Cat Lady


By a cat.

Eight years ago, on a beautiful spring day, this black & white cat was sitting on a chair on my front patio. He didn’t move when I came out the door. The nerve, I thought. I waved my hands and shouted at him to skedaddle. He just stretched, did a pirouette and plopped back down to resume his nap. So I let him be. I was on my way out anyway, so he could have the chair for a while. Just don’t get too comfortable.

I asked around, and this cat was a neighborhood favorite. He’d only recently arrived, and he had more friends among my neighbors than I did. He had found the motherland. He was well fed and had aggressively declared this section of the block as his (his torn ear was just one battle scar). He would stretch out on the sunroof of a neighbor’s car while he tinkered, another neighbor’s garage workbench while he tinkered, and take a stroll with another when he walked his dog. After a day of catting around, he stretched out on my patio chair for his nighttime slumber.

Great Guy and the kids fell in love. Cat would curl up on their laps when they were outside. When I wasn’t home, Great Guy would open the door and let Cat in. Cat would walk around, very politely (no spraying or scratching) checking out the place to decide if it was worth the move.

I volunteered to take him to be neutered at the animal shelter. I went there to make the appointment, to buy a cat carrier and anything necessary for having a cat in my house – for one night mind you. The woman at the store tried talking me into a bunch of scratchers (should have done it!) and other supplies, and I told her, smugly, we’re just dating, not living together.

You need to know, I have never in my life picked up a cat. Cats scare me. They are all fangs and claws. Now I have to trap one, get him into a carrier and take an angry, scared cat to get his balls cut off. What if I can’t even find him the fateful morning that will change his life? I worry all night.  I come out first thing in the morning, put the carrier on the ground, make that sound that we all think attracts cats, and what do you know, he comes running out of nowhere, sniffs the carrier and walks in and sits down. If only my children had been that easy.

My children had started calling him Oreo, as if naming him after my favorite food would make me fall in love. At the shelter, they asked for his name. He became mine when I gave him my last name.

He spent the night of his surgery in our house, his first of every night since. He was home. At first we restricted him to the basement at night. But he cried, and we can’t have our cat crying. He chose his favorite seats, which I covered with sheets. Then I just accepted cat hair as a part of life. My life.

Oreo and Great Guy would leave the house together each morning, Great Guy to go to work, Oreo to police the neighborhood. Later on, I would go for my morning walk. Out of nowhere, Oreo would appear, running ahead and then laying on the lawn of each house until I passed, and then he’d hopscotch to the next lawn. I had to restrict my route so he wasn’t out of a find-his-way-home-zone. Worse, he tired out faster than me, and would lie on a lawn crying until I walked back to pick him up. Then I’d have to carry him home. This meant I had to pass a house that fed all the other street cats. Cats that were now relegated to the other end of our block since Oreo was king of our end of the street. I was afraid of a cat fight while carrying Oreo, but he’d just puff up real big and stare them down, all from the safety of my arms and scurrying feet.

I learned the joys of living with an outdoor cat. Many days we’d stare each other down: OK, drop that bird, we don’t have all day. Mice stay outside, Oreo. Wipe that mud off your belly. When I saw him jump into the sewer, I was horrified that he would be curling up on my bed in a few hours. Yes, he now slept in my bed.

Now I was attached. If he was slow to come home when called, I feared the worst. So we had two weeks of tough love, and he became an indoor cat. A big, fat indoor cat.

I read a stack of books about cats, just as I did when I was expecting my first child.  I bought toys. I insulted him with a fake mouse. He looked at the laser light, looked at me, and never moved a muscle. I spent more time hitting the bird on the spring than he did. Technically, I’m the only one who ever played with it. I read cat food labels to find the best food for him. I don’t read labels on any of the food I feed the rest of my family. Yes, he’s family, and he’s fed the most nutritious food.

Oreo is a mellow cat. He’s never bitten, scratched, swiped, sprayed or anything else I feared a cat would do. Oreo follows me around the house, and loves to be carried and massaged. (A leftover ritual when I would scrub him clean when he came inside from a day of hunting in the sewer.)  He’s a talker. He tells me when to put food in his bowl, what doors he wants opened, when his litter box isn’t up to health code. He even tolerates Great Guy who annoys the cat as much as he annoys the kids. Oreo owns us.

Great Guy is thrilled. After eight years, Oreo has started sleeping next to him. “Look, he loves me!” I’ve been beside this man for thirty eight years, and don’t get that reaction. I might just scratch him.


3 thoughts on “Cat Lady

  1. We are neighbors of Maribeth, and thoroughly enjoyed the story of Oreo! We too have been adopted by Freddy, a ginger cat. Long story short, Freddy is a village kitty, owned by our neighbor Babbette (3 blocks away), but pretty much has been living with us since September. We keep Babbette posted of his good health via text with photos! Regards, Susan and Paul

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