I love dogs, but I identify with cats. There’s just something so human about them. They can be such high-maintenance creatures, but that very dependence is so endearing. It makes me think that the human it owns has acquired *some* level of maturity to actually be responsible for such a small life. But cats like to give you the impression that they are their own cat, affecting a “nonpussed”, almost blasé attitude when you look their way. Blame my early indoctrination with Garfield for that.
They can really turn on the charm. There is nothing quite as adorable as watching a kitten playing with a moving beam of light, or trying not to fail asleep (and failing). But once they grow up, it’s almost like their affection matures, too. Sort of like their relationship with the litter box; once they’ve become acquainted with it, they’re toughter. More streetwise. A little bit of their innocence is gradually lost. They become elusive and aloof as secret agents. As if they’re cultivating their personal brand of mystique.
It’s amazing how much can be said in a meow, and thanks to the many opportunities I’ve had to hear it, I’ve learned to be a cat whisperer. There’s the plaintive, “feed me now” meow. The ones that my brother’s and sister-in-law’s pair of cats–Lord Barney and Lady Flea–foisted on my ears at an ungodly five o’clock in the morning (I know it was their morning kibble they wanted, because they proceeded to lead me from my room to their room, and walk and meow around their empty food dishes). There’s the tentative, “hi. will you play with me?” meow–attributable to their low boredom threshold. And the reproachful “where have you been?” meow. Because they are social animals, and giving them your undivided attention is as important as brushing your teeth every day.
Cats are masters at giving you the eye (in particular, the royal “We are not amused” look). Especially if you are owned by a heterochromatic-eyed cat. They’re also photobombing specialists; they seem to know when to insert a pair of ears or half a furry face into the picture of the family (or a solo portrait of the family dog). Cats, unlike dogs, and like humans, have their peccadilloes and will only put up with so much nonsense. They will be moody on some days, like a teenager who wants the car keys, but can’t have them. Watch that metronoming tail — you’ll only get a few ticks and tocks before a claws-out paw or mouthful of teeth puts the kibosh on your silliness. Of course, we do tease them with balls of yarn, bringing out the big kitty in them.
We are so accommodating when cats walk across our computer keyboards, even if we accidentally enroll in Theoretical Physics next semester instead of English 101, or an online purchase for 2 pairs of heels suddenly becomes a purchase for 200 pairs of pantyhose. And on our piano keyboards, their paws will punch out a dissonant melody that is music to our ears, and our ears only; Brahms, Bach and Beethoven will not take note nor be impressed. We oooh and ahhh when cats make our laps their own. We melt into puddles of goo, when these balls of fur stretch and turn over, like a living comforter, and give us that coveted opportunity to belly rub them. Just so we can be rewarded by their purring.
Cats get away with other things dogs can’t. I am reminded of a cat owner who (unwisely) decided to drive to his parents’ house with his favourite feline on his lap. The trip was so long that kitty couldn’t find a litter box in time, so being the resourceful creature she was, she used the next closest thing instead. There was no scolding that innocent whiskered face, though. Soiled jeans, a mildly wet carseat, and a steaming pile of cat poo made for a truly unforgettable drive to his parents’ house. Just not in the most positive way.
Our previous next door neighbour’s Persian would come and pay us a visit quite often. Without, surprisingly, ever leaving behind the telltale signs of his visit (no, that was courtesy of the raccoons). Not that there is much space to do a #2 anyway, with all the fruits, vegetables, flowers and foliage on our property, unless you do it by the big Douglas firs (again, that’s the raccoons). But he developed an affection for us, nevertheless; and he demonstrated that, once was by leaving a half-eaten white mouse on the front lawn. (Bear in mind that the most selfless act of generosity a cat will do is leave some of its food for you).
Another time, we spotted him dozing peacefully on his side in the soil of our blueberry patch on a warm summer afternoon (if only the digital camera was handy). Once, when our car pulled up in the driveway, there he was, sitting on the front steps as if he was guarding it in our absence. Instead of bolting once the car doors opened, the lord of the manor welcomed us with a couple of homecoming meows, scented our legs with his cheeks with great deliberation and at his extreme leisure, and endured a 20-minute petting session from us before wandering home for warm milk.
When we played a game of bocce later that summer in the back yard, there he was again … chasing after the balls. Bocce balls are not yarn balls. They weigh significantly more. But it didn’t stop kitty from pouncing on them, as comical as it looked. (We think that he may have been part hound). If there was ever a cat that could adopt humans, he was such a one.