By Colleen Leddy
I made the announcement over dinner.
“I touched the cat today and he was soft.”
“Mom!” said Maddy with her brand of 12-year-old exasperation.
I never touch the cat. I don’t like the cat. He’s always trying to sneak into the house. He doesn’t know his boundaries. That’s not quite true—he knows them, he just stretches them. I tolerate his presence on the porch in the sumer and reluctantly cave in to his sorrowful face in the winter and allow him refuge in our heated entry way. But when he thinks he can lounge on my new living room chair, well, I remember why I don’t like cats.
And when he thinks he can spend a perfectly lovely, sunny and warm spring day in the house, I nudge his immense furball of a body outside. Last Thursday, I told him it was too nice to be indoors and kicked him out. I was also on my way out and followed him onto the porch. He stopped short of the porch door and it was a good thing. It reminded me that the front steps had been removed the day before. I needed to set my stuff down and hunker down to jump the three feet to the newly poured base of concrete below.
I jumped and Cooner, nickname for Raccoon, hung back. C’mon Cat, it’s your turn, I told him. He wavered. Too risky a jump, I suppose he thought. I tugged the rug he stood on, gently pulling it to the edge of the porch. Nothing doing. He bailed before the end of the rug reached the edge. C’mon Cat, you can’t spend the day on the porch. I clicked my tongue and he moved closer. Not knowing what else to do, I reached for him and just barely touched the fur on his back as he shrunk away. While I expressed astonishment at how soft his fur was, he merely rolled over on his back and purred for me to continue with this unexpected gift of pleasure.
But I couldn’t do it. I don’t pet cats. I refuse to be won over by this finicky species that specializes in wrecking new chairs. My attempts to get him off the porch failed so I left for work. When I got home several hours later, he was still there. I told Maddy to put him off the porch. She protested that he wasn’t going to be able to jump back up when he wanted to come in, but she heeded my wishes and put him out.
In my defense I must point out that I am nice to humans—such as my daughter Rosie.
When David started telling about Rosie’s early morning foray in to the world, I leapt to my feet.
“Did Rosie tell you how she started off the morning? She went out to get the newspaper.…”
“Oh, my God!” My imagination filled in the blanks. I pictured Rosie walking out the door, suspended in air before she realized there were no steps, crashing in a heap.
“Oh, Rosie, are you all right?” I yelled as I went looking for her. It was as if it had just happened, and I was filled with compassion. I expected to find her cut and bruised.
Sitting at the computer, she looked up at me inquisitively.
“You know, what happened this morning—when you went to get the Free Press,” I reminded her.
“Oh,” she laughed. “I landed on my feet.”
Just like a cat.
And what about the cat, I wondered with a pang of guilt much later that night when I realized it was raining. Wonder where he’s sleeping. I hadn’t seen him since Maddy lifted him off the porch around 4 p.m. and now it was 2:30 a.m.
I opened the porch door and there he was meowing away in the rain. Ugh, I thought, it’s either walk around to the back of the house in the rain and hope he follows me to the back porch so I can let him in and chase him to the front entry, or it’s pick him up and plunk him on the porch.
To my own amazement, I coaxed him to me—using his bowl of Purina Cat Chow—and bent down to pick him up. It took three tries—he kept backing away. I was not surprised. Why should he trust this woman who continuously calls him, “Dang Dog,” as in “You Dang Dog, who do you think you are to sit on my chair with your dang dirty feet and your dang claws pulling threads and dropping your fur and shedding all over?” not to mention Ratfink, Fat Cat, and Freakin’ Furball, but he finally let me pick him up.
I hate to admit it, but Cooner’s fur isn’t the only thing that’s soft.