I am often asked if I have kids, to which I always reply, “No, I have cats.”
Jack and Xanadu, my two black cats, are the proud owners of a 34-year-old woman—me. Being owned by cats isn’t too bad. They do keep me on a short leash, but the perks are great. I never have to worry about an alarm clock because, as they say, a hungry cat has no snooze button. I know where I will be every evening about 7 p.m.—in the kitchen for dinner preparation.
My cats are a constant source of stability. I know when they hear me pull in the driveway, they will go to the window and watch as I come to the door. Once I’m inside the songs of meows begin as if they are telling me about their adventures since they last saw me. I know this sounds crazy but it is as if they pause, cock their heads to the side, almost in unison, as if to say, “Well, how was your day?” They are loyal to a fault and never discriminate. They possess a kindness that does not waver and a love seemingly unconditional. Though I provide them with the most basic of provisions, I am asked no questions, given complete trust and treated with the greatest respect. My past transgressions or achievements are not considered. And in the true spirit of a cat or a child, if they are told “NO,” pouting occurs and grudges are held, and that’s just part of it.
Somehow animals have a way of understanding human emotion. I can count on Xanadu to lend a friendly paw when I am down or Jack to run and slide through the hall to make me laugh. When I am feeling lonely or sleepy (I think they get these confused), I will always have a furry friend to keep me company. A wet nose against my hand, a purring rub against my leg, or a snoozing kitty in my lap: cats effectively communicate what is important without verbal language.
I sometimes wonder which would be easier: cats or kids. Most mornings, after giving insulin shots and cleaning litter boxes, I am not sure. My kids are getting old and my heart breaks daily as I watch them: once agile, graceful creatures now, clumsy, awkward and tired. Jack is my oldest, plagued by arthritis and gum disease; he reminds me of a grumpy old man. He is 18 years old, 17 of those years he has spent with me. Xanadu, named after an Olivia Newton John song and who also answers to “Sissy,” is 14. I have had the privilege of caring for her since she was about four weeks old. She is now an arthritic diabetic who still has the sweetest brown eyes on the planet. Both were rescue cats, and I thank them daily for allowing me to be their loyal servant. I believe, as the saying goes, my cats are not spoiled; I am well trained.