I’m thinking of getting a cat. Thinking. Maybe two cats. But I’d stop at two, because A) I would like to limit the number of cat butts dispensing cat poop in my house; and B) I have no interest in becoming a Weird Old Cat Lady (WOCL). Weird and old, okay. I’m already one and well on my way to the other. But cat lady? Nope. Not that. Ever.
Growing up, I had one cat. Peter. He was, and I am not overstating this point, THE BEST CAT EVER, a 20-pound half-Maine Coon tiger with beautiful long belly fur, a broken meow (ihh-errr was all he could manage) and scars all over from tangling with dogs and other creatures around the nabe. He was a fearsome combatant in such battles but the gentlest being alive when relating to small children. When I was 3 or 4 I yanked out one of his whiskers from the root, and the shocked look he gave me before he walked away – I’ll never forget it – said merely, “Child! You are not allowed to do that!” There was not a hint of violence in this message, only succinct didactic purpose. He was instructing me.
Some years later, he defended me from a vicious German Shepherd who took to chasing me up the hill from the school bus each afternoon. After witnessing this barking assault on multiple occasions, Peter finally leapt at the slavering thing from the top of the porch steps — claws extended, arcing with fat-cat grace past my awed head — and slashed the dog’s ear down the middle. My hero. (I wish I’d had him around for my subsequent run-ins with the animal kingdom, especially a certain heinous turkey.)
He was also, I’ll have you know, THE SMARTEST CAT EVER. I’m not overstating this point, either. When he developed an abscess on his noggin after a vengeful blue jay dive-bombed him, Mama took him to the vet to have it drained and then brought him home and shut him in an upstairs bathroom for reasons I don’t recall but probably, probably, had something to do with his needing to be in a semi-sanitary space for a day or two. As you might expect, Peter objected to this arrangement and moaned loudly for hours in that awful guttural feline lament that cats tend to emit before barfing. We were all profoundly relieved when he finally shut up. This shutting-up lasted 10 minutes. After that: a terrible, smashing crash from the bathroom, after which he screamed bloody murder in an urgent Cat vernacular that translated roughly as I’M DYING UP HERE I’M DYING UP HERE OH GOD. Mama, of course, took this as her signal to run upstairs and open the door. When, of course, he bolted. He wasn’t dying up there at all, oh God. He was merely plotting his escape.
It was epic. He was epic, that fine, proud creature who slept on my head and woke me with a purr to raise the dead. When Mama called me at college to tell me he’d died at 18, that’d he’d expelled his last breath in her arms after a fine and proud life, I wept and wept and wept.
In all this time, I’ve only had one other cat. Oliver. A rescue. A friendly brown-and-black-and-white fellow who jumped on my legs when I got home, just like a dog. He never slashed any canine ears on my behalf, but I never held that against him. Had him and loved him for a decade. And then, the March after my husband died, after long years of not venturing outside, he zipped through the front door, never to return.
So now I’m thinking, thinking, of getting another cat. Maybe two cats. But not three. I promise. Not me. Nope. Never.