Foreword

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Foreword

As a lifelong lover of pets and a lifelong lover of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, I was honored when they asked me to contribute the foreword to Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? The truth is that I can’t remember far enough back when either of these wasn’t a part of my life. So I started thinking about memories of all of the cats I have loved throughout my life. All rescue pets of course, which I assume most cats are. They either wandered up to their owner’s house or else they were the result of the never-ending sign: Free Kittens.

So begins my story of “The Cat Did What?” I’ve always heard “some people are dog people, some are cat people.” I guess I’m blessed to be both. When I was six years old, my family hit on some financial hard times and we ended up losing our home. My parents were devastated. By that time, a new baby brother, Luke, had joined me, two cats, Mollie and Daisy, and our dog, Cooter Brown. The entire Lambert family was homeless. After looking into shelters, considering moving in with relatives, and living in a campground, we finally lucked into moving into my uncle’s home. The only problem is that he is allergic to cats. What made a sad day even sadder was saying goodbye to Mollie and Daisy as they went to their new home.

After a year or so, we got back on our feet and moved into our own house again, which turned out to be the house I sing about in “The House That Built Me,” my biggest hit song to date. With little or no money for Christmas gifts, Mom fell prey to the sign I referred to earlier — Free Kittens. Prancer entered my life at nine years old.

In typical cat fashion, it took her weeks to get over the car ride and stop pouting. Eventually we became “friends.” Prancer wasn’t anything like Mollie or Daisy. She didn’t like to play, she didn’t like to go outside to the sandbox, she didn’t like to sleep with me. She was aloof. She found the best warm spot on the couch, constantly found ways to serve her own needs, and pampered herself in every way. But in spite of our strange relationship, we learned to tolerate, then tolerate and finally like each other. My little girl playtime turned to crushes, then school dances, and finally to proms and boyfriends. From the very first visit by a boy to my house, Prancer started to turn on the charm. She purred, she cuddled, she batted her eyelashes and swished her tail. She curled up in the lap… of my boyfriend! Every single guy that came over for the next three years would ask the same question: “What is your problem with this cat. She is adorable!” She soon garnered a new nickname in our house…. Her first name was Kitty and her last name started with a B and ended in tch! She was unstoppable with the flirting. That’s what she did.

Soon, an opportunity came for me to audition for a new TV show called Nashville Star. It was my first chance to get in front of a national audience with my music (my other lifelong passion). I auditioned and made it! My family and I were thrilled, even though it would mean a move to Nashville and would be my first time away from home. We said yes! I started packing and the contracts arrived, four thick copies in all. Mom spread them out on the bar and we started signing (what we feared might be my life away!). Dad stayed up all night reading every word and left them stacked up and ready to put into the folders for mailing. The next morning we woke up to an awful sight. Kitty B had jumped on our counter, and managed to throw up on every copy. My signatures were ruined. How do you call the producers and say what happened? It’s worse than “the dog ate it” excuse, but that’s what the cat really did.

We managed to clean them, make copies, re-sign and get them mailed. Off I went to Nashville and into the big new world. Mom took care of my cat, changed the litter and tried to keep her out of trouble. Nine long Tuesday nights passed with me making the cut week after week. Eventually I came in third on the TV show and signed a recording contract with Sony Nashville. I came back for a homecoming concert feeling ten feet tall, with a suitcase full of new clothes, a little bank account, a big record deal, a new sense of self, but it still felt good to step back into my childhood room and sleep in my own bed. Then came the big day, the parade, the concert, the fire trucks… I was to be the Grand Marshall! What to wear? I started going through the suitcase on the floor. During the night KB had jumped into my suitcase and peed on ALL of my new clothes. Not one item was spared! She had been litter trained her entire life. We couldn’t believe it, but that’s what the cat did.

Adding insult to injury, Mom said, “Before you leave for the parade, you need to change your cat litter.” Was anyone in my house aware that I came home feeling like a rock star? Off to the pantry I went to do the deed. Kitty B followed along (though she now had no need for the box). I decided then and there it was time for a face-to-face talk with her. I sat down in the pantry and let her have it. I told her about all the times I had fed her and changed her litter and stood by while she flirted with my boyfriends. I told her that I had loved her all her life and it was time she loved me back. Right then and there, on the pantry floor, she curled up in my lap, purred, batted her eyelashes and swished her tail. She told me in the only way that she could that she loved me, that she had missed me and that she was sad that I was going away. I couldn’t believe that she was actually trying to connect with me, but that’s what the cat did.

I hope reading the pages to follow in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? finds you laughing and crying. I hope that you learn a little about love and the strange ways that animals (and humans) show it. Mostly I hope that you remember the place in your life where you found patience and understanding in spite of getting so mad you could scream. I hope someday when you are faced with a situation that calls for a long needed talk, you are able to sit down and finally see the situation thorough someone else’s eyes. Ten years after first meeting Prancer on Christmas morning, I came to realize that animals teach you things about patience and responsibility as well as lessons about life and affection shown in their own unique ways. I learned that they, like humans, have their own methods of communicating love, loneliness, frustration and independence, because that’s what the cat did.

Don’t forget… love a shelter pet.

~Miranda Lambert

May 15, 2014

More stories from our partners