“Playing Dress-Up” 20 x 16 mixed media on canvas
Now before you cat lovers fly off the handle, let me say that I once loved unconditionally all cats, the ugly, the scraggly, and the mistreated. I’ve never really hated cats, I just lost my affection for them for awhile in a rebound love affair with an adorable dog.
As a child, I lived in an upstairs apartment over my grandmother and grandfather’s old Victorian mansion that sat on a visible corner lot in an older part of town. Out of respect for my grandmother, I was allowed to have a bowl of gold fish, nothing more. Suffice it to say (forgive my triteness), a fish simply did’nt cut it!
Soon, I began dragging stray cats home. They were love hungry and eager to please. My mother indulged me for awhile. She provided a cat box in a recessed corner of the kitchen where an old pot-bellied stove once stood in the days when my grandpa burned coal in the furnace.
I adored dressing my cats in doll clothes and pushing them around in a doll buggy. They were patient and indulged my every whim even tolerating a doll’s bonnet with a bow tied under the chin. They had been so deprived that nothing I could do would turn them away.
I was in cat Heaven. But no sooner had I brought one cat home than it managed to vanish before another was brought into the house. My mother feigned ignorance at their disappearance. Once she did admit she had given one away. She declared it was happier “out on the farm.” I believed her.
One cat may have disappeared in a vent hole we had on the side of the two-story brick house. I never knew for sure, but my mother insisted she had seen it go inside. I never heard a distress meow and it never came when I called. I was suspect and questioned her motives.
Finally she allowed one cat to stay, at least through the winter. I slept with the cat, kissed it goodbye before I went off to school, and smothered her with affection when I returned home. Of course, my mother was left with the cat all day, and she was less than fond of it.
One day before school while eating my breakfast, I watched the cat use its box. My stomach gave a nauseous gurgle. When I turned away, I faced the gold fish bowl on top of the big buffet. The shiny spangled fish was also doing its job, trailing a string of brown excrement.
When I went off to school, my enchantment with pets had fizzled. My queasiness grew worse on the bus. To make matters worse, while munching on an after school snack, I watched the cat leave a sizable tape worm in its sandbox. I wasn’t ready for such reality. That was the last stray cat I brought home. Eventually, the cat box permanently disappeared.
I did try owning many cats after that: a kitten won by my first son, Chris, in a Cub Scout Soap Box Derby that was a part of a friend’s litter; a found kitten that must have been part of a feral cat litter, and climbed my living room drapes with claws like a tiger; and a black cat my third daughter, Paula, named “Demetrius” that marked everything in our house with his territorial markings as a warning to our dog Pooky.
Later when we had to sell our home and move into smaller quarters, Pooky was given to a friend, and Demetrius was taken to the Humane Society; not because we didn’t want to keep him, but that we learned Paula’s younger brother, Quinn, was extremely allergic to cats!
I bawled like a baby when I left Demetrius in the care of the shelter. I knew there was a chance they would put him to sleep if he wasn’t adopted. I prayed for his well-being and asked that a loving owner would love him and want him.
Demetrius was the last cat, the last pet, I ever owned. While I couldn’t break “Demi” of walking on my kitchen counters (a spritz of water in his face didn’t do the trick), and his footprints every morning on the shiny formica where I buttered our toast turned me off, I still loved his affectionate rubbing against my legs and the way he jumped into my lap and began to purr as I caressed him.
My life is pretty hectic right now, but if I ever lived alone again, I might consider the warmth and closeness that only a cat can provide.
FUNNY CAT DANCING VIDEO: