My family first got cats while living in Oklahoma, when I was around 8. In our exhuberance, and after failing with a dog, my dad, sister and I went to some stinky apartment and picked up a fat, gnarled, unkempt tabby something-or-other we saw up for grabs in the classifieds. As soon as we brought it home I'm pretty sure my mom said take it back. We just wanted a cat!
A short while later, with Mom in charge, we went to some woman's house and picked up two kittens--a female for my younger sister, and a male for me. Though my sister's cat never took to her, mine took to me, often only leaving my room or closet to eat. He died of diabetes when he was 9, back in 1994 (senior year of high school).
I immediately got another cat at the humane society, one who tricked me in the cages, so desparate was he to leave. We never bonded, likely because I was still grieving and would soon be in college. He lived with my parents until 2007, when after peeing all over their house seemingly uncontrollably, they put him to sleep (right before I got married, but they waited to tell me).
We did have a sort of house cat growing up, the king, who often snuggled next to me in evenings growing up, who would growl and hiss when anyone but family visited. A few times he jumped into an open dryer, sat atop my other grandmother's clean load of warm laundry, and hissed at her so she couldn't begin her folding. He died of cancer when I was in college.
In 2001, living on my own for the first time in Columbus, Ohio, I drove two hours north to Cleveland to snag a manx--a breed reported to be able to play fetch and open doors (right). I took the tail-less, 6 month old kitten home, and over the next few months he slept on the bedroom floor. Right now, in his third house, he's sitting behind me on my office chair.
When I'd take him to the doctor in Ohio, the vet, noticing his attentive, patient, happy-go-lucky nature (odd for a cat), asked me if he'd often just stand in a nearby doorway, or lay in a place in the house where he could both see me and every other room. I said yes. It was strange. She said he was my animal guide, a protector, and though it struck me as too mystical at the time, I knew it was true. He always has to know where I am, even if he's not touching me.
Today, Valen, V, the Valenator, turns 10, or 56. He was a strong antidote to my solitude in Ohio--a nature that both heals me and makes me terribly vulnerable. It is true we tend to put too much of ourselves into our pets--our hopes, fears, expectations, desires, persona--but in turn they reflect them back, filtered, made better I think. I am biased, but cats are better at this. They are subtle, they are opinionated, they have moods, they have conversations (V will talk to me forever if I keep up the gab). Cats are metaphors.
Happy birthday, big guy. Even though you've made it to the whiney "my god why haven't you fed me yet I haven't eaten for an hour" phase of your life where you vomit to bring the point home, it's all oddly charming when I've had enough sleep.
|Cockroach V -- ready to play with socks as I fold them|
|Cats simply make you jealous|
|Cats simply befudde you|
|Cats are far more comfortable in the world than we are|