What a year. I started Cat Dandy in June, and in only six months of writing, interviewing, shooting photos, and extended discussions in the comments section, my mind and heart have opened in ways I could not have foreseen. I knew writing a column about cats from a male perspective would lead me to new places, but I couldn’t have known what those places were beforehand.
Since June I’ve examined the difference between a “cat guy” and just “a guy with a cat,” written an obituary for a neighborhood cat I wished I could done more to save, chronicled my first cat-sitting assignment (which became a comedy of errors), spelled out why I’m okay being an omnivore and a cat-lover at the same time, fought angry birds while not wearing any clothes, and examined the dynamics of having sex while my cat is in the room or even near me in bed.
Below, though, are the five things I consider the most significant of 2013 with regard to my life as Cat Dandy. They’re chronological because, in most cases, one thing led to another, or, one thing opened my mind and heart enough to be ready for the next.
It’ll all make sense. You’ll see.
I can’t overstate how much meeting this man affected me in terms of cats, my relationship to them, and my own approach to becoming more of who I’m supposed to be. Why? Because that’s how Jackson Galaxy thinks, and it’s clear in everything he does.
I met the host of Animal Planet’s My Cat from Hell and author of Cat Daddy in late 2012 (when I was repeatedly mistaken for him) and had an extended phone interview with him in May. It felt like reconnecting with an old friend. Galaxy is far more advanced than I am on a lot of fronts, and our conversation made it clear: He is a man who’s living the life the universe wants him to live — using everything he’s learned in life to inform what he does. He inspired me in a lot of ways and made me think more deeply about some of the things I brought up during our conversation. One of which was …
Thomas is the first cat — the first animal — who I’ve considered my friend. I used “friend” in relation to Thomas for the first time in "A Love Letter to My Cat," which I wrote in February. It’s not that I didn’t love all the other cats I’ve lived with or known. I did. It’s not that Thomas is far and away the best cat I’ve ever had. He’s a great cat, but I’ve known a lot of great cats. Yet the connection I have with him transcends all the others. Something is just, well, different. I "get" something that I didn’t before.
"Part of this is us maturing as humans," Galaxy said when we spoke. We talked about the metaphysical connections between people and animals, and also of the great mystery animals and all living things represent. "As we grow older, we meet so many animals," he said, "and we start recognizing their mystery, we recognize their secrets."
I’ve applied this to my relationship with Thomas and let it develop on these terms. The results have been remarkable. In fact, this new sense of connection led me to get metaphysical with Thomas.
A reader suggested that Thomas and I might share a psychic bond, that he might be my "animal familiar." This concept has taken many forms in spiritual practices (including Paganism and Wicca). I say that if you want to find the truth, you gotta mix it up. So I did, using Tarot cards.
I’ll admit that I approached this with equal parts humor, trepidation, and curiosity. I had no idea how it would go — serious, comical, or just nonsense. I asked him three questions: What is the nature of our relationship, what role do I play in your life, and what are your feelings on Daphne and I getting another cat? What Thomas did was uncanny, choosing cards that told me we have a loving, solid relationship, and that we have a past connection with each other. One card hinted that he recognizes I’ll live longer than he will, acknowledging the heartbreak to come. Other cards indicate he recognizes me as a stable, reliable person who gives him love. Others said he trusts Daphne and I to do what’s best for everyone in the house with regard to another cat — and also for the cats in the world who need a home.
I was flabbergasted. From that night on I’ve felt a deeper connection with him. He might not be my animal familiar, but I sense we’ve known each other before, and that he understands human-animal relations with a wisdom that transcends this life.
You might say “big deal,” but to me it was. Thomas is the first cat I’ve ever been able to confidently pick up time and again, and that makes it so powerful. I had practiced what seemed like 1,000 times on other cats I’d lived with. I had always seemed to get it right — in a math-and-engineering sort of way — but I was puzzled why neither the cats nor myself never seemed 100 percent comfortable.
It was never wrong, but not quite right either. Did Thomas and the other cats not trust me? Was I missing some intangible thing? Then one night it happened: I saw Thomas on the floor of our kitchen, and I was overcome with love. Just like that, I swooped down and put him on my shoulder. Love and confidence made the difference. Would I have had that if not for the other things on this list?
Lil Bub was the first celebrity cat I met, and I didn’t know what to expect. Part of me wondered, what kind of person flies around the country with his cat, doing book-signings and making appearances at video festivals? As it turns out, a guy just as inspirational as Jackson Galaxy, that’s who.
Mike Bridavsky calls himself Lil Bub’s “Dude.” The two of them visited Catster in September along with one of Mike’s friends. Mike was hard to read at first, but he said and did a number of things that impressed me, and he and Bub continue to give me inspiration through difficult life situations. During the visit, Lil Bub seemed right at home among strangers and a new landscape. It was also clear that Mike loves this cat. He helped her in the litter box like a cross between an experienced vet and an old friend.
In a phone interview a few weeks later, Mike told me that Lil Bub helped him navigate an incredibly hard time in his life, and all her creative projects are his way of sharing Bub’s energy with the world.
"Bub is more than just a cat," Mike said. "It’s more than a joke. It sounds cheesy, but it’s the real deal with Bub. It’s not something I came up with, not like I thought, ‘Bub can be an inspiration!’ She is an inspiration."
He takes this to heart in the way he does business. Among other things, he insists that everyone involved has to give some of the money they make to a charitable cause such as animal rescue.
Mike’s model, like that of Jackson Galaxy, is definitely one to emulate, and every day I do my best.
As I said in my first Cat Dandy column, “I believe discussion and debate in this forum — along with some good laughs — is the way to grow and learn. That’s my mission with Cat Dandy.”
That’s what we’ve done together this year. May 2014 be just as enlightening.
Cat Dandy has grown a lot in just one year. Here’s my top five again:
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About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster and Dogster.