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When I was young, I couldn’t get enough of dogs. Cats were fine, but I hardly noticed them. Dogs, on the other hand, occupied many of my waking thoughts.
We had dogs at home — first Suza, a small mutt who may have had a bit of Whippet in her, then Laddie, a Beagle who would easily escape our fenced-in city yard and disappear for days. This distressed me to no end, especially if we got a tornado warning. I’d mourn and freak, thinking the dog would die in a tornado, but he always made it home. For some reason, my parents did not contain the dog better. I don’t know why.
In my childhood, I made a point of visiting every yard dog on the way to and from elementary school (a several-block walk). I probably amused the neighbors, who put up with my doting. I read dog books (Lassie Come Home and anything by Albert Payson Terhune). I watched Lassie Come Home on TV and cried at the movie Old Yeller. I was enamored with dogs (especially Collies, Shelties, and Samoyeds) and learned as much as I could about all the breeds.
How, then, did I come to be more of a cat person? I am not entirely sure.
The first cat who charmed me was a grey cat named Duchess. A sweet female, she showed up outside our house when I was a child. We had a huge, old-fashioned window over the laundry sink, and Duchess would sit on the wide, outer brick windowsill, peering in. My dad, who could be a bit of a drama queen (king?), was adamantly opposed to us bringing the cat in the house. I remember him slamming the window with a loud “No!” aimed at us and the cat, both. Duchess nimbly jumped off the windowsill, and she eventually did find her way into the house.
She was a sweet and tender cat, and I remember being surprised that a cat was capable of such affection. (Forgive me, I was an ignorant child!) Little did I know just how much affection a cat was capable of. This cat really took to my mother, and would faithfully stay in my mother’s home office for the entire day, keeping mom company and curling up nicely on the top of the radiator. My mother got very attached, and my mom was not known for getting emotional about anything. Perhaps this made an impression on my malleable child’s mind.
Change in life tends to trigger great transformation. As an adult, I broke up with a guy who I had thought was “the one.” After this breakup, I felt I needed to do something symbolic to signify and internalize new beginnings. I bought myself a tent for camping (I hadn’t met a guy yet who loved to camp as much as I did), and I began bonding with two cats of one of my friends.
I spent a lot of time with this friend and her cats, two male tabbies. Quincy was long haired, sweet, and placid. Jasper had short hair, and was actually even more affectionate than Quincy, even though Jasper had an occasional naughty biting streak. I spent a lot of time with these cats, and after getting over my nervousness about Jasper biting, I began to really like and appreciate them. I began to notice cats, really seeing them, really appreciating them.
Everything comes full circle. Jasper and Quincy’s mom (my friend) was with me when I picked out two cats for myself, not long after breaking up with my boyfriend. I had the good fortune to find two adult females who needed to be adopted together. Cleo, a sweet gray cat with white paws, reminded me of our cat Duchess that my mother had so bonded with. Tigger, her buddy, was a beautiful cream-colored cat with peach tones.
In a weird turn of events that left me reeling, Cleo died suddenly a few weeks later. I grieved hard, and I remember a friend telling me that perhaps the grief from leaving the boyfriend was also coming through. I’m not sure I agreed, but it didn’t really matter.
Over time, beautiful Tigger, who had been withdrawn and depressed when I adopted her (and also overshadowed with Cleo’s skillful attention-getting skills), came out of her shell. I was blessed to have this gentle cat for 10 years, and she helped teach me a lot about cats and about life. But then, they all do. Tigger was followed by many other cats, all of them unique and exceptional in their own way.
We have had dogs as well, but not as many. While I’ve loved our dogs, I have always felt I understood cats better.
Were you a dog person before you were a cat person? What happened? Are you both? Tell us your story in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.