39: Adopted

39: Adopted

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!


The husband who doesn’t tell his wife everything probably reasons that what she doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

~Leo J. Burke

I stormed out of the house waving my arms and screaming, “Get out of my birdbath, you stupid cat!” The black-and-white feline, hair bristling, arched his back and glared at me. “Didn’t you hear me? I said scat, you dumb animal.” I stooped to pick up a rock.

The cat had nothing to worry about; there was a reason I didn’t make my elementary school’s baseball team. I stomped towards the birdbath never considering what I would do if the cat didn’t scat. It did — across the yard, through the flowerbed, and up onto the fence. He glowered at me, daring me to take further action, but my hands were empty and I was tired of chasing the animal.

For weeks, the creature had been skulking around our yard, stealing dog food from the bowl on the deck and sneaking onto the birdbath to wash it down. I knew it belonged to the tenant living in the basement of my neighbor’s house, but I had not seen her for a while and wondered if she had moved on. I decided to call Rita.

“Rita, your tenant’s cat is terrorizing the birds around here. What’s up?”

“Oh, the poor dear isn’t well at all. I think she and her little girl are moving back to Alberta. She doesn’t seem to want the cat and it doesn’t get along with my cats.”

“Well, I’m tired of it doing its business in my yard. I’m a dog person. I don’t like cats.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Rita promised.

I guess she couldn’t do anything because when my husband and I turned into the driveway late the next night, two glowing green eyes stared out at us. The cat scurried out of the way of the car and jumped onto the lowest branch of our mountain ash. I grabbed a stick and started poking at it, hoping it would get the message. Instead, it hissed at me and batted the stick away.

“Brazen, nocturnal animal,” I said turning to Don. He laughed. He always laughs at me when I am frustrated. I put the stick down, sighed, and turned to go inside.

“You know, maybe that cat needs a home,” Don said. “Perhaps we could adopt it. When we got married you said you were open to getting another pet.”

I stared at him. “Are you nuts? I’m a dog person. I don’t like cats, and I don’t like cat people.”

I was beginning to think I had won the war. My birdbath and flower gardens had remained untouched, and I hadn’t caught even a glimpse of the cat’s shadow since the stick incident three days earlier. Coming to a halt at the end of my driveway, I set the park brake and popped the trunk. Reaching in, I loaded up my arms with groceries to begin the ascent up the stairs to the living level of our home. My arthritic knees didn’t like stairs, and by the time I got to the top, my face was scrunched up in pain.

Just as I set one armload of bags down, a black-and-white streak flew past me, across the kitchen floor, and out the gap in the patio door that I had left open. In shock, I dropped the rest of my groceries and ran to look out the kitchen window. There was the cat, nonchalantly lapping water from the birdbath. As if he could sense my glare, he lifted his head and stared straight at me. If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn that there was a smirk on his face. With a swish of his tail, he leaped onto the fence and cat-walked away into the shadows.

I turned back to the mess of bags and the task of putting the groceries away. Rearranging boxes and cans in the cupboard to make room for my purchases, I came across an unfamiliar bag tucked behind my flour. Pulling it out, I stared in disbelief. A bag of cat food. A bag of high-grade, expensive cat food! Stunned, I robotically put the rest of the groceries away, and then plopped down in the living room to wait for my husband to come home.

I heard his car pull up. The front door creaked open. “Honey, I’m home,” he called. Silence. I heard his footsteps on the stairs. “Honey, where are you? I’m home.” Silence. He was used to me running to greet him. He gave a bit of a start when he saw me in the chair. Then he looked down at the bag sitting at my feet, and a sheepish grin spread across his face. “Oh, you found it.”

My mouth dropped open. “How long did you think you could hide it? By the way, when I got home that cat had made itself comfortable inside our house!”

He started to respond, but I cut him off. “You know I don’t like cats. And I don’t like cat people.”

“But, the poor guy was hungry, and he was covered with fleas.”

“Oh, great! Now I suppose we have fleas in our house.” I shook my head, at a loss for words.

“Don’t worry, I bought him a flea collar the other day. Rita was able to catch him and put it on for me.”

The atmosphere at 1375 Kerfoot Road was strained that evening. There was a part of me furious that Don had befriended this nuisance, yet something inside me ached for this flea-bitten feline. On one hand, I saw my husband as having no regard for my feelings, but on the other hand I saw a man who had a heart of compassion for the lonely and neglected — it’s just that this particular lonely and neglected creature was a cat. I simply didn’t know how to feel about this or how to deal with my raw emotions.

Finally, I put my arms around Don’s waist and looked up into his face. “Were you serious when you said we should adopt this cat?”

He took a deep breath as if not sure what to say, “I think it’s too late. It looks like he’s already adopted us.”

Curio — we discovered his name from Rita — was skittery and wouldn’t come near. Perhaps he remembered the stick. He would scat whenever I approached him, but I always remembered to leave the patio door open a few inches, and whenever I’d come home, there would be a flash of black and white from the living room, through the kitchen and out the patio door. Don filled the food dish outside every night, and in the morning, the bowl would be empty.

A week later, Don’s brother and his family arrived for a visit. On the second day of their visit, six-year-old Becky came inside, Curio dangling like a limp rag doll from her arms. “Look what I found,” she said. That’s all it took; the cat knew this was his home now. We figure Curio took to Becky because she reminded him of the little girl who had named him and loved him as a kitten.

“May I hold him?” I asked hesitantly. Becky held him out to me, and as I cradled him in my arms and listened to him purr, I wondered what it was about cats and cat people that I didn’t like.

That was thirteen years ago. These days, he curls up beside me at night, and like a lullaby, his purring sends me off to dreamland. As I’m typing this, he is lying in front of me, stretched out between the monitor and my keyboard. His shoulder blades stick out and there isn’t an ounce of fat on him. He gets a tuna-flavoured pill every morning, but his hyperthyroid condition is taking its toll. He’s a senior now, and a lump rises in my throat as I realize it likely won’t be long before his purring ceases to soothe me as I type. I smile as I recall just how this old guy adopted us and found a spot in the heart of someone who once didn’t like cats — or cat people.

~Linda Mehus-Barber

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