As I enter into my sixth year of blogging about pets, I thought it appropriate to rerun some of my articles about past pets. Throughout the rest of February, I’ll introduce you to my first cat, along with some of the dogs and guinea pigs that I’ve owned. In doing so, I’ll also tell you how each has changed my life.
Having grown up with dogs, I know that canine friends love walks, kisses, treats, and attention. When I got up in the morning, came home in the evening, or whatever time it was, dogs were always there. If I laughed they jumped on me to share in my excitement, and if I cried they rested their paws against me to share in my grief. More than one of our family dogs took on the role of best friend. I could also teach them manners and tricks. What a wonderful life dogs gave me!
In contrast, feline critters love to sleep, hide, meow, snub, and even scratch or bite. At least that’s what those whom I knew best told me about cats. And you know what? When I visited homes with cats, those negative impressions were reinforced. Oh, sure, cats could be fluffy and fun to pet. They even made a nice purring sound—right before they arched their backs and maybe raked their claws on my skin.
I call Lucy my angel cat. You see, the year Lucy came into my life I got assigned to work with detention students. This led to my coming home many days after work in tears. I’d pick up Lucy, bury my face into her neck, and feel comforted. I also remember there being a lot of thunder storms, of which I’m not a fan. They led to Lucy and I often huddling in bed, a hallway, or in front of the television. My husband and I were not yet married, and he lived 45 minutes away. Although he visited every weekend, I was still left me with a lot of alone time. Lucy hung around me at all hours, took interest in everything I did, and put up with all my moods. Unfortunately, I had to assume that she would only be with me temporarily, as Andy had bad cat allergies. Miraculously, as the weeks went by, Andy’s allergies miraculously never kicked in. Eventually, we decided that Lucy was mine to keep. My heaven-sent cat came when I most needed a friend and forever changed how I viewed cats.
Whenever I think of Lucy, I remember most how she snuggled into me everywhere and anywhere. If Andy and I watched television, Lucy was in my lap. If I stretched out to read a book, Lucy made a bed of my back. Lucy also laid at my feet and curled up by my knees. I was allowed to pull her against my chest and lean my head into her while she purred. If I worked at the computer too long, Lucy made sure to sit on my hands. More often than not, I had a cat at my feet whenever I roamed about the house. I always had her company at night. One time when I got upset, she meowed in panic. And so, although Lucy had her independent moments, she totally obliterated any notion that cats aren’t affectionate.
There are other ways I remember Lucy. For example, there’s playtime. I’d put up my hand, she’d put up her paw, I’d bat her, she’d bat me. We kept going “boxing” until one of us tired out. She also liked to run about the house. Sometimes Lucy would stop to meow at the walls. Imaginary spiders? Other times she’d find new places to explore. One day she jumped to the top of our cabinets. That meant jumping higher than my height. Maybe that was her limitation, because she never did it again.
Or there’s outdoor time. Her having been a stray, I didn’t want to deprive her of the feel of grass on her feet and air against her face. Andy and I would take our pets into the back yard at noon for lunch. If Lucy spied a bird or squirrel, she’d crouch and start to slink. She always darted too late, but that didn’t keep her from twice catching a baby bunny (which we rescued) or eating a dead bird.
Then there’s training time. Lucy had pretty decent manners. She never begged for food. Although clearly excited for meals, Lucy also waited patiently in the kitchen for me to serve her. I decided she might be a good candidate for obedience. Day after day, we practiced SIT, STAY, DOWN, and COME. I often got the feeling that Lucy would have preferred just to be lazy, but most of the time she humored me. She never learned DOWN. Also, I always had to seek her out when she decided the basement was more exciting than responding to my call. Yet Lucy did learn to SIT, STAY, and TWIRL. We even tried to do agility. Jumping over chairs and through a hoop were her best feats.
Once upon a time, I used to be solely a dog person. In my eight years with Lucy, she wasn’t unlike a cat. She did show a strong desire to sleep, would often hide and snub, and in certain moods she might meow and even scratch. In certain ways then, Lucy fit my stereotypes of cats. Yet she also doted on me, loved to snuggle, and could do tricks. In doing so, she also blew away my misconceptions of cats.
Lucy was one amazingly tolerant cat. If I threw my hat on her, she just shook her head until the hat fell off. If I wrapped toys or clothes around her, she just wriggled loose. When I put my guinea pigs next to her (all expert advice to the contrary) Lucy just sniffed them and let them be. If on my sick days I grumped at her, Lucy would leave for a time but would also always return. When she came back, she’d sniff me or lick me or otherwise show me that she cared. This isn’t to say Lucy didn’t have her moments. My hands held a few scratches. She clearly didn’t like dogs other than Barnaby. Cats in the yard made her snarl. But, I remain impressed with how much Lucy put up with.
I still love dogs. There will probably always be a dog in our home. However, thanks to Lucy, there will always be cats too. I can ignore them and love them all in one day. I can play and snuggle with them all in one day. I can get to know them and yet be mystified by them all in one day. Their purrs relax me, while their moods keep me alert. When I can find them, they’ll listen to me and keep me company. I can also teach them manners and tricks, despite beliefs to the contrary. And their hugs are simply the best. What a wonderful life cats give me!
All these things and so much more are what Lucy taught me. I lost her December 22, 2013, from chronic kidney failure. But thanks to her, my world is so much enriched.
If you wish to read even more about Lucy, check out:
I originally wrote this article in 2015. At that time, our family just had one cat and I had just begun to volunteer to work with cats. Now our family has three cats and we regularly foster kittens. I also run my own cat behavior consulting and training business, more of which you can find out about at Allison Helps Cats. You can also find Allison Helps Cats on most major social media platforms.