It’s no secret; I am a dog person. In fact, I have never made any bones about the fact that I am a dog person. I like dogs, so sue me. Big, smelly, tennis-ball-chasing, tail-wagging dogs. The slobbery-er the better. I had a dog growing up, and Blaine and I have had (and adored) two dogs. It’s what we’re comfortable with … it’s what we KNOW.
My kids, on the other hand, love all kinds of animals and would have a veritable menagerie of pets if allowed. I’ve put my food firmly down on any kind of bird, rodent, or reptile, so the only thing left is a cat. Which they have asked for many times over the years, and to which the answer has always been a resounding no. I’ll admit it, I don’t like cats. I mean, it’s not like I *hate* them, or try to hit them with my car, or kick them or anything. I just have no desire to have one as a pet. Ever. For any reason. They’re too snooty, and they won’t play fetch, and the whole litter box situation intimidates me. I’m simply not interested in having a cat. Unless maybe I lived out in the country and my house was overrun with mice. THEN, I might get a cat. But I would probably try mice-traps first. (Pain free, no-kill mice traps, all you PETA people can get off my back already.)
So imagine my surprise and pleasure (not) when a stray cat showed up to our house shortly after we moved in. At first I thought perhaps the previous owners had left him behind, considering we found a food bowl on our patio, but inquiries to our new neighbors led us to understand that it was a neighborhood cat and didn’t belong to anyone. I wasn’t sure where it slept, and I had no idea who took care of it, but quite frankly, it wasn’t my concern.
About that time is when Lager died, and my kids, Brayden especially, latched on to this neighborhood cat. It’s a black cat, so of course, she named him “Blackie”. (Original, no?) And every now and then we would catch her leaving out bowls of milk, or sneaking him food, and every time we would tell her to stop, because everyone knows if you feed a cat it’s yours forever. Plus, it was really frustrating to go in the kitchen to make myself a ham sandwich and discover all the ham was gone.
Blackie often hung out in the garage with the kids, and he made his disdain for Blaine and I very clearly known. Although he would let the kids hold him and pet him and carry him around, he would scram whenever Blaine or I came outside. Usually curling his lip in contempt at us before running off. I swear, curling his lip at us. See? I told you, cats are snooty. And I kept insisting that there was no way that cat was a stray, because he wasn’t skinny enough. He was obviously sleeping SOMEWHERE and staying warm and dry, and besides, aren’t stray cats sort of hissy and mean? But this cat was very good with the kids, much to their delight.
Then, about a month ago, Brayden came to me very upset because it appeared Blackie had hurt his paw. He was limping and not putting any weight on it and she was very worried that he had been injured and would die. She kept asking me if we could take him to the vet, even though he didn’t belong to us, to make sure he was ok. Obviously, I didn’t want the animal to be in pain, contemptuous lip notwithstanding, but all I could think of was that as a stray, we would probably be slapped with a huge bill for all kinds of shots and immunizations. Or whatever they call vaccinations for cats. And I’m sorry, not to be cheap, but I didn’t want to get stuck with a vet bill for hundreds of dollars for a cat that didn’t even like me, let alone belong to me.
His little limping figure did sort of make me feel bad, though, especially once we realized he had been sleeping under our shed all winter. So I finally caved and agreed we could feed him. I bought a bunch of cat food, which can I just tell you, is SO much cheaper than dog food! Or maybe it’s just that Blackie weighs one-sixth of what Lager did, so he doesn’t eat as much … who knows? The first time Brayden took a bowl of dry cat food outside, the animal fell upon it like he had never seen food before. That night she gave him a can of food and I swear, if a cat could pick up a bowl and lick it clean, Blackie would have done so. Honestly, it made me feel guilty about not feeding him before … although I swear he is not that skinny. Maybe he’s got families all up and down our street feeling sorry for him and feeding him at the same time, like some kind of stray cat scam or something, I don’t know.
The kids made a box for Blackie with a blanket in it so he could sleep in our garage and stay warmer. We don't have one of those swinging kitty doors, however, so the first two nights he stayed in the garage he pooped on the floor, which didn't exactly endear him to Blaine. And now it's warmer, so boom, right back outside he went.
Then, a few times, Brayden would be running late for school and not have time to feed him. I believe if an animal depends on you for food, and you’ve been supplying that food on a regular basis, then it’s your responsibility to continue. So on those mornings she would run late, I would take the food out to Blackie. At first he would run away, coming back for the food only after I was gone. Then he began to stay just long enough to eat (curling his lip all the while) and eventually, it reached the point where he would stay in the garage with me there. I’m still not interested in having a cat for a pet, but at least he no longer makes me feel like an animal abuser any more by running for the hills whenever I show my face.
Then, this morning, there was a dead bird laid atop my door step inside the garage --- an offering from Blackie.
I think the cat might like me after all.
Unless his goal was to give me a heart attack when I opened the back door and went outside, almost stepping on the dead bird, in which case he came very close to succeeding.
(Geez, does that make him officially our pet? And I’m STILL going to get stuck with a vet bill at some point, aren’t I?)