told him, I am sure that his guffaw could be heard at the front desk.  The receptionist giggled as I left.

Timmy Tom is a huge cat, now seventeen years old.  In his prime he was a hefty twenty one pounds, an apt illustration of hybrid vigor.  His coat has lost a bit of its shine, and he may have dropped a pound or two, but he has his eyesight, his hearing and all of his teeth.  He is the undisputed king of the household, and the giant hounds shrink back if he bares his teeth and hisses at them.  He screams at me if I am slow to slice the chicken breast he eats for breakfast every morning, and he likes his shrimp without cocktail sauce.  He never learned to cover his business in the litter box, and he does not care one iota if my bathroom smells because of it.  I exist to please him and not vice versa.  After all, he is a cat.  I am still waiting for his spots to come out.

A year ago my daughter the medical student cried and said she was lonely and missed her dogs.  I nodded sagely and gave her my best advice:  “Get a cat.  They’re easier than dogs.”  And so she did.

8 thoughts on “Get A Cat

  1. Laughed about “waiting for the spots”. If you want a real Bengal, I have a friend who has 2 and can get the info on the best lines. Her breeder has retired, but Emily knows who has the breeding stock. Magnificent cats, but I still am addicted to Siamese.

  2. Amazing! Timmy Tom lives on!
    I’m going to repeat to you what my animal sitter said to me recently because I think it refers more to you: “when I die, I want to come back as one of your animals.” :-)

  3. I was the reason that my parents finally allowed us to have cats in the house. I harassed them and bothered them and finally snuck two in that they wouldn’t allow in the house so they stayed in the barn until their untimely deaths, at which point my parents felt guilty and let me get more.

    Those cats wormed their way into my parents’ hearts and one lived to be 19. Plus it started them acquiring other cats of their own.

    When I moved my parents from New Jersey out here to Michigan in 1999 they HAD to bring their 16 year old cat with them, which seriously limited where they could live (due to unkind “no pets” rules in elder housing). And even towards the end when my mother was in a locked dementia unit I would still bring a cat to visit her.

    I can’t imagine ever living without cats. I’ve always had at least two. I just hope elder housing practices are more humane by the time that I need them and that I’ll be allowed to have my cats with me for comfort.

    And, of course, I have always liked my dogs to be cat-like. Which is one reason why I have deerhounds.

    • When we were looking into housing for my father here in San Diego, most of the facilities with independent living apartments did allow dogs and cats. I think that as medical evidence has proven the benefit of pets to the geriatric population, the rules have changed. M

      • THAT IS MY SINCERE HOPE!!!!!! It is about time that these facilities see the light.

        And really, I am a veterinarian, so I would hope that at least *I* could have dogs/cats with me.

  4. Pumpkin, my orange tabby, is still little shit (he, like yours, doesn’t cover his) but he’s grown more affectionate in his dotage. He’s 16, going on 17, wheezy but still my boy. He’s been an indoor cat since Day 1. I feel guilty about that, don’t know if I will get another cat after him. I will miss him greatly. I think Dolly, my 3 1/2 yr old terrier mix, will miss him too.

    • Vicki, hat off to you for getting your kitty to age 16. My vet assures me that the ONLY cats who live to a ripe old age are indoor cats. My Timmy Tom has never been outside either, nor has my daughter’s cat Bitty Kitty (all 9 pounds of him at “full grown”). So don’t feel guilty. I too, feel unlikely to get another cat–unless Bitty ends up with me during my daughter’s residency. We shall see. M

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