I’m not a crazy cat lady, but my pets are my “fur-kids”

I know a lot of people aren’t “pet people,” but I don’t know what I would do without “fur-kids.” When I was little, we had dogs and barn cats. Somehow, the standoffish cats at the barn appealed more to me than the excitable dogs that barked and growled at strangers.

As soon as I found out there was a new litter of kittens, I slipped under pallets, between hay bales and even under a bush hog to cuddle the newborn balls of fur. They didn’t always appreciate my dragging them out of their nest, but playing with the kittens was one of my favorite things.

One day when my grandfather and I went on a walk, two grey tabbies followed us home. We put out a bowl of food, and they stayed. The two sisters were identical except for their eyes: Mew had brown eyes, while Purr’s were green. They started out as carport cats until some feline spat drove Purr down the road to live in my grandparent’s garage. I lost track of how many litters they each produced, and later, their children produced their own kittens. I’m sure we helped populate half the county with free kittens.

When more than one mother had kittens in close proximity, I took it upon myself to try to keep the kittens divvied up between the correct mothers. Whether it was a case of curious kittens or jealous mothers, it never ceased to disturb me to return home and find the kittens with the wrong mothers. Perhaps I was a bit obsessive as a child, but I had to be sure the kittens were properly sorted before I could sleep at night.

Eventually, we got the kitten population under control through generous donations of mousers to stables, barns and anyone who wanted a kitten, and instead of spending my time dividing the kittens into their original litters, we were free from cats for awhile, except for Mew and Purr and a few of their children, who were particularly nice or pretty. We had some cuddly indoor lap dogs, but cats have always been my favorites.

When I was in college, someone I worked with found a black kitten coated in sap or tar and asked me if I wanted to take him. After getting him cleaned up, which included having his back shaved, I took the motley kitty home with me. He looked so ragged that I named him Andy, after Raggedy Ann’s brother. He nestled in my hair and slept under the covers with me, and when I had to go back to school, he listened while I talked to him on the phone. We also had an understanding that if I told him, I’d “be home Wednesday” he would start looking for me at the windows a day or two before I came home, even if I wasn’t on Wednesday.

By some genetic fluke Mew and Purr, who were both long-tailed mousers, both had Manx kittens. The Manx breed is known for cats with round heads, rabbit-like back legs, and tails that are either short and stumpy or missing altogether. Ever since meeting my first Manx kitten, I’ve had a fondness for them, and when our last Manx cat succumbed to old age, my mother found me a new Manx kitten to keep Andy company. Christabelle has been my constant companion ever since.

When my friend Laurel mentioned that no cat she has ever adopted would sleep in bed with her, it surprised me because almost all of my indoor kitties have been cuddlers – sometimes even bed hogs! When Christabelle gets cold, she sometimes will burrow under the cover with me, and if she can’t get under the cover, she curls up in a tight ball on my pillow, right above my head. Something is wrong if a cat or two doesn’t walk on me during the night or cuddle with me while I sleep.

Now that Andy is gone, Stryker is my only boy cat, and for some reason, he is the most loving when he knows that I’m upset. If I’m crying, he’ll walk across me and will lie on the bed or couch near me, purring, just to let me know that he’s there.

I’ve never understood how people can’t love an animal. Even if it’s not cats or dogs, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc. can all be loving pets. When people don’t make sense, or I’ve had a bad day, my fur-kids are always there. They may demand food and plenty of attention, but they never yell, lie, complain or judge. They never get angry that you didn’t do things their way, and their only deadlines are making sure they have full bowls, clean litter boxes or a walk, and cuddle time.

Whether I’ve been gone for an hour, a day, or a whole vacation, my fur-kids are happy to see me. My favorite time of day is when Christabelle and Spike greet me at the door and Snowbird pokes her furry nose through the stair rail for me to pet her.

So what that I have cat hair on my furniture and a few claw snags on the bedspread? Those things can be vacuumed or replaced, but the unconditional love of a pet is irreplaceable. If we had room for a well-trained dog, I’m sure I’d feel the same way. I know I have the same feelings about my mom’s dogs when I “borrow” them for cuddles and puppy kisses. It may not be true for everyone, but for me, life without pets would simply be too cold.