Every parent knows it’s bound to come up at some point, that inevitable, shrill cry of a child: “I want a dog!”
When my kids were younger, they were no different. But having grown up with dogs, my wife and I knew the enormous commitment and expense required in adopting a pup. We loved dogs, but felt like we had enough on our plates.
Always a shrewd article, my daughter saw her persistence and nudniking weren’t paying off. So she shifted gears. “How ‘bout a cat?” she asked with an impish grin.
My wife and I looked at each other. Neither of us ever spent much time with cats. We weren’t anti-cat. We just didn’t have much of an opinion.
My daughter went on a full-court press. “Cats are very easy to take care of,” she informed us. “They basically take care of themselves. It won’t be any work for you at all, and we’ll help out.”
Soon, we found ourselves driving over to the Baltimore Humane Society in Reisterstown. We walked around looking at all of these adorable, whiskered countenances and listening to their incessant meowing and hissing.
Never before in my life did I feel the weight of life and death resting in my hands so much. It was a bit agonizing, deciding which cat would come home with us, and everyone in my brood had a different opinion.
At one point, I noticed an off-white cat looking forlorn and pensive from behind thin metal bars, and I motioned for the BHS volunteer to take her out of the cage. I looked at the name scrawled on the cage. It read “Baby,” arguably the worst name in cat history, one that immediately made you think of Jennifer Grey in “Dirty Dancing.”
Sitting on a table in a dignified fashion, Baby stared at me with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. When I went to pet her, she twisted her neck up in a knowing, loving way to make sure my palm reached the top of her head with the greatest of ease. She had a graceful, intuitive quality, and I even thought she might be smiling as I pet her.
Baby was the one.
After bringing her home, Baby walked around our house like an inmate just sprung from the slammer. Everything was of tremendous fascination to her, and nothing was beyond her grasp. I watched her jump on tables, chairs and other surfaces, like she had iron-coiled springs in her slender legs. Who knew cats could do that? Even high shelves could be her domain, and she made it clear no rooms would be cat-proof or off-limits.
At one point, Baby slinked into our laundry room. Before I could snatch her, she made her way into the bowels of the house via a cluttered storage closet. We could only hear the echoes of her meowing while trying to lure her back. Our entreaties seemed to fall on deaf feline ears, and we fretted we’d lost our cat even before she settled in. But she eventually made her way back, and we proceeded to show her the rest of the house.
Most importantly, we showed Baby where her litter box would be stationed in the downstairs powder room. My wife and I couldn’t wrap our heads around the concept that if you merely show a cat its litter box, the critter would know where to go every time nature called. We’d read it in cat books, but didn’t quite buy it.
Baby showed us fairly quickly that the books were right on the money. We were impressed.
That evening, my wife and I were just laying our heads on our pillows when our bedroom door swung open and crashed into the wall. It seemed Baby was determined to sleep in our room rather than the cat bed set up in my daughter’s room. We looked at each other in sheer terror as Baby sat on the floor next to our bed, glaring at us with wide-eyed wonder. Then, she suddenly jumped on the bed as we struggled to stay calm and still. It was as if a wild tiger had leapt on our bed, not a curious, 10-pound cat.
Our minds raced feverishly: would the cat keep us up all night with constant whining? Would she bite our faces in the middle of the night, just for kicks? What would stop her from going to the bathroom on our blanket? Our tranquil home life was over, we figured, as our children snored away in rooms across the hallway. So much for helping out.
Since then, we’ve learned that cats are arguably the easiest pets in the world. Sickeningly so, we’ve gone from being skeptical schnooks to smitten “cat people,” with Baby becoming an integral and cherished member of our household. She’s filled our house with so much joy and love, far more than we could ever reciprocate.
Turns out that we were the ones in need of the rescuing.