There is a wide assortment of pets I could imagine myself having. This includes dogs, bunnies, goats, chinchillas, chickens, and Shetland ponies. Cats have never made the list. I have held a universal grudge since I was a well-meaning little kid chasing Moo Moo the cat around a friend’s house and under the bed, only to pull out an arm full of scratches when I reached to finally pet her. Cannot imagine why that happened.
Looking back, the seed of cat ownership had been planted early on and was just lying dormant until the right moment. I’ve always cherished the idea of my Mother’s childhood cat, Tippy. She was a calico and left kitty paw marks on the pages of my favorite Robert Louis Stevenson poem. My little sister had an inexplicable affinity for cats, and is clever as one, to boot. I should have known feline ownership was in the stars for me.
Apartment living shook the notion from my brain of dog ownership anytime in the near future, but living with Nick meant lots of alone time. And moving to Nashville meant even more than a lot of alone time. I had mentioned the possibility of a cat a couple times in Cleveland, but was met with a reasonable point of working full time and in graduate school, and an even more convincing argument from Nick, that he was allergic to cats.
I’m not the best at accepting things considered to be “matter of fact” at face value. I know he told me he was allergic, and he told me stories about being allergic, but I wasn’t having it. We had been over multiple houses with multiple cats together and he never once flinched in the time we had been dating. Finally, he spent a night or two at a friend’s with multiple cats and left symptom-less.
After moving to Nashville in August of 2014, I brought up getting a cat again. Met with the usual reaction of claiming to be allergic and the whole “we just moved here,” thing, I dropped it. On a flight back to Nashville, I cannot remember from where, I did meet an enthusiastic cat owner who told me about The Cat Shoppe, a pet store and non-profit adoption center. They take in feral cats and kittens, and socialize them (mostly by having them live in the store!). Less than twenty-four hours after landing, I was in the store, playing with the cats, and mentally making notes and rankings in my head. This was October, I think.
Nick was still not entertaining the idea of cat ownership but I was no longer entertaining the notion that when he travels I should be left completely alone. Working from home has its perks, but it can also be isolating. I was starting to keep track of the available cats at the shop, and coming in at least once a week, even doing a little volunteering. In late October, there was an animal hoarding situation, and as a result, the Cat Shoppe had an influx of adoptable cats. By November, I had a list of the cats still there and the order in which I would like to be their cat mom. I was ready to have a real conversation about potentially adopting a cat and Nick, however, was not.
Thanksgiving left me with a wretched emotional hangover from being back in Cleveland and seeing so many loved ones. There was room in my heart for an addition to our tiny Nashville family and I really felt like it could or would be a cat, Nick did not. For the first and only time in our relationship, I presented an ultimatum. I hated it. I even still hate thinking about it. I hated doing it but I was compelled to because I had brought up the topic umpteen times and it had gone no where; I did not feel heard. I simply laid it out that we would attempt to get a cat, and he could get on board and be involved in the process or come home from a work trip someday and there would be a cat. Obviously, I would not keep a cat if it threatened anyone’s health. Obviously. Which is apparently not that obvious based on the feedback I received – that some people thought I was trying to kill him, based on an allergy I still had yet to witness. Call me crazy. Nick, after some discussion, saw the light and agreed. At the very least, he was ready to trial a cat, prove to me once and for all he was allergic, and never have to hear me talk about it again.
After Christmas, we would have a stretch of time where Nick would be home for a few consecutive weeks, and despite being less than two months before our nuptials, it was time to try to get a cat. I had my cat list and went to the Cat Shoppe to make a final decision and set up a date to get the cat. I also double-triple-quadruple checked that if the cat wasn’t working out, for whatever reason, but mainly allergies, I could return the cat, no hard feelings. There was a lot of pressure on me to pick out the most awesome cat in the universe, since this was my one shot. I did not want to miss the chance to blow this opportunity. (Paraphrased from Melania Trump)
I had recently been encouraged to spend time with Emily Dickinson, who I knew as, “the bathroom cat”. This is because, shockingly, she was the one cat kept in the shop’s bathroom. She was from the Fall hoarding crew and needed to be a single kitty. Each time I entered, she was sitting on a ledge by the window, not thrilled with my intrusion but not totally against it, either. When it became clear to her that I was offering quality pets, she would flop over in the cutest way, only to dig in her claws into my wrist the minute I reached for her stomach, which she had seemingly presented to me. I was intrigued, but not sure it was love. After a second round of sitting by myself in the bathroom with this cat, I asked her, “Emily, would you like to come home with me?” She tilted her head for a moment, as if considering my question. Looking back, she was probably wondering why the fuck I was talking to cat. But then she moved, and she turned completely around to face the window and sat down. Emily gave me the cold shoulder and at that moment I had an overwhelming urge to make her love me. I think most of my more promising relationships have started this way.
I left the bathroom with a new certainty of cat ownership. The lady working at the time didn’t exactly assure me when I asked if she thought Emily had the potential to be a “snuggly lapcat,” but she said yes. I think she would have said yes to anything after learning I worked from home, had no kids, and no other animals. (Just kidding, of course, they have very rigid standards. I was even asked what I thought about declawing – which, thankfully, my actual thoughts are the correct answer – but I could have blown the whole thing if I thought it was okay to chop Fluffy’s toes off at the knuckle.) As I was pulling up the calendar on my phone to set a date for taking Emily home, the woman went to get a cat carrier. So I closed out of the calendar and texted Nick, “bringing cat home.”
It wasn’t until the car ride that I heard her meow for the first time. She hasn’t stopped since. I’m a pretty assertive driver but that afternoon, you would have sworn I was 100 yrs old in a Buick LeSabre. Driving as slowly and gently as I ever have. Once in the apartment, she demanded to explore every corner within the first hour, despite trying to introduce her to each room slowly. As for Nick’s cat allergy? I’ve never seen it. I’m not saying I don’t believe the stories I’ve heard, I’m just saying that people, and their allergies, change.
I might be a little biased, but Emily is the most perfect cat in the entire universe. She hangs out near you, but not necessarily on you. She can tell when one of us is sick and sleeps on that person’s feet. She is my little cat-dog. She begs for food and runs to the door when I come home from work. She is pretty much the best.
So, now we have a cat. We have had a her for over a year and half! Her name is still Emily Dickinson. Honestly. No 30 Rock puns intended. I never like the posts from adoption places with the caption “Here’s Sparkles (previously Karl) with his new family!”. I am in no way saying I’m judging you if you do change the name. I promise. If you’re willing to adopt, then by all means, change the name. I’d rather have an animal adopted and the name changed than not adopted at all – to be clear. Emily is maybe five or six years old now, and only actually responds to “Kitty” – so I call her “Emily Kitty,” in an effort to allow myself to believe that she actually knows her name.
I’d like to think I’m handling being a “cat mom” fairly well. I try not to post too many pictures of her – unless it’s SnapChat – because SnapChat’s best self is pictures and movies of pets. I am, however, already used to and tired of the “cats are the worst!” faction of humans. Frankly, it’s the worst. It’s a terrible thing to take a stance on, especially when you may eat crow for it later, like I did. Either way, it’s fine, more cats for me!