40: Family Counselor

40: Family Counselor

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

Family Counselor

Mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it.

~Henry Ward Beecher

The stress of working and raising our hyper four-year-old son, Trig, had put a strain on our marriage like nothing else could. Life had become a day in and day out feat until one day Trig came running into the house carrying a dose of sanity. “I caught a cat! I caught a cat!” Folded over Trig’s palm like a rag doll was a tiny black, caramel, and white calico kitten all ruffled up. It had come from the field beside our house. My first thought was: Oh great, it’s sickly. What has he gotten us into this time?

But, because Trig seemed so happy, Steve and I let him enjoy his discovery for a while before insisting he put the poor little thing down. But Trig would not have it! He carried that poor cat all evening with the lower part of her body swinging gently left and right. Unbelievably, the cat seemed to enjoy it.

We explained to him in no uncertain terms that when we got ready for bed, the cat would go outside. Tomorrow, he could keep her on two conditions: she would need a clean bill of health from the vet and she would be an outdoor pet. It was enough that we already had two dogs that demanded a lot of attention. We didn’t need any more stress in our house.

So, when it got dark, Trig finally followed orders and went to the back yard to put the kitten down. But she refused to be left and followed him all around the house. He danced around her and she tried to trip him with every step. They had bonded. Trig said her name was Sammy and she was determined to stay inside.

Steve smiled for the first time in what felt like months and put his arm around me too. “Looks like we have ourselves a pet cat!”

A pet cat? How could that be? I had never had a cat. My parents didn’t like cats. The only place I had ever even seen kitty litter or a litter box was on television commercials. So, prior to going to bed that night, some friends gave me a crash course on cat food, catnip, the kind of toys kittens like to play with, litter and litter boxes and how to house-train a kitten. We were embarking on a new, amazing adventure. I was reluctant until I realized what was happening. In an instant, Sammy had brought happiness back into our home.

I thought back to a time when a marriage counselor told Steve and me that in order for a couple to survive raising small children, they had to learn to laugh together. Sammy is the answer. She keeps us laughing constantly. We get more than enough entertainment just out of the various awkward places she decides to nap: in a cardboard box, inside the cupboard, inside the dryer, in the dish towel drawer, or on top of the new package of paper plates. My personal favorite was the day I found her sleeping face-first on an oven mitt.

This may sound crazy, but even the dogs seem happier. They wait patiently, letting her eat before they do and allowing her to walk in front of them when I let them out.

They adore Sammy and she, in turn, loves teasing them. They play with her roughly but carefully. If Sammy ventures outdoors, the dogs round her up by gently pushing her back towards me or towards the back door, similar to the way certain dog breeds herd cattle. They do not take their eyes off her for a second, as if to communicate that they do not want to go back to life without her.

Sammy has taught me to live in the moment. Computer time has become mom and cat quality time, and is no longer about efficiently writing a bestselling novel. Also, exercising is not something I rush through like I did before. Because if I’m not enjoying my workout session, Sammy immediately interrupts it by refusing to give me enough space on my mat — and laughter quickly ensues. These days it is more important to me to be around my family and Sammy’s soothing purrs than it is to accomplish everything on my to-do list.

Steve is smitten too! Nothing makes him happier than to discover that Sammy has killed yet another pesky mouse. She becomes a tiny hero to my big, strong husband. Even though this is what cats do, Steve makes a big deal about it for days.

Adopting Sammy has done wonders for our family. Steve is always laughing and smiling. Trig is less hyper. My nineteen-year-old son, A.J., feels comforted by Sammy at night while the rest of the world is sleeping and he’s juggling college and working the night shift.

I used to believe cats were dirty and useless. They couldn’t fetch or swim in the lake. They weren’t smart and they couldn’t bond with their owners. Of course, my problem was I had never owned a cat!

Some would say a lonesome kitten roaming around a huge field discovered by a four-year-old little boy was just a coincidence. I choose to believe that God knew we needed a cat and knew Sammy was the one for us!

Up till now not a single one of us has ever seen another cat in that field. Why Sammy was there that particular day is a mystery. And every time she brings a smile to my face, I think about how lucky we are that an ordinary cat brought happiness back into our home.

~Melisa Kraft

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