How living with cats for the past two years turned me from a non-cat person to a baby talking, crazed cat person.
Let’s face it. Cat’s are egotistic, maniacal, cranky, yet lovely animals. Cats were around my parent’s neighborhood. There were packs of strays, the string of outdoor pets who had owners, and the occasional predator. They would amble into the yard scrounging around for food and catnip. My parent’s yard had holes in the fences where cats could slip in and out. I never cared for them; these cats were skiddish and I never put in the time to get to know them.
There was the first cat that I got to live with. Her name was Reyna. She was old, losing her hearing, and yet, would be social around people. She was my roommate’s cat, and had her own old lady personality. At times when she would be home alone, she would yell. At times when she thought she was alone, she would yell. She died a few months ago.
And it’s strange to still hear her shrill voice. She was nineteen, which is old for a kitty. And yes, I’ve resigned myself to call all cats ‘kitties’ for the sole reason that it’s just cute. Also, my roommate shoved that vocabulary in me. I guess there’s some sort of maternal instinct there, like “this is my child. Of course I’ll call her my kitty.”
There’s the outdoor cat. Her name is Ruby. She was abandoned by her owners over a year ago and was hooked in our backyard because we were growing catnip. My roommate isn’t the kind of person to just let an animal suffer, so our home has become her safe haven. We’ve gone out of our way to feed her every morning, and now she’s conditioned. Whenever I walk out of the door, I hear this incessant meow, although I’m resigned to call it a growl. When I hear it, I hear “Feed me. Feed me. Goddamn it, you must have not heard me. Feed me.”
She’s also painfully needy. She’ll call for my attention. I’ll let her climb up on my lap. I pet her for a bit and she’ll purr. And then dig her nails into my leg. And I’ll yell.
Lastly, there’s Reyna’s replacement, Jackson. My roommate got a male cat, which brings its own sets of new challenges. Jackson didn’t get out of the motherly feeding phase when we got him, so he bites everything and everyone. I’ve had to warn my friends that he may bite them, and ultimately, he does. I have a few battle scars on my hand.
But he’s also adorable. I’ll use baby talk around him because he really is a baby, although he’s looking more and more like a grown kitty. They grow up so fast.
When I was reading this book last week, Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, written by Caroline Paul and illustrated by Wendy McNaughton, I could totally relate to how Miss Paul writes about her attachment to her cats. She explains it as though she’s a crazed cat lady. But I also understand what’s going on in the cat lady’s mind, and that insight makes me empathize more with them.