Seriously. I never thought I would become a cat owner when I was younger. And when I say younger, I mean literally three years ago.
Let me take you through my, what should I call it… “journey?” “progression?” “change of heart?”
Whatever you want to call it, I didn’t always have a pet cat, didn’t prefer cats, and at one point, didn’t like cats.
I’ve always been an animal lover, anything non-human was beautiful to me. My first dream job was travelling veterinarian, then astronaut, then, IDK Pokemon trainer or doctor or something, the third option changed all the time until it solidified in high school to artist. Not ONE of those things happened, but I prefer where I ended up anyway.
Speaking of anyway, my love of animals did stretch to cats.
I maaaaay or may not… have… uh…. stolen the next-door neighbor’s fluffy gray cat… and hid it in my plastic play kitchen set, back when I was 4.
I didn’t keep it long; for the amount of time I had it, I fed it Bologna slices and milk. The cat touched neither of those things. Thank goodness my mother discovered the cat in my room within the hour of me cat-napping it from the neighbor’s garden.
According to my mom, she heard it yowling, and opened the… uh… yeah I’m ashamed of this part–microwave. The cat shot out and ran down the stairs, Mom immediately recognized it was the neighbor’s and let it out the front door where it scurried back home safely. For years, I never told her how I managed to sneak it in the house.
I feel rather proud of how I did that, but of nothing else. I had this large 18-wheeler truck toy that had an attached cargo crate with working doors.
I… shoved the cat… inside that compartment…. Yep. And carried it into my house.
The poor creature avoided me for the rest of its days until the neighbors moved away. I don’t blame it one bit.
My father grounded me, of course, and told me we had no use for a cat as we were perfectly fine with our dog. I’ve had a dog for most of my life, mostly miniature Schnauzers, now I have a Corgi.
Before my second Schnauzer and first Corgi, there was a stray kitten. She was sweet and tiny, and I worked with the other neighborhood kids to get her cat food. This was a couple years after the spiriting away of my neighbor’s cat; I had grown to respect animals, and thought better than to steal them since then. Well, for weeks, the other kids and I all made sure she was taken care of. One day, I found her laying in the shade of my mother’s minivan. I bent down to pet her, per the usual. She hissed and pounced at my face, scratching at my eyes, thankfully missing. She clung to my neck as I screamed and struggled. Eventually, she jumped off me and disappeared. I ran inside my home crying about the ordeal. I couldn’t understand why the kitten turned on me when I had given her so much. My mother determined that neighborhood boys had probably bullied her so she doesn’t trust humans anymore. I wasn’t the same towards cats for a few years.
At the age of 8, I met my second oldest friend, who owned many cats. My sisters and I spent many afternoons at her family’s house. At the time, I was afraid of the cats, but my friend showed me how I don’t have to fear them, but I can give them a wide berth. Our friendship stretched into middle school and junior high, where I befriended another proud cat owner. We bonded over art and joined an expensive after-school art academy. I would carpool with her and then spend some weekends with her at her house. She had three funny cats.
In the summer before 8th grade, my sisters, mother, and I, were about to take a trip to Oklahoma to visit family. The night before we left, we discovered a young orange male tabby cat. Not quite an adult, but not a kitten, and very sweet and curious. He had made his way into the garage, an easy feat for that time back when it was safe to keep your garage doors open! My sisters and I begged our mother to keep him. She said we couldn’t take him with us, but she left water and food for him outside. We left for a week on our trip.
When we arrived back home, the tabby was still hanging around the house. Mom went out and bought all the supplies for a cat, and he lived with us from then on. His name was Neko, from the Japanese word “cat”–I was obsessed, like my friends, with anime and Japanese culture. However, my extent of the language was very limited, and very flawed, so Neko was pronounced as “Nee-ko”. It suited him.
He was a wonderful addition to the family. He was very loyal to our home, kept squirrels and bugs at bay in our backyard, appeared at a call of his name, never swiped or clawed any of us or anything in our home, and loved belly rubs. I loved that cat, my friends loved that cat. He was strong and brave too. So brave, that he ventured out into the neighborhood alone without fear, and always returned. One day, my mother crossed the street to speak to one of our many neighbors, and Neko followed. A truck ran him over. My mother sobbed when telling us. He was buried in the side garden, my friends sobbed when I told them at school the next day, my art friend especially.
