69: When You’re Not the Favorite…

69: When You’re Not the Favorite…

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

When You’re Not the Favorite…

For a man to truly understand rejection, he must first be ignored by a cat.

~Author Unknown

My husband Gabe, our daughter Melissa, and I are all sitting around watching TV when Princess, our seven-year-old gray tabby cat, marches into the room. Princess immediately makes a beeline over to my husband and jumps onto the couch. Then she proceeds to march onto his stomach and lie across his chest. My husband, the “chosen one,” talks to Princess as he scratches behind her ears.

“Did-oo scratch-oo head?” he coos.

I’m okay with it. I mean, Gabe has always been Princess’s favorite. Not me. I can deal with it. Really.

Then Coco-Puff, our five-year-old tortoiseshell, wanders into the room. I quickly pull the thick quilt around me in case Coco-Puff jumps up, so her claws won’t dig into my bare legs.

“Coco-Puff! Coco-Puff!” I say, patting the quilt invitingly.

Coco-Puff ignores me. Instead, she looks at my daughter Melissa and meows.

I know what that meow means. It means Coco-Puff is announcing her intention to jump into my daughter’s lap.

“Oh no!” Melissa groans. “Coco-Puff wants to sit with me again, and I’m trying to play my DS and it’s so annoying!”

“Yeah,” I say, trying to sympathize.

Then Coco-Puff jumps into Melissa’s lap and proceeds to knead and nuzzle. She even pretends to drink milk out of my daughter’s arm, like a kitten.

I observe their bonding, convincing myself I’m not jealous. After all, being jealous is petty and I’m a mom. Moms aren’t allowed to be petty.

I calmly listen to the sounds of super loud purring and silly cat talk going on. Suddenly, I feel so… catless. I also feel sort of silly, sitting here with this big quilt over me, expecting a cat that never came.

It wasn’t always this way. We used to have a cat named Cherry. I was Cherry’s favorite. And when I say favorite, I mean that cat was crazy about me! We had such a bond, that cat and I.

We would have long conversations (okay, so I did most of the talking) and gaze soulfully into each other’s eyes. Whenever our family walked through the door and I was last in line, Cherry would always look for me with a worried expression (my husband reported). Then, once she saw me, her eyes would light up and she would be happy again.

It’s not that Princess and Coco-Puff don’t like me. Of course they do. After all, I’m the one who feeds them, refills their water bowl, and rubs catnip into toys for them during the day when no one else is around. I talk “cat talk” to them, pet them, and turn on the bathroom sink for them.

Plus, I clean out the litter boxes. I don’t know if they appreciate that, but they should.

So yes, they like me well enough. Coco-Puff, in particular, will jump on my lap and cuddle and nuzzle and purr… when my daughter isn’t around, that is.

I try to convince myself that second best is good enough. Yet, let’s be honest. It’s always a bit of an ego boost to be “first best.”

Sometimes I’ll get really into a bout of string wiggling with Coco-Puff or slip some deli turkey to Princess, thinking Ah-ha! Who’s your favorite now?

But then my daughter or husband will walk into the room, and BOOM! Fast as you can say, “Hasta la vista, baby,” the cats and I part ways.

I guess I just have to accept it. The Cherry Days are gone. I’m no longer a favorite — no matter what exciting activities or secret treats I provide. It’s sort of frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

The cats have chosen.

Maybe I’m just trying too hard. Kind of like with people. When you come on too strong, you just scare them off. They smell the desperation.

So the other day, I conducted an experiment. I sat on the couch while Coco-Puff was on my daughter’s lap. I was cool, nonchalant. I pretended I didn’t care. I ignored them. I casually flipped through a magazine.

Cat? What cat? I don’t see any cat.

I did not put the Coco-Puff quilt over me. Then I sneaked the quilt over my legs, as though I suddenly caught a chill (despite the fact we’re in the midst of a heat wave).

Well, wonder of wonders… it worked! Next thing I knew, Coco-Puff was off my daughter’s lap and marching onto mine. Amazing… reverse psychology in action.

“She only did that because of the quilt, you know!” Melissa pointed out.

“Don’t be jealous!” I admonished. “It’s so petty.”

Two seconds later, Coco-Puff was off my lap and back onto my daughter’s lap. Oh well. It was worth a shot.

Of course, my husband is still Princess’s favorite, and always will be. For some reason, that cat just prefers men.

Sometimes we understand why a cat picks a favorite. But other times, it’s a total mystery. Maybe it’s the same reason certain people are drawn to each other. It’s just a chemistry thing, often elusive and difficult to understand.

So, as I sit many nights on the couch, catless, with that dumb quilt over me even though it’s 90 degrees out, I take comfort in my memory of Cherry — the cat who “chose me.” I tell myself it’s okay I’m no longer a favorite. A close second is good enough.

Besides, I am the favorite during the day, when no one else is around. I console myself with these thoughts as I sit there sweating under that thick quilt.

Although, we could always get a third cat, so I’ll have someone to sit with at night too…

~Nanci Merczel

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