I have a theory that if you don’t like cats, you don’t know them. My current family’s connection (obsession?) with cats can be traced back to 1978, when my childhood family ‘replaced’ me with a Blue Point Siamese to keep my teenage brother company when I was away at college. We were never allowed animals beyond gerbils growing up (no offense, Lucky and Happy, we loved you!). My parents didn’t yet believe in cats as pets, and they knew Larry and I wouldn’t walk and clean up after the puppy we wanted so badly.
While Samantha was adopted for Larry, it was ‘love at first meow’ for my mom, and you could hear her throughout the streets of our Long Island neighborhood screaming ‘SAMAAAANNTTHAAA‘ every time that pesky pet got out. And you could find my dad in pajamas with a flashlight and ladder trying to coax her down from the garage rooftop outside my parents’ bedroom window, where she’d be meowing in the middle of the night to get down.
But when Samantha was in the house, she followed my mom around constantly, and mom loved the way she was incessantly ‘chatting’ with her in typical Siamese cat fashion. Mom forgave Samantha anything and the rest of us attributed the cat’s occasional moodiness to the fact that her collar read ‘Samatha’ (without the ‘n’) … but you never can tell with cats.
Newly married in the mid ’80s, I knew I had to have a cat and we had my dream female tabby Christie – before ‘human kids’ – for almost 18 years (named for Christie Brinkley, for her beauty). She was a feisty one but, like my mom with Samantha, we loved her unconditionally. And she was (for the most part, in her cat way) fiercely loyal and loving to our nuclear family once we had two kids.
But she let visitors know they weren’t welcome and even my cat-loving friends were, well, kind of terrified of her. And my mom had to wear high boots in the summer to avoid cat scratch attacks whenever she came to our house to feed Christie when we were away on vacation. (She greeted us warmly on our return, which we labeled ‘displaced anger.’ My mom just called it ‘crazy.’)
Crazy or not, burying Christie in our frost-hardened backyard December 23, 2004 was the saddest day of my life. And my mom still misses Samantha decades after her passing. But I will not end my cat story on that sad note …
Fast-forward a whole bunch of years and we now have two ‘pre-teen’ tabby-and-white adopted siblings William and Lucy (they’ll turn 13 the end of March) who are the sweetest animals you’d want to meet. A real antidote to people who don’t find cats responsive, loving or ‘worthy’. Daughter Jamie says they’re more like ‘stuffed animals’ than cats as they will almost never ‘complain’ to you about anything and they just want you to cuddle with (and feed) them!
Full disclosure: Will does drool and has an annoying habit of chewing toilet paper off the roll … and Lucy snores quite loudly as she lies across the bottom of the bed so you can’t get too comfortable. They both also paw at my face for a feeding way too early in the morning. But Will is the mushiest, loudest purring cat in the East. His motor will get running when you just look at him … or even if you’re petting Lucy. Lucy is just ‘comical,’ as Jamie says. Her claim to cat fame is running over to her favorite chair for ‘brushing’s’ on cue, no matter where she is in the house, even if asleep when you call her. She’s also quite the ‘helper’ – with laundry, typing, you name it.
My now grown kids have their own cat families. Down South, Jamie has Clara (named for the Nutcracker main character) – a beautiful Tortie and our miracle cat who came back to her after 44 heartbreaking days ‘on the lam.’ And her little kitten Abigail (who found her outside her apartment) is named for the witch in the Crucible. With her little mischievous ways, Jamie says the name suits her.
And in upstate NY, Dan has mellow, sweet, shy Louie (unfortunately named after Louis C.K. pre-scandal, but we’re denying that now). He’s the orange tabby I always dreamed of and he has the cutest little meow when he’s hungry. Over Christmas break, we had five cats in the house for a while – a little overwhelming but fun!
And then there’s Sterling, part of our ‘extended cat family’ – who lives with Jamie’s friend Amanda upstate. He’s a large white, kind of crazy, blue- and green-eyed cat they rescued from the streets of their college town way back when. Sterling’s a real character through and through with his unique meow and his habit of hiding in the strangest little spaces. The funniest thing was when Jamie and Amanda first took him to the vet, suspecting he couldn’t hear. The vet asked them to step back as he performed the full-proof, scientific test of clapping his hands loudly behind him and having him not respond. Sterling also has a Twitter (@SterlingIsDeaf) and brand-new Instagram handle (sterlingbenwyattcookegreen).
So why are we crazy for cats? They watch what you want to watch on TV, love the same books and movies, love to cuddle with you and stare into your eyes when you pet them or share your secrets. They respect (and don’t seem to disagree with) your opinions. They pick you up when you’re down, with just a pet. They play ‘nurse’ and lay with you for comfort when you’re sick in bed. They also just have to be near you – on your lap, on your papers, on your clothes. And it’s the most fun thing to continually text goofy pics back-and-forth with your kids and share cat stories. True confession – I have more than 650 cat pics on my phone!
Still not convinced? Check out this old episode of the sitcom Cheers, where main character / barmaid Diane Chambers explains what the death of her childhood cat – ‘Elizabeth Barrett Browning’ – meant to her. Her coworkers teased her for overreacting until she told her story. Then there wasn’t a dry eye in the bar. Click here to see what she said and thanks for reading my little cat tale (tail?). Fellow pet lovers – share your pics/stories in the Comments section below if you like (dogs and other pets welcomed too, in the spirit of inclusiveness!).
Stay tuned for my next blog – Show me the inspiration! And I dedicate this cat blog to my lovely library book friend Linda and her tabby Socks! (Watch for a future blog on the bookclub.)