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Monday, February 15, 2010

I'm being Catty, but...

When I was a child, I loved cats. In good weather, I brought home every stray cat within walking distance. My mother was patient and supportive. She placed a litter box in a recessed nook on one side of our big kitchen and indulged my love for cats, at least for awhile. The only rule was: one cat at a time.

I enjoyed cat ownership. I dressed each furry friend in my doll's clothes and pushed it around in my doll buggy. The strays were so hungry for attention and fondling that they never complained, even when made to wear a bonnet tied under the chin.

I lavished each cat with affection, but there was something abhorent about having a litter box in the kitchen. While I was eating my breakfast, the cat was always doing its business in the litter box. Maybe that's why every winter, without fail, the "cat-in-residence” managed to disappear. Mother would claim it wandered off or got lost, but I began to suspect that each cat I brought home was never going to stay for long.

I can't really blame my mother. We lived in a small upstairs apartment with no utility room and a teeny-tiny bathroom that caused grownups to lean inward with the eaves. The kitchen was the only room wide enough to accommodate the "box;" a name my mother said with disdain.

When I grew up and had a home of my own, a cat was given to our oldest son as first prize in a soap box derby for Cub Scouts. It was a wild little thing that scaled my draperies like Mt. Everest, leaving a trail of claw tracks and snags in his wake. He clawed his way up my sofas, my chairs, my bedspreads, and, as a last straw, up the kid's arms and legs. The product of a feral cat's litter we wondered? We never knew for sure. We returned our wild kitty back to the giver of the gift (adequate punishment, don't you agree?).

After that we became dog owners. As the children grew up, we enjoyed several canine lifetimes. It was while we owned a white and tan shih tzu named Pooky that a beautiful black cat with white sox came to live with us. My daughter dubbed him Demetrius.

We had no sooner gotten attached to him when we discovered that her younger brother was terribly allergic to cats. Deme's fur caused our son's skin to break out in bright red patches, followed by bouts of hay fever and asthma. Needless to say, the cat had to go. I cried like a baby when he left., but I didn't miss those patty-paw footprints all over my kitchen counter tops; a habit I was never able to break him of, even when I sprayed him with water.

Today I admire cats from afar. They're beautiful, they're soft, they're cuddly, and they belong to someone else. A friend's cat brought her a gift in my presence: a tiny gray mouse that he laid at her feet. As I watched the blood trickle out on the floor, I remembered those unsanitary patty-paws on my kitchen cupboards. I determined then and there that I was a dog person, after all, and I've been one ever since. I don't mean to be catty, but...