I really am more of a dog person, but when we lived in faculty housing in California, only cats were allowed. I was enduring chemotherapy for colon cancer, and a friend advised Douglas and me that having a pet would help reduce my stress levels, so we decided to follow their advice and get a cat.
When I met Douglas, he had a cat named Rudy, who, unfortunately, did not seem to like me, as every time I was around him, he hissed and then nipped me on the ankles. I must admit that I did not like Rudy, so I was somewhat hesitant to become a cat owner, because what if all cats hated me?
But I was game for a pet. Once at the shelter, we decided not to get kittens, as we both worked and had no time for training them. The problem came when I took to one cat and Douglas adored a different cat. I fell for Maddie, a brunette beauty. She was by herself and seemed to keep distant from other cats, a total introvert like me.
But Douglas fell for a character named Darcy, a black and white fellow with lots of energy and a cool attitude. He was running all over the place, playing with everyone who engaged him, and seemed fearless and totally an extrovert, just like Douglas. So, what to do? Well, it was two for one day, wouldn’t you know it? We got them both!
Maddie stayed under the bed for the first two to three days, and I got so concerned that she would starve to death that I called the vet, and was told to keep food out, and she would eventually come out and eat, which she did, keeping her distance from Darcy and us. Darcy and Douglas bonded quickly, and I envied them. Douglas kind of looked smug, for he had suggested taking only Darcy, but I just could not leave Maddie there.
I did not think anyone else would take her. That they could not get along was a major issue, but I had hopes that everything would work out, because my life was actually more stressful trying to get them to like each other.
Then it happened! We came home one day and they were grooming each other! Finally, harmony in our home, instead of hissing, spitting, and arms scratched (and infected, unfortunately for Douglas!) trying to keep them apart. We learned that if we did not try to force their friendship, they would eventually decide for themselves.
It is a good lesson for parents and their children. If you try to keep children from another child or make them play with a child that you like better, they will resist. Leave them alone and they will figure out what they want or need in a friend.
A second lesson we learned from the cats was that two very different personalities can find that delicate balance needed to co-exist, as long as there is mutual respect. Darcy tried to rule Maddie, but she was not having it. Once he accepted her as she was, they were able to form a lasting bond. Indeed, they became very good at working together to keep their humans from ruling them, as well.
I also learned very quickly that dogs and cats are very different when it comes to showing affection. Before coming to California, we’d had a dog named Bailey, and he would come running when we came home, so glad that we were home that sometimes I thought that he needed a Valium or something to calm him down.
Well, forget that with cats! They seem oblivious to you, until they want your attention. They taught me well, for just when I thought that they would not let me hold them or stroke them, then they would take pity on me and jump in my lap, but on their own terms. I also learned that when they were displeased, start looking at new furniture and carpet! So, to say that they trained us, rather than the other way around, is an understatement.
I miss them, for when we decided to move to Tennessee and live with my son and his family, they had a dog and were not willing to have cats in the house. We found them a place together, one where they could roam free, instead of being cooped up in an apartment. We had had some adventures when Darcy escaped from the apartment, but, thankfully, he never got far, so interested was he in the new smells around him.
So there is some consolation that they would be on a farm with lots of space. We cried when we took them, and we decided no more pets, for our hearts break too much when we have to leave them or they leave us. We travel a lot now, and so our living arrangement is not conducive to having pets. But, you sure learn a lot from those little four-legged creatures.