I know quite a few people who are in love with their cat. I’m talking crazy, stupid love. These people have facebook profile pictures showing them kissing the cat on the lips. Large sums of money are spent on gourmet pet food for these finicky felines, and these lucky animals enjoy untold hours of attention and grooming at the hands of their owners. These are people who bring home leftovers from restaurants which they lovingly hand feed their little cuddle kitty, cooing adoringly to the cat all the while. Their refrigerators are covered with cute pictures of their furry best friends. Here’s Sugar Lump lying in my yarn basket! Here’s Fuzzy Wuzzy curled up on my head while I try to read! Cute! Cute! Cute!
This type of cat and owner love affair is completely alien to me. I own a cat myself, and there are no huggie-bear-sweetie-pie moments of mutual adoration going on. Our cat rules over us like an untamed tiger while we basically skirt around him trying our best to survive the day without becoming prey to his baser instincts. It starts when I warily drop my legs over the side of the bed in the morning. I silently pray that he isn’t hiding beneath, waiting to slash the tender skin of my calves open. It continues when he darts in between my legs as I stand at the top of the stairs, balancing a load of laundry on my hip. When he jumps next to me on the sofa, I foolishly mistake his nearness as an overture of friendship and try to scratch behind his ears. The result is my frantic dash to the medicine cabinet. There I bite back swear words and conduct a panicky search for the hydrogen peroxide to wash out the wound inflicted by his razor like teeth. While I’m gone he’s steals the warm spot in the sun left by my vacancy.
The irony is that when we adopted him we foolishly thought he was going to be the sweetest kitty ever. We found him on our porch, lost and sick. He was a tiny kitty and appeared much too young to be away from his mother. He had obviously been on his own for a while as he was thin, weak and flea ridden. We took him in. We washed his fur and treated his fleas. The kids named him Sparky because his orange coat was the color of a warm flame. A large amount of money was spent at the vet’s office to nurse him back to health. We all doted on him and loved him and gave him little fabric mice stuffed with cat nip. He loved the attention…until one day when he didn’t anymore. Stronger, healthier and well fed, the real Sparky emerged. And the real Sparky is One Mean Cat. Even the dog is afraid of him.
I feel that a pet is something one should be able to ‘pet’. In contrast, the most frequent contact we have with Sparky is when my husband and I work as a two person tag team to apply his flea medication each month. Rarely does one of us escape unscathed. I considered asking the vet to give him some Kitty Prozac (yes, there is such a thing), but that meant he would need to be given a pill once a day. I tried to “pill” him once and the result was the releasing of his inner psychopath. It looked like a scene from a horror movie: my hands were bloody, the dog was barking, my kids were crying and the cat was hissing, wailing, and rolling around the kitchen floor like a demon possessed imp from the depths of hell.
So why do I keep him? Well, here’s the thing: I love that cat. Don’t ask me why, but I do. I may not be kissing him on the lips or stashing him in my tote bag to carry around with me or any those other nutty things that those self identified “cat people” do with their darlings, but he’s my cat and that’s that. And sometimes it happens – when the stars are aligned just so and the house is quiet and I don’t make any sudden moves and maybe a magical unicorn walks down my street– then it will happen that Sparky will jump up on my lap and purr with contentment, letting me stroke the fur on his back for just a happy moment or two. Then, all too quickly, his mood will shift. With a flick of his tail and a swat from his paw, he leaps off and slinks away. That’s okay. He can fuss and fight all he wants. Now I’ve seen the crack in his tough guy facade, and I can’t be fooled any more.
I’m pretty sure he loves me, too.