My wife was not a cat person when I first married her. Sort of like she didn’t like Star Trek when we first started dating. Then Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came out. I talked her into going to see it; I think I promised to watch a romantic comedy with her afterward.
But that one movie was enough. She became Trek fan almost instantly and has loved it ever since.
It only took one cat to turn my wife into a cat person: Angel.
Angel was a calico that belonged to a couple we knew from church. The husband was in the Air Force and one day he got orders to go to England. A nice enough assignment, but taking Angel with them wasn’t practical, given a requirement that the beast would have to endure a six month confinement in quarantine before being released into their custody over there. They decided it would be too hard on Angel and so they asked if we could take her instead. My wife was reluctant, but decided to help them out.
Within a week my wife had fallen in love with the cat.
One of the problems, I think, for people who claim not to like cats is that they haven’t really had much experience with them. The only animal my wife had ever owned before was a dog and she saw cats through her experience with dogs. Cats are roughly dog-sized, and seem to fit into the same basic ecological niche in a household held by dogs. But they refuse to behave like dogs and so a person used dogs thinks there is something wrong with cats.
Which, of course, is absurd given that cats are not dogs. It’s sort of like a person not liking hamburgers because they aren’t pizza. Or not liking cake because it’s not a pie. People’s reactions to cats, if they are unfamiliar with cats, is like the person who grabs a glass, expects water, and finds their mouth full of orange juice. Disconcerting, yes, but orange juice is not a bad thing, just not the water you were expecting.
Angel stayed with us for the next several years, following us in our move to the house that we have now been in for more than twenty years. She adapted to the move easily enough. Angel was a strictly indoor cat, venturing outside only on those rare occasions when someone would leave a door open and she’d nervously poke her head out and then wind up huddled in a terrified ball just a foot or so beyond the doorsill, scampering back inside as soon as she was caught.
She was nearly twenty years old when she finally passed away quietly one afternoon.
A few months later, my children were over at a neighbor’s house near our church. The owner of the house kept lots of animals: dogs, cats, chickens and even a llama. My youngest daughter once managed to get on the llama’s back and rode it around the property, laughing the whole time. In any case, one of the cats had a litter of kittens and my children were offered one of them. They picked out a tiny calico. At the time, I wasn’t really in a mood to add another pet to our home. We had a large golden retriever and a stray cat that we were feeding and that seemed like more than enough animals for one home. But they brought the fur ball into the house and dropped her on me. The kitten then did what kittens will do: purr and bump her head against my face. So that was that.
We named her Halo. When they first hear her name, some people think that it’s a play on the “Hello Kitty” franchise. Others imagine that we are big fans of the video game Halo (which we are). But in fact, the reason the kitten—and the now eight year old cat—is called Halo is because of Angel: Halo is a reflection, an echo, of that other cat that we adopted that convinced my wife that cats are good things to have around.
Cats, like dogs, tend to adopt one person in the family as their person. Halo, for whatever reason, has focused primarily on my middle daughter, Toni. The cat sleeps in her bed and follows her about the house. When my daughter takes a shower, the cat sits outside the bathroom staring at the door until she comes back out. When my daughter is away at school or work, she sleeps on her bed. Once, when my daughter went camping with some friends for a week, the cat stared at the front door for hours at a time, day after day, waiting for her to return. When she came home at last, Halo followed her around the house meowing loudly for the longest time as if yelling at her.
If you imagine that cats are aloof creatures who couldn’t care less about the humans in their lives, then obviously you’ve never had a cat.