Recently, a friend of mine has been posting videos of a stray cat that has been coming regularly into her yard. A little history about me: I love animals. I’ve grown to tolerate cats.
Something about them has always made my hair stand on end. Maybe it’s the way they quietly creep around a house and pop up behind me on the sofa back with a furry tail tickling my neck. I’ve almost spilled my drink on a friend’s couch on more than one occasion. I don’t understand why they can’t just announce themselves.
Maybe it’s the way their eyes glow in the corner of some darkened room. In college, I worked at this car dealership. Fancy cars, fancy people. I was young and not fancy. I had been there only a few months and was still proving myself. So one night, as a handful of customers and salesmen dotted the sales floor, I was asked to run some cash into the upstairs safe. I had been told months earlier when I started that there were a couple of cats that lived in the offices upstairs, but I had never been interested enough to see them and soon forgot about them.
So this night, I go upstairs, fumbling around in the dark for a light switch, and as I scan, I perceive a set of eyes staring at me from across the room. These eyes are attached to the silhouetted and unmoving body of a cat on a windowsill. This cat is huge. Well fed. My hair stands on end, I scream to high heaven, and I hurl myself down the stairs in pure panic. I had totally forgotten that I wasn’t alone in the building. By the time I make it halfway down the stairs, a group of men are making their way up to rescue me from whatever crisis I’ve found myself in.
Imagine how embarrassing it was to say, while breathlessly heaving, that a cat had frightened me. As the only woman there that night standing in front of a bunch of men, I felt absolutely that I had let down the feminist movement. No amount of apologizing to the concerned men there, or the women throughout history who fought for women to be taken seriously could have, in my view, repaired the damage. I also want to mention that I got laughed at pretty hard.
Fast forward to the present. My friend has this cat that keeps coming by. It’s starting to make itself at home. She feeds her little leftovers. “Wait,” I say, as she is telling me the story. “You’ve been feeding it?”
You see, there’s this cat that’s been hanging out around my house every night. Always in the same little corner. He’s black and white, not very big. I’ve been catching him there for weeks. Sometimes when I come out at night and he’s not hidden, he’ll run off.
So when my friend starts telling me how she’s been feeding her visitor, my heart shakes a little. I realize that I’ve never once set out any food for mine, or tried to rescue it. Only when she mentioned feeding her stray did I think, “Maybe I should put some food out.” What does this say about me?
It says that I was raised in a culture where strays are feared, and rabies is a monster that trudges through the darkness of night to find you. No one wanted to pay for a doctor, so we stayed away from strays. We certainly didn’t encourage them. Except that one time as a kid, we heard this crying outside. We opened the door to see the tiniest little kitten, wet with rain, crying in our driveway. We had to take it in. He didn’t stay more than a week, though. My parents are the most anti-cat people I’ve ever met. When it comes to cats, they’ve got that shriveled up little Grinch heart. And I fear that I may have inherited it.
And yet. And yet, I’ve attempted the rescue of at least 6 dogs in the past year. I’ve chased them down the street, brought them home and fed them, gotten to work late, twice I sneaked one into work because I had to be there and had nowhere to leave the dog. I got caught the second time and reprimanded, but I didn’t regret it. Once, me and a friend spent half an hour trying to coax a hefty pit bull into my car to get him to the local animal shelter. That dog HATED cars. By the time I got to the place, it was closed. I wasn’t mad at him. I kept him an extra day and tried again. So maybe it’s just cats. It’s well recorded that I’ve never been a fan of them.
My son, by some accident of birth, absolutely adores them. And since we lost our dog, he has been regularly asking for a pet cat.
A couple of days ago, I was at my friend’s house and the cat that I’d been seeing on her videos showed up. It’s orange and beautifully stripped like a tiger. I like tigers. It’s got stunning green pools of eyes. I love stunning eyes and green is my favorite color. She’s too skinny to really impress, but that didn’t stop her from trying. She approached me and lay her body down, rolling in the sun and purring with perfect poetic timing; she checked me out. Honestly, she’s beautiful and interesting to study. Damn it.
My interest didn’t escape my friend, who offered to house train her and fatten her up to present as a gift to my children. Damn it. I threw out every objection that I could think of. I needed to be sold. Give myself justification for always having to check my clothes for cat hair. And isn’t, like, everybody allergic to cats? Isn’t it going to pee on my furniture? Isn’t the litter box going to make my house smell like cat? Won’t I have to feed it and be responsible? Won’t it need shots and shit? I needed to be sold, I say.
Then a funny thing happened. I started to sell it to myself. Isn’t there this thing about writers and cats? Haven’t most great writers owned a cat? Think I read that somewhere. I’ve been quite the hermit lately. Maybe a little quiet companion will be just what I need to stay in touch with life outside myself. It would be great to not have to walk her or let her out to use the bathroom when it’s raining. Maybe she’ll liven up my mind and inspire my writing. I could use a sweet furry thing to be rubbing on as I write this. Kids need pets. It’s my firm belief. They need a life to care for. It’ll grow their hearts. My son has been keeping a millipede as a pet for over a month. The kid is obviously desperate.
If this cat could hear me now, she’d be pissed off at the amount of pressure I’m already putting on her. She’s only about a year old, after all.
My friend is now in the process of making this thing presentable for my evaluation, and I’m thinking of how to lure the cat that’s been lurking around my own house. I think it needs some affection and a good home. Damn it.
Please don’t tell me that this is the cat lady stage beginning. I’m already writing in my underwear.