I never was a cat person. Benji wagged his movie tail into my heart early on, and I was firmly in dog territory. It didn’t help that my Mother wasn’t fond of kitties. Family folklore tells a story of my poor Grandmother being startled when an evil cat jumped on her back! She screamed and right there my Mother developed a lifelong distaste for everything feline. I had no real opinion on the matter, I just felt no affinity for them like I did dogs.
When I was very young, we had a Tuxedo cat named Muffin. My older sisters friend got one and so did we. I don’t have very strong memories of him, save two instances: What mom did with him at night and my part in his murderous rampages. See my mother didn’t want him lurking around at night, so she made my father put him in the garage to sleep. When Dad was on a business trip; she would throw one of his toys in and slam the door shut when he’d chase after it.
Maybe she had reason to fear him at night, Muffin was quite the killer. We moved and the new house had a small crawl space under the stairs landing. I was the only one of us, apart from the cat, who would fit under the stairs. Soon it became my job to go retrieve all the things the cat would kill and bring in to the house. I have a vague memory of something large with big wings. My sister tells me it was an owl. I don’t recall shedding any tears at Muffin’s demise several years later. As I got older and lived with a girlfriend and her family, I got used to their cats, but still wasn’t a fan. They killed things and having a box of poop in the house? Gross! And then I met the man who would bring me out to North Bend and, eventually, make me a cat person.
I met him on Match.com in 2006 and I, like most non-valley peeps, thought North Bend was the end of the earth. I lived in Bellevue at the time and it took the poor man quite a while to talk me into coming out to his house. When I finally agreed to come to the deep dark woods, hah, there were no animals in residence. He enthusiastically told me about his neighborhood dogs: Chloe, Zeke, Tuff, and Ball, but I had no idea he was a dreaded CAT person. Why, I may not have agreed to even one date had I known!
All was well with this new relationship until one day he told me his cat was coming home. What? He had just returned from a trek to Mount Everest for three weeks and his ex-girlfriend had the cat. Ok, wait a minute! Who was this….CAT? I thought I had found a fellow DOG person, but one day I came over and found Aknot (sci-fi fans may know the names origin), a lilac point Himalayan. Watching him strut around the house, it was clear he thought he owned the house, and Mark. Watching Mark coo and purr at him, it was clear Lord Aknot Huffington Smythe III aka Lord of the Hunt, son of a show cat in Texas, was correct. The relationship was new and the cat mellow. So, I thought perhaps I could get used to this new development in time and relaxed.
I shouldn’t have relaxed. A couple of months later, I came over to find two more of these furry beasts in gray. This time I had no warning. I walked in, pulled out a chair and had something that resembled a cross between an owl, dragon and cat hiss and growl at me. This was the perpetually angry Bismarck. Jumping back, I realized there was another larger one on the staircase regarding me thoughtfully. Newton was his name and I would come to find out thoughtful wasn’t an apt adjective for this kitty. Big, clumsy and sweet, I have never met a dumber animal in my life.
As we went to bed that first night with all three cats, Mark arranged them around me. One next to me on the pillow, one in the small of my back and one at my feet. “There” he said with satisfaction, rolled over and went to sleep. I laid there all night worried, that like my grandmother, I would be attacked if I moved. As I stiffly left the next day, I thought this might be the death knell of this new relationship.
The cat learning curve was steep for someone so utterly ignorant of cats and cat behavior. I was used to dogs where rough play and loud noises were the name of the game. All but one kitty had had a rough start in life. Bismarck, my eventual favorite, was left in a box outside of a animal shelter in Cowlitz county. Likely because of his tendency to sit on your lap and then hook in with a growl if you decided to move. Mark used to patiently unhook him from me or prep my lap with a towel to save me from being clawed to death. Or it could have been his peculiar habit of stealing your clothing to suck on it in a corner while quite literally caterwauling. I eventually found this is a behavior called wool sucking, linked to early weaning.
Newton, on the other hand, was imminently more likeable. Big and floppy like a Muppet. He had orangish gold eyes that would widen in surprise when he saw something that confused him. He was a simple cat who would frequently get lost in the house. Searching to find him in places he wasn’t used to, but overjoyed to be found, was a normal activity. He, too, was a rescue, dropped off at a shelter in Alabama because he vomited too often and had been left most days in a basement alone.
Aknot, the only cat who had been with Mark since he was a kitten, just seemed to not like me much. Mark would go up to bed and I would follow later to watch some TV series that was our latest. I would climb into bed and he would bite me. No, not Mark in a sexy way. The damn cat would BITE me! Not hard, just enough to let me know my place in the house hierarchy.
At first, I felt vindicated. I was right! All cats ARE weird. I heard murmurings that the ex-girlfriend wanted them back and I wanted her to have them back. But then Bismarck had a thyroid problem and had to live with her while recovering, (when a thyroid is overactive in cats they are frequently treated with radioactive iodine therapy but must be quarantined from other cats), I missed him. Then there was a brief cat custody kerfluffle and I found myself MAD. I wanted our cats back!
“Oh crap. I’m one of those people.” So, I dove in head first. I groomed, not an easy task especially with the cantankerous Bismarck. You had maybe 5 minutes of cat patience to work on a mat, and there are many with a Persian, before the growling and slashing would start. I learned to move fast. I fed, note to self you cannot “sniff” cat food to see if its spoiled. My dog even became a cat person sleeping in a big ball with the two grays. Aknot was never her biggest fan. And I started taking them to the vet. Persians are notorious for having health problems.
The first of the trio to fall was Bismarck. At the time we were immersed in many home improvement projects and he was my ever present familiar. I started to notice a slow decline in energy and a dimming of his sight until one day it was clear he was completely blind. Overnight his whiskers went from pointing sideways, to pointing straight out from his face. He never bumped into one thing. We soon found out he had Lymphoma on his optic nerve. He rallied for a time on steroids, but it became clear his time on earth was done. We said goodbye with the help of a house call vet.
Two years later it was Newton’s turn. We fought hard and too long to keep that lovable clown, but Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and kidney failure finally claimed him on a snowy night.
Unfortunately, last Tuesday it was Aknot’s turn. He had done remarkably well for his breed and was about 19 years old. A series of small problems had weakened him, allowing pneumonia to creep in and make life extremely uncomfortable for our last little cat. It was time to go and our local mobile vet Dr. Mike helped him transition peacefully. I spent that evening hearing him snort upstairs, or rather believing I was hearing him, but all my kitties are now gone.
I have to give Mark some time. I know, but one day I’ll need another one or two or three. I guess I am now a full-fledged cat person too.