Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cats and Dogs

I've been lying to myself.

Well, maybe not lying. Deluding, certainly.

If someone had asked me: 'Which are you, a cat person or a dog person?' I would have chosen dog.

I'm a dog person. Of course I am. When I was a kid, the highlight of my weekend was watching 'Lassie' on Sundays. One of my first picture books was, and I'm not making this up, the AKC dog breeders' guide. I could tell the cockers from the springers, the corgis from the shelties. I'm telling you, I really had my shih tzu together.

The only reason we didn't actually have a dog was because my brother was allergic.

It didn't matter allergic to what, he was allergic. To everything. Especially fur. In all its variations. Real fur, fake fur, fir trees, furniture polish...if it had the phoneme 'fur' in it, he was allergic.

So it was a big surprise to me last night when I realized that over the course of my life, I've only had two dogs, and I only had them for a little over two years combined.

On the other hand,I have had six cats, and I've had them for the last twenty-seven years.

It started out with two: Sam and Scarface. They were littermates, Sam was a big orange Tom, and Scarface was a female tortoiseshell, who had a white stripe running diagonally across her snout--hence the name. I got them when I was a senior in high school. I convinced my mother they would be the best way to control the chipmunks who were living large on our property, and beginning to make bold forays into our garage and house.

My mother, who said she didn't want them, said the following: "They can't come in the house. I'll put a box in the garage for them, and that will be it. Okay, they can come in the house, but just the family room and the basement, that's it. And the kitchen. They can be in the living room, but not the dining room. Okay, they can be anyplace downstairs, but not on the furniture. Except the couch in the family room. Or the recliner. I'll put a sheet on the good furniture, but they're not allowed upstairs. Unless I'm upstairs with them. But not on the beds. Except my bed."

It took a little longer than that, but not much. In the end, when I went to get an apartment, I couldn't take them with me. Not only that, but it turned out that I had new relatives. My mother never told me to feed the cats. She'd look at Sam or Scarf (her abbreviation of what I now freely admit was possibly the Worst Cat Name Ever), and say 'Tell your brother to feed you.'

At least she didn't make me include them in my wedding.

They were pretty amazing cats, though. One time I saw them work a dog off our property. We had about a half-acre lot, with lots of trees. A lab-shepard mutt came sniffing through one afternoon, and Sam, who was quite large for a cat, came running up to it, hissing, his fur puffed out, making him even larger. The dog stood there nose-to-nose with him, growling. Out of nowhere, Scarf streaked by, swiped the dog in the ass, and ran up a tree. The dog turned and chased Scarf to the tree. Sam chased the dog and started hissing again. The dog turned around to face him, and Scarf climbed down from the tree, swipes his ass again and runs up the next tree, and the process repeated itself, until the dog gave up and ran away.

My cats now don't do yardwork, although Wendy, who's a tortoiseshell cat just like Scarf, is one hell of a mouser. This house had been vacant for two years when we moved into it. It had a few mice. For about ten minutes. Even at seventeen, she's ruthless. And when they're gone, she acts like they were never even here. All she cares about is being brushed. Being brushed is the thing she loves more than anything in the world. It's also the thing she hates more than anything in the world. And you never know which way it will go.

And Popper (who was named by my second son in honor of his favorite book, so don't blame me) is a very rare breed, indeed: the American chrono-cat. He has the uncanny ability to wake me up to feed him exactly one-half hour before my alarm is to go off--regardless of what time I've set.

Listen to me--prattling on about my cats. After all, I'm a dog person. I only had cats because I don't have room for dogs.

So why six of them? Why the multiples of cats? Portia, and Abby, and Wendy and Popper?

And why tortoishell cats? I have never, in twenty-seven years not had at least one tortoiseshell cat (actually, I called them brindle for the longest time, until I was told that, no, brindle is what you call a dog. Cats are tortoiseshell).

Who knows? I guess it's because I'm a cat person.



