Cats are no longer the domain of single women, more single men than ever are finding the joys of having a feline friend as a companion.
Why would a single guy want a cat? Here is my story.
A while ago, when I was going through a rather dark period, I went to see a wonderful shrink. While having a session at her home, her dog came up and started to lick my hand. “She likes you,” the shrink said and when I noticed, I pulled my hand away. This gave way to a dialog on giving and receiving affection, which, as a single male, is often much harder to find than sex.
My shrink suggested I get a dog.
The biggest commitment I’d allowed myself was to buy a car. I did quite well with inanimate objects and had mastered several remote controls. I write computer books so I understand how these things work. Living things, not so much. The prospect of taking a dog on a walk twice a day, pooper scooping and having a dog barking in my quiet apartment wasn’t appealing. So my shrink suggested a cat.
My first thought? A cat? Men have dogs, women have cats. Sure, I’d had some experience with cats; I once housesat for a friend with three cats and mastered their feeding and their litter box. Several women I’d dated had cats. But a cat of my own?
We discussed the matter in subsequent sessions and I raised my objections — what if I wanted to travel? (I hadn’t done anything in two years.) What if the cat went berserk, or wasn’t affectionate? The bottom line was that it was a massive unknown which I had avoided assiduously — I wanted control.
Still, I went around to shelters to look at dogs (I even test rode one around the block and almost took him home “on spec”) but managed to find a great excuse every time an adoption seemed close. Then one afternoon, I went to West Los Angeles animal shelter to see a dog I’d seen online. It was depressing, as usual, with the animals barking desperately for attention. The dog I’d come to see wasn’t the right one for me.
On a whim I decided to look at the cats. A volunteer greeted me and asked what I was looking for. I replied a Maine Coon because I’d heard they were affectionate. She said they didn’t have any of those, but before I could escape, opened a cage and put a cat that would be called “Eva” (after my mom) into my arms. The cat stuck its nose into my armpit and butted my chest with its head.
“She likes you,” the volunteer said.
“That’s all I need,” I thought to myself, starting to worry about the commitment I would be taking on. But then the thought came: “If you’re ever going to do this, and not just fantasize, this would be the time.”
We took the cat to the “get acquainted” room. She rushed around and finally jumped in my lap. (This, by the way, is the only time she ever did this — nowadays, she won’t stay on my lap for more than 30 seconds.)
“OK,” I told the volunteer, “Let’s do it.”
I went to handle the paperwork and she packed-up the cat for transport. But before the deal was signed, I learned the cat would need to go to the vet for shots and that she had a slight infection from her recent spaying.
This wasn’t part of the deal I thought. What a perfect excuse to bail out. I could go home and my life would not be forever changed.
But then a deeper voice, perhaps not even in my head, but in my chest or gut, said, “Do it.” The voice had authority – it wasn’t the normal “me” but rather a voice that shouldn’t be trifled with. So I headed for home with the cat in a cardboard box. I tried to console her but she was frantic. Uh oh…
The vet visit was relatively easy and I was given antibiotic drops. Trying to put the drops into her mouth was an adventure — 90 percent of the medicine went all over me. I realized this beast was impossible to control; she had a mind of her own. She also wore a cone collar that kept her from scratching her infected wound — she hated it. Within a day I took it off. Empathy had emerged.
After we got home, I fed her and gave her water. During my nap, she came and sat next to me, put her nose back in my armpit and let me stroke her soft fur. Surprised, I began to weep. I called my friend Debra. “You won’t ‘effen believe this,” I said, “I have a cat sitting here with me.”
The first few days and weeks were a challenge. Eva would hop on my chest early in the morning and disrupt “my routine.” When I complained about it on Facebook, other cat owners laughed and told me to get used to it.
Then there were the other surprises. I would go into the bathroom; half dazed, and reach for the toilet paper only to find that it had been shredded. Everything was a toy, including me. My sofa took a beating and I found that Eva didn’t understand or care about my objections. But gradually, not knowing what she might do next became humorous and interesting. Now, even when she coughs up a hairball, it puts a smile on my face.
What helped is that she listened patiently to all of my complaints and rants about her behavior and accepted them graciously. It almost seemed that she knew I was joking. And just one look from her big eyes and I melted.
I would be lying on the couch and suddenly a tail would glide by, erect. She would visit me on my ottoman for no reason, spend the night at my feet, or curled next to my chest. I would get licks or kisses on my forehead or hand. Even if she woke me at 3 a.m., I smiled.
Everything I do sparks her interest; in contrast, I don’t really give a crap about anything, except her. For her, I’m the most interesting man in the world because, after all, I am the only man in her world.
I catch her watching me at odd moments, and marvel at her antics with a UPS box while an expensive toy or scratcher is ignored. I love how she dupes me into giving her an extra dose of treats or shows me subtly that her water bowl is low.
We bonded even more when my apartment had a patio below it jackhammered and repaved. The noise was deafening. As I prepared to make my escape for the day I thought of her. I arranged with the manager to take her, along with her litter box and toys, to a vacant apartment. She didn’t understand at first, but she began to trust me.
Now she is my organic entertainment center. I’m greeted when I come home with her rolling on the rug, asking for a scratch or maybe she’ll run away from my touch, seemingly laughing at me. Whatever the case, there is a loving, vibrant energy in my apartment now that wasn’t there before. Call it love.
Copyright © Tom Bunzel/2015 Singular Communications, LLC.