By Jim Heffernan
My wife and I have always been cat lovers. For 50+ years, we’ve always shared our house with 2 or 3 cats. We’ve always had pet doors to save ourselves the onus of cat-box duty. Now and then, we would lose one when the siren call of 27 acres of rodent habitat across the road would cause them to cross the road unwisely.
When we lost our two very special cats in the same week, we were heartbroken and swore off having cats anymore. We might have succeeded, but for a neighbor who feeds a clowder of 20 or so feral cats in his barn.
Kittens and cats would patrol our yard and we just couldn’t resist the fun of feeding them in the morning. We would put out a plate of food and sit and watch the 8 or so cats it would attract. The cats were torn, they wanted the food but they were leery of humans sitting so near. Eventually, the desire for food would overcome their fear of humans. There was a definite pecking order to which cats had seniority for the feeding bowl.
But one small tabby kitten was different. She was always first to the food, but the food seemed secondary to her. She was one of four kittens who emerged from under our shop building with the sound of feeding. When the kittens were very small, we couldn’t resist holding them. Three of them would learn to avoid us when they were quick enough, but not her. After a quick few bites at the food, she would seek us out, wanting us to pet her and massage her ears.
One night, a neighbor came over clutching her and asking, “Is this your kitten, she keeps coming in, but we’re moving and can’t keep her.” I took the kitten from her and looked at my wife. We wanted to shelter her, but were still stung from heartbreak of losing cats in the past. My grandson and his wife had recently spent a month with us with their two strictly “inside” cats and it was fine.
So she became our “inside only” pet. A lot of people don’t like cats because they are, well, bitchy. My wife decided to call her Charlotte and, of all the cats we’ve had, Charlotte is definitely the bitchiest. We say we adopted her, but really the truth is she insinuated herself into our lives.
It’s been wonderful. Between her imperious attitude and the incredible acrobatics she performs batting around her “mouse” and recapturing it as it flies off, she makes us laugh, hard, at least three times a day. Every time she does something disturbing, we look at each other and one of us will say, “But she makes us laugh, hard, everyday.”
Turns out all this laughter has been a tonic for my wife and I. We now find ourselves laughing at jokes between us that used to seem stale. She and I have found energy to do things long left undone. My desire to write has become unquenchable. I’m losing weight because I would rather write than eat late into the night. My fit bit watch records pulse rates normally associated with exercise, but the rates are actually from being excited about what I’m writing. Best of all, I think I’ve become a gentler person.
Who knew such a small tabby cat carried such big benefits. It’s not for nothing they say, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Below is a link to what the Mayo Clinic has to say about laughter. They talk about endorphins and stress response, I just know I like it.
A very fine local organization, United Paws (https://unitedpaws.org) specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating cats, feral and non-feral, with a spay/neuter program and LOTS of available adoptable kittens and cats.
If you think you need a cat or just want to donate, use the web site.