The last thing I want to do when I wake up — or get home from work, or do housework, or come in from outside — is find a tiny present from my cat on the floor/bed/kitchen chair. Realizing the hazards that go along with pet ownership, those ugly little gifts never cease to surprise me. Especially when I have yet to put in my contact lenses and don’t think before I reach down to pick them up off the carpet. Those slimy hairballs still shock me.
My cats are getting old, and I regularly take them to the vet. They’re generally in good health. Some feline ailments are common with age, though, just like with people. So I’m conscious of their behavior, eating habits, and fluid intake and output. I am aware of changes in their litter box, as gross as that may seem to non-cat-owners and haters.
They’re my responsibility, after all. I took on their care when “rescuing” them and accepted the inevitability of hairy furniture and clothing. With time, I even got used to waking up with whiskers brushing my face and beady eyes staring into my soul as a hungry alarm clock. Their purr’s cadence on my chest became a comfort, and they give me so much more than I give them.
I have to remember how much I love them when it’s time to “shave the couch” if I’m hosting book club. When I find the potato chip bag ripped open on the kitchen floor, I tell myself to just clean it up. The same goes for coming home to the trash knocked over and coffee grounds spread across the linoleum. My little girl cat must think she still lives on the streets and must scrounge for her supper.
They didn’t ask to come live with me. I brought outside cats inside my home. So when the boy cat bumps his head against my arm, cries for more to eat, and then yawns his bad breath on me, I remind myself I asked for it. I’ve been an animal lover all my life.
My parents were animal people. Mom let us have cats in the house and taught us to care for them. My dad raised dogs, cats, horses, chickens, goats, and pigs on the farm. My parents brought us up to love animals, and I hope I’m doing the same for my son.
He adores our cats, although he’s still a bit intimated by the dog. As his responsibility for their care increases, so does his general compassion. I hope that capacity extends to people, which our world so desperately needs from children.
Maybe he’ll even help clean up the hairballs one day.