Blogger terry, queen dork said...

your mom sounds like my mom.

she decided we needed cats to deal with a mouse problem... then proceeded to fall in love with said cats, and end up with photo albums full of pictures of the little furballs. i'm pretty sure there are more cat pics than pics of me and my brother combined.

there's even a professionally done photo of me... AND the cats. at a photo studio.

i'm not kidding.

12:56 AM  
Blogger cadbury_vw said...

we only ever had one cat

its name was fido

we brought it back from africa where it killed poisonous snakes (like cobras) for a living

the dogs in our neighbourhood learned to give this 26 lbs of lean cobra killing machine a wide berth

it was really nice and really affectionate animal even if it didn't act much like a cat.

it was though, our only cat...

1:55 AM  
Blogger Madame X said...

Cats are cool!

Buffy the Mouse Slayer and her side kick Riley Josephus keep our home relatively mouse free...well acutally Riley brings the pests into the house then the Slayer elimintes them with one fell swoop of her killer claw of death. It's a sight to behold!

8:37 AM  
Blogger Guy Wonders said...

"I'm telling you, I really had my shih tzu together."

It's my pleasure to announce that you're the winner of the Sentence of the Month award. . . .

8:37 AM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

I LOVE this. I read most of it to my daughter and we LAUGHED about it.

Our venerable Nigel (named after our favourite guitarist) is mostly concerned with being shiny and black, but he's caught a few mice. He was never told to eat them; he just worries them to death and then looks at them with disgust. He's been with us since we got married- 15 years. I hope he sticks around a bit longer!

We always had at least one tortie around in the barn when I was a kid, thanks to our wonderful calico "Mammykatz" (and yes that's a Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite word!)

I HOWLED man, I just about cried with happiness at your description of you mom. She and my mom must be related. Imagine my mom's horror at the concept of a cat in the HOUSE. Barn cats and house cats were never allowed to mingle. But we had two housecats in our lives.

Now dogs. No farm dog would ever set a paw in the house! It's many many years after the last farm dog got sadly put down and guess what? My mom just adores that pug. She didnt' even freak out when it slipped that the kids had been letting him sleep on their beds in her house.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Dear Lovey Heart said...

I have a cat named Henry who isn't really my cat. he is the meanest thing you will ever meet but every day coming home from school i would see henry trotting up the driveway to meet me. And in the winter more likely then not you can find henry on a huge pillow on my front porch snuggled in a ratty blanket.

my mom claims to hate him but i caught her putting out dishes of water for him this summer when the temperature was over 95. I just laughed

12:33 PM  
Blogger mal said...

great stories *S* I love what the cats did to your Mom

Cats seem to make an impression on us for some reason. Certainly dogs are more valuable, loyal, appreciative etc than cats, but cats do entertain us

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YAY! I can post here now!

Fucking hate cats though.


11:25 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

i had 2 cats when i was a kid...first we had mittens and she died from drinking milk (yeah...apparently that is not true that cats drink milk) and then melissa, who was my cat FOREVAH until she missed the litterbox in her old age and then she "went to a big farm to live". but, we always had dogs too...beagles, and then a schnauzer, and then a cocker spaniel and now i have my maggie

she's da bomb and i lurve her and that's why i'm a dog person

like "love me love my dog" person

but it's ok that you like cats
and i'm still keeping my crush on you

9:32 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I'm a cat person, too. You're in good company.

p.s. I think Daniel's a chick person.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Åsa said...

Well I’m a total dog person, but I appreciate a man who is a cat person (as long as he likes dogs as well). To me that equates being caring, not freakishly tidy and might accept unplanned events.

Bless your mom!

6:38 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

My husband has a cat he got when he was 19. He's huge. He always thought he was a dog person, too, but this cat is special. God help me when he dies.

12:50 PM  
Blogger GC (God's Child) said...

Sorry this is gross.
after my cat catches mice, he eats them, and then throws up. At least they come out whole though.

1:51 PM  

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