It Ain’t Crazy Being a Cat Lady
“Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend has never been owned by a cat.”
One of my earliest memories is of our dog Smokie. She was a present from my godfather. He raised hunting dogs but said that her nature was too gentle, and he was afraid forcing her to hunt would turn her crazy.
I remember her being gentle. I can’t recall the breed, but she was huge and upon first glance, she’d make you think twice about approaching our yard. All the neighborhood kids love her. She’d allow us to ride and climb and snuggle her with no complaint. The only time I ever remember her showing any hint of aggression was one time towards Mother. She’d jerked me by the arm, off the picnic table, and Smokie growled at her. It wasn’t long after that our dog mysteriously came up missing from our fenced and locked back yard. I wouldn’t have another pet until I was 14.
The first career day I recall in elementary school, I went dressed as a veterinarian. I fancied myself Dr. Monroe, DVM, until I realized how much math and science were involved. That killed any further idea of that dream.
Despite my love for animals, I didn’t have another pet of my own until my teenage years. It wasn’t from lack of want but more that my childhood, after my parent’s divorce, wasn’t stable enough to have one. I tried to talk Mother into an animal I could keep in a cage. She refused. As an adult, I can understand why she denied me, but as a young girl, it devastated me. So I made friends with all the strays in whatever neighborhood we lived in. I’d leave water out for them and sneak them bits of food. The only animal I didn’t much care for was those with feathers. After being scared senseless by a late-night showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, I steered clear of them.
During my freshman year of high school, Mother and I finally lived in our own apartment. We weren’t living out of a car or bumming somebody’s spare room or couch or staying with family so she relented and let me get a cat. By this time, I’d become partial to cats. Maybe it was because there were more stray cats than dogs I cared for during my more nomadic years. This was back in the day before the Internet so I snagged a Sunday paper one morning and searched the “For Sale” section for the perfect feline.
She was the runt of the litter and ugly as sin, but I had to have her. She almost got tossed from the car when she pooped in the back seat of Mother’s Mercedes. It wouldn’t be the last time I stood up to mother for my sweet girl. I dubbed her Kahlua. A naming trend that continues to this day. Kahlua was a source of joy for me. I thought her quirky yet I learned that each cat has its own personality. She loved ice cubes in her water, salmon flavored wet food the best, would curl up in the spot between my neck and my chest when we went to bed, and then sit on my face if I dared sleep too late instead of getting up to feed her. It’s my belief I lost her the same way I lost Smokie when she tried to attack mother to protect me from a vicious beating. I woke up the next morning to find Kahlua gone. “She must have gotten outside by accident,” I was told. I may have lost my sweet girl that night, but I also never allowed Mother to lay her hands on me again. I was 17.
After losing Kahlua, cats stayed as strays I took care of or the beneficiary of monetary donations to various animal charities until I was 23. My biological clock started ticking like mad and I knew I had no business having any more children. My son was more than enough. So Brandi and Whiskey came into our lives. They taught me the importance of getting your animals neutered and spayed as Brandi gave birth to a litter of six. Renamed Mamma and Pappa cat, Morgan, Mouse, Chameleon, Grace, Apollo, and Squeakers joined them. By the time I loaded my car and moved from Las Vegas to Millington at 28, I only had to worry about bringing Brandi and Morgan with me.
When my sweet Morgan died a few years later, I felt I was done with cats. Losing them was too hard, but then one cold night in December my dad was working security. He stopped to get out of his truck to throw away some garbage only to find a small, gray fluff ball curled up in his jacket when he got back in. 10 years later, Goose is my sweet boy who loves green olives, curling up against my neck on the back of the couch, and greeting me at the door when I come home. He shares me with Appletini, Tulla, and Misfit.
I embrace when people call me a “cat lady.” I’m proud that my son, now 21, is a cat dad. My love for the feline is inked on my skin with three of my nine tattoos having a cat theme. No matter the hurt when I lose one or how much they frustrate me sometimes, I can’t imagine my life without them. My furry babies. My fuzzy companions. There’s nothing crazy about that.