Where I come from, when you first meet someone, the questions go from, “Where do you live?” to “Oh! you must know so and so.” Puerto Rico is an island that has a six degrees of separation quality to it, but it feels like two. No matter who you meet, they know someone you know.
In California things are a bit different. The big distances and multicultural diversity makes it difficult to have common acquaintances. The conversation starters are different as well. Instead of, “Where do you live?” it’s, “So, what is it that you do?” My answer is always received with a look of utter confusion, blank stares and uncomfortable smiles. “I write about cats.” But as soon as the shock dissolves, the stories begin.
Because nothing opens the door like talking about your pets. You can have 10 kids, two big mansions, the newest tech gadget on the planet, but none of that matters when pets are thrown into the conversation. People immediately reach out their phones to bring up pictures. Their faces light up. Show-and-tell session is on.
I have heard stories on the bus, the supermarket, the airport, standing in line at a fast food place, at concerts and the local pub. Men and women alike melt like nacho cheese while reliving their cat tales. Here are some examples:
Story told in a shuttle bus en route to the airport.
The story started in Arkansas where Margaret lives. The area is very rural with lots of wildlife. This feral cat started hanging around her house, even sleeping in her balcony at night. Margaret named her Sally.
For years she tried without any luck to bring the cat inside the house. Until one very cold winter. Snow was falling, wind blowing hard. No sign of Sally anywhere. After the storm passed, Margaret found her nearby, hurt, cold and hungry. Feral taken to vet. Feral spent days at home while recuperating. Healthy feral realized inside was nice and warm. Now she takes walks to the garden, but always comes back to the house.
Story told at a pub during a Lakers game.
That’s the name of the cat colony that Rick and his family take care of. Started with just one, an orange kitty hanging by the trash cans. Family feels bad, so they give him food. One thing leads to another … two months go by and five cats are living around the trash cans. Major decisions were made. Cats were spayed and neutered. Names were given to all. Rick’s family grew by five in less than a year. The smile on his face tells me it is a good thing!
Story told waiting at the gate for my flight home.
Matt is a very busy pilot. Pets were not part of his vocabulary. But the neighbor’s cat had given birth and there was this kitten left to adopt. Matt could hear his “meows” through the condo walls. His heart was torn. He travels a lot. “How would I take care of a cat?” he asked himself. But time was ticking and kitty was going to be sent to the shelter.
Suddenly his flight schedule changed, giving him more days at home. Matt saw it as a sign. He struck a deal with the neighbors. Kitten will be his, but can you look after him while I am gone? The neighbors were happy cat people. “Of course!” they said. Joey the cat sleeps happily on his couch.
Story told while waiting for my burrito.
Laurel had to say good-bye to her very sick 19-year-old cat. After a few months of mourning, she decided it was time to bring some joy back home. To the shelter she went and came back with two beautiful kittens. Dealing with young cats after so long was not easy, but she enjoyed every minute of it.
One foggy fall morning as she was sleepily walking to her car, she noticed something on the tire. A closer look showed it was a black kitten, barely two months old. It took her exactly five minutes to decide that two cats is fun, but three is waaaaay better!
You see, what I do for a living has given me new friends. Plus it gives me another opportunity to talk about my cat!
What about you? Do you start conversations by talking about your cat? Let us know in the comments!
About Glorimar Anibarro: A proud Puerto Rican now living in Southern California who traded a career in advertising for a new adventure as bilingual cat writer, sharing her knowledge of kitties in Spanish as the Gato Expert for About.com en Espa├▒ol and in English for Catster, among others. She has also mixed her love of paper dolls and graphic design to write, design, and illustrate the adventures of Gato Avocado, the two-dimensional cat living in a three-dimensional world.