I’ve never liked cats.
Anyone who knows me well knows this. I really am an animal lover. And let the record show that I love Big Cats. Lions, tigers, cheetahs. Domestic cats are different. They seem evil. Cats ignore people who want to touch them and hold them. Then they crawl all over cat haters and knead their necks and purr and flirt. What’s up with that? They walk along your kitchen counter with the same feet they use to dig around in their disgusting litter box. They scratch the heck out of your mom’s fancy dining room tabletop when you approach to shoo them off of it. They parade by you with their tail straight up in the air and freeze when their anus is aimed right at your face. They spray your new down pillows and your feather bed and comforter when you don’t empty their litter box often enough. (OK. So that may be a cat sitting story from about 1989, but I will never, ever forget it.)
Plus, I’m allergic to cats. Not sure whether that’s a cause or an effect of my distain for cats. But it’s a fact. And a sign. To me, it’s a sign that I should not have a cat in my life. To cats, it’s a sign that they need to hunt me down and rub themselves all over me whenever they can.
Cats. What are they good for?
To a cat-hating allergic town girl: nothing.
To a farm girl with a mouse problem: a rather elegant solution.
Advice from every neighbor we have in the country: “What you need is a good mouser.”
I actually married a pretty good mouser. John arrived at our mouse problem with a whole host of traps and the hunt began. He set a rat trap in the bathroom that could have broken my arm. And sticky traps – which are a horrible thing to witness in action – everywhere. He was strategic, too. Where ever he found droppings, he set a trap. And he got results. Over and over and over again.
But in the country, we learned that mice have a more dominant presence than in town, to say the least. I realize now that we essentially live in the middle of a field of mice. We moved onto their turf. And it became clear that this was going to be a never ending battle.
So when dear friends of ours called John (while I was at work, of course) and said they had three kittens – all sisters from the same litter – who needed a home, John said, “Bring ’em over.” He saw them as his new little army of mouse-killing soldiers. “They’ll live outside, Honey. Don’t worry.”
The sisters operated as a band from the beginning. Climbing trees and scaling fences and sleeping in a heap. Ok, it was cute. They were kittens. Which is a little different than cats. We had to put their food on the window box outside the kitchen to keep the dog and the raccoons from eating it, so in the morning when I went to make coffee, the three of them would be sitting in the flowers looking in at me. Yeah, it was pretty cute. But I hate cats.
The process of naming animals in our family is normally like a competitive sport. Endless debate and lots of lobbying, leading to a contest of getting the animal to respond favorably to your name choice by waving arms and screaming the name in rapid succession so the animal can’t help but look. “THERE! HE LOOKED AT ME! HIS NAME IS WALTER! I WIN! I WIN!” Well, not being a cat family made the process simpler. We named them all Mike.
Our town has a great spay and neutering service. The place where you sign up is staffed with passionate animal lovers who engage all of the pet owners in the spay line in elaborate conversation about their “babies” assuring them that their precious little patients will be well cared for, talked to and snuggled (except for the ones brought in an actual cat trap). There is so much cooing and awwwww’ing going on that I begin to feel a little awkward about my relative detachment from the sisters. When my turn came, I was asked to fill out paperwork for each cat, I started feeling like a real pill.
- Pet Name: Mike. Sex: Female. Color: Black.
- Pet Name: Mike. Sex: Female. Color: Black.
- Pet Name: Mike. Sex: Female. Color: Black and white.
They follow us all over the place. As a band. They climb trees if the dog comes near. They scale the fences and tease the goats. They drink from the miniature horse’s trough. Yeah, it’s pretty cute. When we hosted 100 sorority girls in the barn for their retreat weekend, the sisters were a huge hit. Some girls asked if they could take a kitten home. I heard myself saying, “Sure! Take ’em. I hate cats.” But when the co-eds squealed with delight, I found myself worried that they might do it. So I came back and said, “You know, I said you could take one home, but the kids would probably be upset. They’re kind of attached.” The truth? I was getting attached.
The sisters came running from all directions to greet me in the morning when I went out to feed them. Like dogs. (A high compliment.) They poured out of the trees at night when I came home from work, walking me in from the car. And they never insisted on coming in the house.
One morning at breakfast, my daughter and I were watching Mikey play outside with what appeared to be a ball of lint or something. She was batting it around and stalking it like a panther. Turned out to be a dead mouse. OK…I was beginning to fall in love.
And the pièce de résistance: these cats…dig little holes in the dirt…poop in them……and then cover up the poop. I am not even kidding.
I admit it: I love these cats.