For the record, I never thought I was a “cat person.” I’ve always been partial to dogs. Part of that was because you can train a dog to do what you want. You can’t tell a cat anything. (Well, you can, but not so’s he’ll listen.) When I was a kid, if we had a pet, it was a dog. (Okay. To be accurate, I once had a hamster, and a rabbit that hung himself – named “Lucky,” natch.)
Growing up in Louisiana, you have to take French lessons in school – it’s the law. I hated it, particularly the idea that nouns had gender. How in the Hell can you keep that straight? And why were all dogs “feminine” (la chien) and cats “masculine” (le chat)? I mean, there are male and female dogs, and male and female cats, right? What’s the idea of assigning an entire species a gender?
As I grew up, it’s not that I was a cat hater – I was just uninterested. Neutral. Couldn’t care less. Cats didn’t bother me, but then again, I didn’t worry about them. To paraphrase a line from one of my songs, “I thought little about them, when I thought of them at all.
When I started dating, there were the inevitable confrontations with cats, because seemingly every girl I dated had at least one. And they were all excruciatingly cute, interesting, and lovable – if you’d just get to know them…at least according to the girls. (Being used as a scratching post as I awoke from a nap made it challenging to accept that particular point of view. In fact, it caused me to spontaneously invent the catapult. But I digress.)
After I got engaged, I decided it was time for me to finally get a pet. I selected an AKC-registered Siberian Husky. Now in typical Captain Digital fashion, this was not a decision that I took lightly. I did tons of research – reading, talking with other pet owners, breeders – you name it. They all told me “Huskies are a spirited breed…mischievous. Takes a strong hand to own one. This is rather like asking what a blind date looks like, and being told, “she has tons of personality…and is a great cook.” Apparently, nobody had the intestinal fortitude to tell me, “look, moron…you’re essentially a first-time pet owner. You don’t want a Husky…that’s more dog than you want or need. They shed like crazy, need a lot of exercise, and when they get bored, they tend to eat things. Like sofas.” Nor did they point out that Huskies have a thick undercoat of fur, that in Texas renders enough loose hair to stuff a throw pillow, about once every three weeks. Yep. That kind of advice I could have used. Not the kind of euphemistic, limp-wristed crap I got instead. Nevertheless, I ended up with a Siberian Husky, anyway. Beautiful dog. Lived up to it’s rep. And then some. Eventually, my fiance-turned-wife and I acquired two more dogs – a foundling German Shepherd and another AKC purebred – this time a Border Collie. Now, I’d been told that having three female dogs was asking for trouble.
Unfortunately, so is trying to convince Mrs. Digital when she decided she had a “no male dogs” rule.
After two of the dogs went medieval on the Border Collie more than once, we were forced to have to put the Collie down. My wife grieved for years. In order to try and help her over her grief, I decided to make the supreme sacrifice and allow a cat into our happy home.
Now I didn’t know this at the time, but you don’t really choose cats. They choose you. Fair enough, I suppose. Of course, the last thing in the world I wanted was a friggin’ BLACK cat. I’m not that into Halloween, and the whole Wiccan thing leaves me cold. So, of course, the shelter cat that picked me was a black cat. Go figure. Even better, when I returned home with said cat, my wife’s response was…indifference. Much to my surprise, the cat decided that he was mine…or more accurately, I was his. It must be something about cats being able to detect when you are simply not involved or interested. They force you to change your ways. Over the next few months, Jack (for that is his name) became “my” cat. Don’t ask me how, or why. I dunno.
Eventually, we moved from Dallas, but along the way were forced to adopt out our remaining two dogs, because of our housing situation (having moved temporarily from ‘owning’ to ‘leasing’). When we settled in Amarillo and bought a house, we ended up with the cat (Jack) and a new Border Collie (Sally). It was then that I began to suspect that the French were right – that all dogs are feminine, and all cats are masculine, regardless of their genders.
Less than a year ago, we adopted a kitten for my daughter, as a gift for her birthday. She’s old enough now to take care of an animal, and I wanted her to have her “own” pet, so she’d feel more responsibility. After a trip to the local animal shelter, we ended up with a very pretty kitten, who looked more like a tiger cub than a cat. Genius here knows nothing about cat breeds, so it came as something of a shock as Tigger (for that is his name) grew, he developed a huge, bushy tail that looks almost squirell-like, huge paws, and a fur coat that would keep a resident of Siberia warm on the coldest of nights. Turns out Tigger is a “Maine Coon,” and over the next year, we should expect him to grow to somewhere aroung 18 to 20 pounds.
That’s one big cat.
Along the way, we tried to get our daughter to do everything she could to “bond” with the kitten. Tigger slept in her room, she played with him, cuddled with him, talked to him – you name it. I did my best to stay away from him, to maximize the likelihood that the two of them would bond. So it should come as no surprise to you, gentle reader, that Tigger pretty much ignores Phoebe and has bonded with me, like some sort of feline Crazy Glue (with an emphasis on the “Crazy” part). When I remarked on this to my wife the other night, saying “who would have thought I’d turn out to be a ‘cat guy,'” she replied, “Oh, all guys are ‘cat guys’ – they just don’t realize it.”
And then I realized she probably was right. (With appologies to Paul Simon.)
If I’m at all representative of my gender, guys go through life focused on one thing, and kind of only half pay attention to the world around them. I know I do. Cats are the perfect pet for guys – low maintenance, largely indifferent, not too needy too often, and easy cleanup. Dogs require a much larger investment in time, focus, and emotion. There’s no such thing as a ‘passive’ dog owner. When you own a cat, if you’re not passive, you’re probably not doing it right.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love dogs. And I love our cats. One day in the not too distant future, we’ll probably get another dog, if for no better reason to restore the balance of power around here. (It will be a male dog, however. No more EstrogenFests™ for this Boy Scout.) It’s just interesting to me that against everything I thought was true, I turned out to be a “cat person” after all.