Chuck, the sleek black cat my husband Joe and I brought home after graduating from college, was sewn to my feet like Peter Pan’s shadow. It didn’t strike me as unusual that he followed me everywhere; that’s what shadows do, of course.
Chuck was on his hind legs, with his paws on the other side of the front door, when I got home from work each night. He’d perform a rapturous dance of greeting across the kitchen counters as I set down my bag, my keys, our groceries. He’d leap into the refrigerator when I opened it to put those groceries away, slow-blinking at me from atop the crisper.
Visitors to our apartment would exclaim at how friendly he was, but they also observed that he seemed to be biding his time until his Host Cat duties were over and he could return from their laps to mine. That seemed perfectly natural to me as well: Thanks to early adoption by the marvelous cat my parents had when I was born, I spent my childhood secure in the assumption that all cats liked me and that the cats in our house probably liked me best.
The years rolled by, as they do for all of us who aren’t Peter Pan. We brought home another cat, Steve, an independent fellow who humbled me by preferring Joe. That was fine, though — after all, Chuck and I had each other. Then, two springs ago, Chuck’s vet found a little lump in his abdomen during his yearly checkup; less than two months later, my witchy, wonderful cat died of cancer.
After a summer of mourning, we decided to adopt Matty, a shy kitten who spent his first night home under our bed. When I finally coaxed him out the next morning, he blinked his big blue eyes — and trotted past me to the living room, where he assumed a televised-golf-watching position on the couch beside Joe that is now his signature.
Matty perches on the edge of the tub as Joe takes his morning shower. He leaps to his feet and arches his neck like an Andalusian horse when Joe enters his line of sight. He is a Bromese, a Siamese deeply in love with the man of the house. Now, I am no cat’s favorite person.
To really appreciate how arrogant I’ve been, I had to admit that I was no longer the favorite, I had to feel sorry for myself about it, and then I had to realize how ridiculous the self-pity was. A cat’s affection, as anyone who lives with a cat is well aware, is meaningful because it is by no means a given. A feline best friend, in turn, is a peak life experience. Knowing that, how could I take my most-favored-human status for granted? I used to feel the twinge of a phantom limb when I watched Matty and Joe adore each other the way my Chuck and I once did. Joe is also my favorite person, though, and a little cat at my husband’s heels gives me a thrill of joy. It’s time he had a shadow of his own.
Does your cat have a favorite person? How do you feel when it isn’t you? Tell us in the comments.
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About the author: Lauren Oster is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She and her husband share an apartment on the Lower East Side with Steve and Matty, two Siamese-ish cats. She doesn’t leave home without a book or two, a handful of plastic animals, Icelandic licorice mints, and her camera. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.