I have always been a cat person. I say this as the owner of two dogs that I really love. Two dogs that I have moved across the country with more than once. Two dogs that we prioritize with every apartment rental (which isn’t easy). Two dogs that we let in our bed, on our couch and basically into every corner of our lives. But really? I’m a cat person.
I grew up with a ginger cat that I appropriately named Garfield. Garfield was the beeeest: he had this funny habit of chewing on my finger randomly and always came running if he heard that I was upset. He slept on top of my head every single night, which was basically the greatest thing that ever happened. I was devastated when one of our childhood moves confused him and he ran off when I was in high school and didn’t own another cat for the next several years.
Just when I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to add a cat back to my life, I met the guy who eventually became my husband, and who happened to have a giant allergy to cats. Despite my immediate realization that he was totallya cat person, my husband was staunch in his resistance: he had an allergy, his mom had an allergy and he had never, ever not reacted to a cat being nearby. Except for one cat.
At some point, a girlfriend of his dad’s had a Persian cat that allegedly caused zero reactions in my husband. This information was enough for me to live off of for years: I quietly assumed that one day, the appropriate cat would make him or herself known to us.
Color me extra excited when my husband called about three years ago and informed me that our local animal shelter had a Persian on its website. I told him not to mess with me—if I went to see a cat, I was bringing that cat home—and he encouraged me to go. I dropped my kid at kindergarten and drove straight to the shelter, where I met this … beast.
She was something. When she was dropped off, the shelter was told that she had been living on the street for a while, and it showed. She had about five teeth and her hair was matted beyond repair, which could have been relatively easy to contend with except that she also had a stage four heart murmur, meaning she couldn’t be sedated to have her hair cut.
When I found out it took a team of four adults to hold her down while her hair was being shaved, I knew immediately that my relationship with this cat was meant to be. Except that, as it happens, it wasn’t.
Mishka came home and immediately bonded with my husband (because of course she did). They soon struck up a familiar evening routine: he’d sit at the piano keyboard with a glass of wine and she’d hop up on the bench next to him, gazing out the window or nuzzling her head on his arm while he’d play. My son and I went out of town soon after we added Mishka to our animal brood, and my husband was the one who helped all of the animals bond. To this day, she often remains hidden all day until my husband shows up after work or school when she comes speeding out.
As the family’s cat person, I have been understandably aghast.
I’ve spent the last few years scheming ways to make the cat love me more. I bought her super fancy food, expecting her to love it. She didn’t, and when she stopped eating for two days, I then turned around and bought her super cheap food to see if she would love that. She did (and does), but her only association between food and me is that I’m the one who is supposed to feed her, or so she’d have you believe every morning at 7am when she starts yowling in my face and only stops once food hits her bowl.
I let her sleep on my head, but her often long, regularly unkempt hair means that it’s not nearly as sweet as it was when I was a kid. Plus, she gets mad whenever I move in my sleep and more than once has stalked off right over my face. I bought her a cozy bed of her own to sleep in, and she continued to prefer whatever paper bag we happen to have around at any given moment. Basically, in the years since we’ve adopted the cat, if there was something I could do to make her love me, I did it.
Which leads me to that twenty dollars.
A few weeks ago, we were driving out in the suburbs when one of us—I forget who, but would love to claim credit—spotted a goldmine: a multi-story “cat castle” (as we’ve dubbed it) outside a thrift store. I pulled a U-turn at the next available opportunity and we hustled to the store and discovered that the castle was only $20. There were no questions and no need for debate, the only concern we had was whether or not our car could hold three people and a cat castle.
I went back the next day, and my kid and I packed up the castle and hauled it home. I pulled it up our three flights of stairs and left my child in the living room with it while I went downstairs to lock up the car. When I returned, Mishka was transfixed: she immediately knew what the castle was for and how she wanted to use it.
I was thrilled. My husband wasn’t home, so there was no way she could associate the castle with him. Finally, I would be worthy of her love! Right?
Well, you’d think so. But the two minutes my child was alone with the cat and the cat castle was apparently long enough for my cat to bond herself to him for life. Mishka’s started going into his room at night at bedtime, listening to stories and patrolling the neighborhood from his windows. She sleeps on his head now and she perks up when he enters the room.
I wish I was exaggerating: this cat loves my kid in a way that she just didn’t before the castle arrived.
As for me? Don’t worry. I’m scheming a fantastic holiday present for her, and will make sure I’m the only one home when it arrives.