Some people are cat people, and some people are dog people. A few like both, and a few like neither. My parents fit in the “both” category. When I was growing up, the family generally had one dog and one cat, and they played together nicely. For a few years we had two cats, but that was because a stray cat adopted us.
I like most dogs. As for me and my house, though, we serve the cats. They can be trusted alone in the house when we are gone all day—or even are on a several day trip. (Yes, we do have a sitter stop by once a day to give them food and water and to clean their litter box.) Cats are quieter than dogs, and they demand less attention. Yet it means something to win the approval of a cat. Dogs are pack animals; they will admire anyone who takes leadership in their lives, tells them what to do, and provides them with food and attention. Cats are more particular. They choose their friends by a process known only to other cats. Food and attention are not enough to make friends with a cat. When a cat approves of you, you know that you are a special person. Most cats like me.
A year ago my daughter came home from Walmart with a cat. She had not gone to the store to buy a cat, and in fact she did not buy this kitten. It came to her in the parking lot. I know this happens a lot; people leave unwanted kittens in the Walmart parking lot, expecting that they will find a new home. This kitten must have come from a fairly nice home. She is friendly, she likes children, and she clearly had received good care and enough food until she was left at Walmart. A year later, I still wonder if some boy or girl is wondering what happened to the special kitten they were raising that disappeared without explanation one day.
The kitten is now a cat. I’m usually the first person awake in the mornings, and when she hears that I am up, she comes looking for attention. She wants to be pet and rubbed and assured that I have not stopped loving her overnight. This lasts until I sit down for breakfast or until she hears that someone else is awake. When I come home from work, she wants more attention, because I’ve been gone all day. I might want to check matters on the computer, but she needs her time with me too. In the evenings she enjoys being a lap cat. She sits on my lap and purrs; I scratch her behind her ears while reading a book.
Some days, especially Saturdays, I feel anxious for no reason. At times, this cat is my best medicine. Time spent with her is the best therapy I can find on a weekend. Even if I have to wake her up to get her attention, she is quickly forgiving, ready to show me that I still matter to her, and peaceful assurance that not everything is wrong in the world.
Cats are not for everyone. Some people have allergies, and some have phobias, and some just don’t like having animals around the house. Even the best-behaved cats will sometimes sharpen their claws on the sofa or weave around a person’s legs to trip that person in a dark hallway at nighttime. They do not understand the human habit of sleeping for several hours and then being awake for two or three times as many hours. My cat does not understand why I hold books and stare at them for long minutes of the day; it’s an odd habit she has come to accept. Family television time is another mystery to her, but she is happy to be with us when we are all staring at that noisy box with the moving pictures. She is generous but fair—if the show is long enough, she will have spent time on each lap in the room.
Of all the people in that Walmart parking lot last October, I am glad this cat found my daughter first. We have taken good care of her, and she is taking good care of all of us. I am delighted that she became part of my family. J.