Even though I like cats and dogs equally, I’ve been a cat person from the beginning. Growing up in the city, my family did not have the space for a dog and our yard was not fenced in. We lived on a busy street, so if we had a dog and it got loose, it was inevitable that it would be struck down by a car or a bus. We got our first cat when I was 11, and I was always around them until I moved out years later.
I did not have a cat when I lived on my own because I had a small apartment and there were no pets allowed. Just as well, because I was usually gone for many hours at a time, and that would not have been fair to a cat to endure that much alone time in 700 square feet (If I had 2,000 square feet, I’m sure it wouldn’t have cared). When I moved in with my girlfriend (Now wife), we couldn’t have any pets in the places we lived, so there was a stretch of 12 years where I did not have a cat in the house.
Now, my wife was always a dog person. They had a variety of breeds in the house, but I always liked the big dogs. They had a black Labrador Retriever that I loved to sit around with every time we went to visit her parents. When the inevitable talk of getting a pet arrived, I thought for sure it would be about finding a dog. Instead, my wife wanted a cat.
In 2010, one of my brothers and his wife took in two stray cats that were both having litters. My wife wanted to take two of the kittens, but our property managers only approved one. No big deal, so after three months of the kittens living at my brother’s house, we dropped by one night to pick up our little man. He is all gray and he really looks a lot like a Russian Blue, except for the tuft of white hair just below his neck. His Mama gave him that because she was mostly white, and it looks like he is wearing a collar like a Catholic priest. Ah, the irony.
From the beginning, he was a mess. Compared to the other cats I’ve been around, he would commit many acts that would cause harm to us physically, emotionally and monetarily (If this is a word : ). Sure, cats and other pets get into situations that drive their owners crazy. Our little guy was finding ways to get under our skin on a daily basis.
Since we got him 5 1/2 years ago I don’t think I’ve had more than 100 nights where I slept straight through the night. For whatever reason, he always meows during the night, jumps on my head or requests to be fed, even though we set some food out for him during the night (So he wouldn’t bother us! Go figure that out!). I’m sure my heart and the rest of my body is used to this by now, but I know I lost thousands of hours of rest because of him. My lack of rest, along with finding chewed wires, ripped up furniture and torn carpet added stress to our lives instead of alleviating it. Because lowering stress is what pets are supposed to do. Right?
When we bought our house a few years later, we got a second cat to give him a friend. It’s a female cat, and in the 3 1/2 years we’ve had her she’s had no outstanding moments of being a pest more than pet. Her behavior has been more typical of what I knew from cats growing up. Even though he got a friend to be with when we are away, our sort-of Russian Blue kept giving us the blues.
The easy thing to do would have been to get rid of him, but I knew and my wife knew nobody would take him and he would be put down. In between my trips to Radio Shack for replacing all of the chewed wiring around the house, I decided to try and get him to at least acknowledge when he was being a jerk. And it worked.
These days, he’s still a jerk, but he doesn’t have to be disciplined as much as before. A few years back I started using unique sounds, words and body gestures to express to him that he was doing activities deemed inappropriate by me. Now, he’s so in tune to what I convey to him that I swear he apologizes to me when he gives a little meow when I raise my voice. He is good to our son even though the one time he bit him hard enough to give him an abscess. When this occurred, I used the same gestures like any other time without getting mad at him. So far, he hasn’t bit our son again and I try to teach our son how to play with the cats.
Our house is a mess with the torn carpet, furniture and sleep patterns, but we are used to it now. I know someday I’ll be thankful for our problematic cat, at least I tell myself this to make me feel better about losing all that sleep. Let this little story from a schmo be proof that a broken relationship can be mended with love, patience, a few rolls of electrical tape and a reliable specialty electronics store nearby.