My mother went on to adopt two cats to fill the void. She brought home a tiny female calico kitten, and a large orange male tabby, named Sammy and Bruce, respectively. Bruce was not at all like Neko, and hated people. We gave him space. Sammy grew up to be a beautiful dainty cat. But then my mother moved away to Oklahoma suddenly, and took the cats with her. My sisters and I went to live with our father.
I grew up with my beloved miniature phantom-coat Schnauzer, Azmo. Cats were long forgotten for years except when we went to visit Mother. Sammy ended up having two kittens. This was… 10 years ago…! I had to think about it, I feel so old and yet I can remember like yesterday holding the two tiny babies in my hands and Sammy jumping on the screen door in a tizzy because she thought her kittens were in danger. The summer that we took care of the kittens was beautiful. The following year, we played with the now full grown cats, two females, one named Cali, a dark calico pattern, and Muffy, an orange tabby with white underbelly. The next year, Muffy passed away due to accidental poisoning. Cali still lives, she is an elderly lady, and still so graceful and courageous. Her mother, Sammy, jumped out the car between my mother’s many moves. The summer I spent playing with the year old cats was the the last summer I went to Oklahoma, and the last time I saw those cats.
I told myself for years since then, I prefer dogs. I didn’t have a problem with cats, I just liked the energy of dogs over other pets.
I wanted a partner who felt the same.
Along came Bo.
His online dating profile listed that he loved dogs, and owned a cat. There were many reasons I was drawn to this man, and the dog detail was one of them. He told me on one of our dates that he used to have a Husky but couldn’t keep it when he broke up with his last relationship. The dog deserved a yard, where his ex lived, and he had moved into a studio apartment. He immediately went to the Austin Pets Alive animal shelter and adopted Sakura.
This cat… did not like me. At all. The first night I slept over at Bo’s place (how scandalous! Lol not), I stuck out my foot from under the covers for cooling. In the dead of night, she crept up on my unsuspecting foot, and chowed down on my big toe. Needless to say, I woke up shouting, not really out of pain, yeah it hurt, but more of I have a thing about things not touching my feet without my permission or awareness. So shouting ensued and Bo chased her around the apartment for a while.
I made an effort to try to win Sakura over. It took a few months, and a lot asking cat owners for advice. Their advice worked! Sakura loves me, and I love her. She’s the best lap buddy late at night on my days off when I need to stick to my overnight schedule.
In 2017, Bo and I decided Sakura needed a friend. She was restless and my cat owner friends said felines have better stimulation and activity with a companion animal. We adopted our kitten from my coworker who was fostering a huge litter of 7 kittens from the Austin Animal Shelter.
Bo and I were originally drawn to the runt of the litter, who was a female black cat like Sakura, who happened to also be the runt of her litter. But when we met Soot Sprite, she was extremely adventurous and exploratory, too high energy for laid-back and alpha-female stubborn Sakura. My coworker convinced us to adopt the only long-haired kitten, our baby boy, Bowser. He had a passive personality, but still played when encouraged.
He was only as big as my hand when we got him, now he’s bigger than Sakura, even without fluff, and getting bigger! I told Bo that I always wanted a fluffy fat cat for sitting on my lap. Even as I type this post, both my cats are sleeping on my feet. They were fighting today, Bowser is getting more bold, but most days they enjoy each others’ company, and prefer to share their bed and couch together. Don’t worry, both are fixed, I’m not about to take up breeding responsibilities.
So, I guess, I’ve had a life with cats, and without cats. It wasn’t until I sat down and looked at my life that I was surprised with yet again an outcome I didn’t expect, much like my dream job not coinciding with my childhood dreams, but I feel things are better than I could’ve ever planned for.
I hope to one day, make a cool cat tree, a floating shelf, and a garden for them. Until then, I’ll keep cuddling and spoiling them to no end!