I was born into a family that hated cats. Humanity was divided into two sorts: dog people, and cat people.* The first thing I remember about them is that my mother received an “I Hate Cats” book as a gift when I was a young child. Or maybe she’d had it even before me, and I discovered it in our basement as a young child. Regardless, it was a little comic book of cats being killed or obliterated in weird, semi-hilarious situations. A chubby cat being slingshotted into a brick wall is one I remember in particular.
I really, really liked dogs. I remember every house in every neighborhood we lived in by the dog, not the family. We finally got one when I was 12. Her name was Cocoa. She wasn’t really ‘my dog,’ but she was my responsibility, so, she was basically mine. I loved her infinitely, and I helped her give birth to seven tiny, perfect puppies. When I was 15, I came home from a school-related weekend trip and my parents had given her away so that they could travel more, or more easily, or more something.
I lived on my own for five years after moving out at 18, and I always wanted a pet. A dog was a pet that loved me, liked me, and spent time with me. Cats were never an option as I’d sworn in allegiance to my mother that I would never own a cat. (Besides – they bit and hissed without reason, and were the fuzzy embodiment of Fuck You.) She told me when I was 14 that if I ever had a cat as an adult, she would not come visit me. I don’t know if she was joking, but I always remembered it – even after I became estranged from the family, and visiting wasn’t an option for more serious reasons.
Since landlords said dogs were out, and my belief system said cats were out, I owned a very depressing series of goldfish. None of them outlived the 2 week mark, and the man at the pet store became very concerned with my regular “purchase.”
At 23, I met a man who said he loved cats, but wasn’t really a dog person. He also said he wasn’t a guy who was crazy into hugging people that he wasn’t immensely close with. These two things nearly kept me from even replying to that email.
Two years later, I and this man (that I ended up marrying) brought home three tiny kittens (which aren’t cats) to babysit them for an adoption agency in town. Within 24 hours, I identified tiny personalities. Within 48 hours, I knew which was my favorite. And within 2 weeks, I had decided I couldn’t live without one. Her name is Pixel, and I adore her, and she adores me.
Last week, I texted my mother a picture of my tiny kitten. She told me to stop irritating her. I was sad about it, but the kitten-happiness cancelled out the sadness, and I realized I was still happy.
As I sit in a coffee shop writing this, my husband asks if I want to stay or leave. And I tell him I want to stay, but I miss my cat.
I think there is a lesson somewhere in this.
*More accurately, there were Christians who were dog people, and then there Not-Christians who were dog people/Christians who were cat people/cat people. Religiously and non-religiously, I have happily returned to the one-sort-of-people outlook, where people are just people, and that is that.