We have a cat.
I never wanted a cat.
I’m pretty sure I never asked for a cat.
Growing up, my family had dogs. We had a collie named Heather, and then we had a cocker spaniel named Flurry. My grandfather had a dog, and so did my other grandfather. My uncles had dogs. Laura’s family: 85% allergic. They had some barn cats on the family farm, and one cat named Ralph who thought he was a dog. Laura’s favorite pet growing up was Bo, the black Lab with a penchant for bringing dead things home whenever her parents had company. We’re dog people through and through, so this would make you think that, even by some extraordinary accident, we would not end up with a cat. You’d think.
Last year, my brother-in-law was deployed to Japan, and it was assumed that sister-in-law Hannah and her cat would come alongside. Only problem was, the cat needed his shots to be let into the country. They were leaving soon, and since the cat also needed to be in quarantine for six months after his shots, there was no way they could put him on the plane. So we got a call, since we happen to be the only twosome in the family blessed to have neither member allergic, to see if we would be willing to take on a cat for six months. “This is only temporary,” said Hannah. “I’ll be back at Christmas to pick him up and take him back to Japan with me.”
Six months with cat. There are worse things. We said yes.
We cat-proofed the house. We wanted to make sure that there was nothing he could get into, because he has a reputation for destroying plants. We also wanted to make sure that there was no little crevice he could get into where we couldn’t get him out. First time in the house, Cat, whose real life I-don’t-respond to-that name is Coco-Nut, emptied himself out of his carrier and sprinted, as if led by a helpful star, to the one place we hadn’t taken care of, a small space between the cabinets and the radiator in the kitchen. He stayed there a day and a half.
Eventually he came out. Sadder but wiser, we put a board in front of that space in the kitchen. With that spot off-limits, he decided the living room closet was more to his liking. That would be his home for the next week. We put out food and water, which Cat must have indulged in while we were sleeping. I caught him in the hallway once in that first week. He froze, wide-eyed, and looked at me as if he was positive I was going to grab him and take a huge bite out of his head. So I didn’t move, figuring any movement would scare him. We stood there for a minute. I thought about reasoning with him, telling him that eventually he was going to have to get used to the new humans, but there’s always that pesky language barrier. I gave up and moved slightly, and Cat disappeared without a trace, back in the sanctuary of the hall closet.
As time went by, Cat started to come out. He acknowledged our existence. He allowed us, on occasion, and if he felt like it, and if the wind was blowing in the right direction, to pet him. And over the following months, we came to an agreement: we would say nice things to him and treat him like the cat we never had, and in return, he wouldn’t stop eating and die. This system worked well, and everybody seemed happy about it.
Four months into Cat’s six month stay at Uncle Scott and Aunt Laura’s house, we received a call from Hannah. As it turns out, there was a flaw in the plan. She wasn’t going to be able to bring Cat with her back to Japan on a military flight. Moreover, even though it was possible for her to fly on a commercial flight to pick Cat up and bring him back, chances are he would be stuck in customs for days, if not months. Cat, being the sensitive flower that he is, wouldn’t take well to such delays, and most likely would void section 2 of our agreement, viz. eating and not dying.
So, really, there was only one solution.
We have a cat.
We never asked for a cat.
But there it is.