“…the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn’t, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was getting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn’t ever going to grow dim or doubtful.”Mark Twain
I never liked cats. I found them arrogant, rude, and dangerous. The first one with whom I ever dealt scratched my hand deeply enough to draw blood. I hated him. He never said I wasn’t allowed to pick him up. I learned… the hard way.
After that experience, I gave all felines a wide berth. My parents inherited a cat from my brother. I don’t actually recall the details of the transaction, but every time I would visit, there would be Jamie, or as he was called by my father, “Stupid Cat of No Possible Value or Worth,” wandering around enslaving my parents. Up and down my father would get whenever Stupid Cat wanted to go in or out. Yes, he was an outdoor cat. Mom required Dad to stand at the door and call him every night before they went to bed. And Dad might be there for half an hour at a time before His Highness would deign to return. I wanted no part of any such ritual. I never understood why my father did, except that he loved my mother, and my mother loved everything with a heartbeat.
Cats had no time for me, and I had none for them. I refused to believe all the Cat People who told me that their cats were sweet and kind and loving. That described no cat I had ever encountered. I was too arrogant to deal with the Arrogance of Cats.
Dogs, on the other hand, I have always loved. There is nothing so wonderful as being jumped by four-legged fur when you come through the door. Her tail is wagging and she’s covering you with kisses as though you were the most important and wonderful being that cells ever combined to form. I have two ex-wives. Neither of them was ever in the league of a dog for making me feel loved. However, neither Missy nor Darilyn ever pooped on my floor, so perhaps it evens out a bit.
In July of 2017, I was in the hospital, and when I got out, I was going to have nowhere to go. My nephew had gotten me a motel room for a couple of weeks to keep me from being homeless. That ran out, though, while I was suffering from extreme Diabetic Ketoacidosis.
I had just recently begun a horrible job selling DirecTV to unsuspecting old women. I made little money, and to make any amount that would give me any chance to sustain my existence, I had to be successful at getting people to trade their little pieces of green paper for something that is mostly worthless. When I made a sale, I was both ecstatic and wracked with guilt. But it was in this horrible place that I met Hilary.
When I was in the hospital, she called me every day. I have almost no memory of that because the entire experience is a blur in my mind. I was heavily drugged, and I was almost entirely incoherent almost all the time. But, Hilary told me that when I got out of the hospital, I could stay with her, and her wife, Rebecca, and their three cats, Cynna, Buster, and Oliver until I could get back on my feet. And my dog, Melanie, whom I feared I was going to have to give away to anyone I believed would take good care of her before I dragged her into homelessness with me, would be welcomed there, too. She would have died on the streets, and my former roommates were about to be evicted from my old house, which is where Melanie had to stay while I tried to find shelter for us both. It was an offer that saved my life, and Melanie’s, and, subsequently, made me a Cat Person.
When I arrived, Rebecca showed me my bedroom, and I collapsed onto the blowup mattress and passed out. I slept for more than 30 hours. I think it was closer to two full days. And when I finally came back into the world, Oliver had to find out who I was. He kept looking at me, and I thought it was a little creepy. What the hell did he even want from me?
It was a couple of weeks before I moved in and Oliver decided I was acceptable. The cats seemed willing enough to tolerate Melanie after their initial meeting. Buster and Cynna, however, wanted nothing to do with me. See why I hate cats?
Oliver came and got in my lap for the first time almost a month to the day after I began occupying his space full time. I was surprised, but it was a nice surprise. He stayed nearly an entire minute, and he let me pet him. And you know what else? He didn’t even scratch me.
Over time, he began to visit me any time I was in the bathroom. Closing the door meant only that Oliver’s little paw would appear underneath it, letting me know he needed to come in. And, being the basically lonely guy I’ve always been, I’d let him in. It wasn’t long before Oliver was following me around, laying in my lap, and doing the things Melanie had gotten too old to do anymore. Melanie could barely make it onto her own personal couch. She couldn’t get on the bed anymore, and Oliver started visiting me there. He wouldn’t stay long, but he would swing by to check on me. When I got sick, as I did with alarming frequency, he would come and lie on my chest. I think it was his way of telling the girls something was wrong. They would look for him, find him, and see whether I was dead, dead tired, or in need of hospitalization.
Oliver stayed close to me all the time we lived in Mesa.
In July of 2018, we all moved to our nice 3 bedroom house in Phoenix. We had a backyard so Melanie could go out and relieve herself without the need for a leash and a trip up and down a set of stairs that would, given time, certainly have killed me. And it was in the new house that Buster decided to adopt me.
For reasons passing understanding, he decided my bedroom was actually his. If I laid down, Buster would join me within less than ten minutes. And he wouldn’t just sit there. He insisted that I be petting him. Having my phone in my hand was simply not allowed. That was giving my attention to something other than him. When he’s not chewing on the tube that goes from my tummy to my insulin pump, we do very well together. He’s become an expert cuddler. He lies with his back to my chest, and he purrs contentedly so long as we’re together. When I leave, he becomes visibly depressed. If I ever meet a woman like that… well… no… never mind. I would rather just have Buster. He takes up much less space on the bed.
Oliver has to be with me at the computer now. He frequently feels the need to add to whatever I’m writing, and if I stop petting him when he’s in my lap, he will hop up to the desk, stroll across the keyboard, and jump to the window above me to see what’s happening in the backyard. He’s managed to obscure 2/3 of the characters now, and I have to try to remember where they all are. I’m hoping to get a new one soon. (A keyboard, not a cat… three is plenty, I swear.)
Cynna continues to be royalty. When the girls went to Las Vegas for some sort of convention a couple of months ago, His Majesty began to take notice of my existence. He made sure I knew when he needed to be fed. And, he assured me, no matter what his Mothers had said, when he needed to be fed was simply constantly. Since their return he has visited me twice, for a total of nearly 90 seconds. I expect that in another year or two he’ll come to see me without the expectation of food. Maybe he’ll let me pet him more than twice. One can only hope.
I will always love Melanie with all my heart. The fact that she is getting too old to walk anymore scares me more than my own death. There is little to be done, but I can still give her loves and kisses while she’s lying on her couch. She simply isn’t capable of giving me all she once did. I know her love is still there. She just can’t express it physically any longer.
The cats can. They’ve taught me there are ways of expressing their love without jumping on me. I’m told that when Buster or Oliver looks me in the eye, and they close their eyes for a moment, they’re saying, “I love you.” I don’t know if that’s true. But I do know, they’ve made me love them because they simply won’t allow my heart any other choice. The cats have become a part of me. I’m a Cat Person.