Cats, cats, and more cats

Brewsky is the tabby, Ollie is gray, and Scully is the kitten

I’m up for the day, sitting here writing while listening to Ollie and Scully wrestle within the folds of the shower curtainthe bathroom is but one wall away. Ollie always liked the tub and, when he was a kitten, enjoyed watching people shower. He never joined in, but he didn’t mind getting splashed a little.

Kittens tend to be more vocal and have a wider range of sounds than grown cats, so I keep hearing Scully miaowing in a way that sounds more like a dove than a cat. Cats being creatures of routine, Brewsky is no doubt in the living room looking out the window. If I’m lucky, either he or Ollie will soon come and sleep in the chair beside me and into which I put one of my bed pillows every morning. Cats appreciate luxury every bit as much as humans do, so they bond with those humans who provide it. This works well for me because I’m just naturally attentive to the needs of others.

My cats know I love them, and I trust that they love me. It’s hardly like the love of a dog because cats are more subtle, which means that when they do give of themselves, it’s easy for their humans to be unaware of the gift. For instance, I’ll be sitting here writing and will suddenly realize that one of the cats had come into the room and asked for attention, only to leave when he or she didn’t get it.

I had experienced a lifetime of dogs, so when we finally got burned-out on the work of having dogs and got Brewsky, I wondered if I would ever feel close to him. Peggy’s cat-person sister, Pam, warned Peggy that we had made a grave mistake. As she put it, “You are dog people, and a cat is not a dog!” We still laugh about this, but she was right in that if we had gotten a cat thinking that it would be like a dog, we would have been sorely disappointed. Another friend said that the best thing she could say about her pedigreed Siamese was that it was midway between having a dog and not having a pet at all. Fortunately, we were not complete strangers to the ways of cats, so the question wasn’t whether Brewsky would be like a dog, but whether we could find it within ourselves to love a cat as a cat.

My enjoyment of cats got a real boost when we got our second cat, Ollie, because we not only had a total of two cats, Cat A and Cat B, we had a third entity—C—which consisted of the way Brewsky and Ollie related to us and to one another. When we got Scully, things took off even more, and I started to understand how people end up with a houseful of cats. The way cats interact with one another is a good bit more interesting—to me anyway—than the way dogs interact, and because cats are less work, I can imagine myself slipping into the mindset of, I already have ___ cats, so what’s one more?. Fortunately, I have Peggy to put on the brakes because while I know we don’t need a fourth cat, the temptation remains. 

Our vet, Sean, has been in practice for a lot of years, yet he can scarcely believe what we tell him about our cats. Specifically, that Brewsky so readily accepted Ollie despite Brewsky having been a solitary indoor cat since he was a tiny kitten, and that Brewsky and Ollie so readily took a female kitten into their hearts. Worst of all was his dismay when we told him that Ollie—at 14-months of age—is still nursing Brewsky, a six-year-old 15-pound male. Peggy mentioned this in the hope that Sean could tell us how to put an end to
Ollie’s nursing, but he instead asked what it was, exactly, that Ollie nursed and mentioned Brewsky’s tail as a possibility. Peggy assured him that, no, Ollie is a tit-man all the way, and it was then that Sean’s eyes got so big that we wondered if he believed us.

I wouldn’t find Ollie’s nursing so disgusting if he didn’t slurp, but I haven’t been able to discourage him from nursing, and when I try, he just leaves the room and goes back to nursing when I’m not around. Peggy and I are convinced that Brewsky doesn’t like Olli
e’s nursing either because he will look at us when it’s happening as if to say, “God but I wish he wouldn’t do this, but he seems to really need it, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” I have had to give up on even trying to put an end to Ollie’s nursing except when the five of us (Peggy, Brewsky, Ollie, Scully, and me) are having our morning cuddle. This and the time that Peggy and I spend trying to read in the evening while Ollie and Scully gallop about the house like tiny horses are the most precious times of my day—those and the time I spend writing. And then there are the ways that Scully moans, coos, yowls, chirrups, miaows, and screams! Before getting cats, I had no idea how varied their vocalizations could be, and how often they sound more like birds than cats. Unfortunately, the older they get, the less they vocalize.

When Ollie was Scully’s age, he and Brewsky would play the way that he and Scully now play, and Ollie would scream like Scully now screams. I soon came to trust that Brewsky wasn’t really killing Ollie, but Peggy never stopped worrying. If you could see a little gray kitten full-out roughhousing with a male tabby five times his size, you could understand her anxiety. Ollie never held anything back, and it would look for all the world like a fight to the death, what with wide-open mouths filled with glistening white daggers. I became completely trusting that, no matter how bad things looked, Brewsky wasn’t really going to kill Ollie, and his patience and compassion confirmed my faith in Brewsky’s ability to give Ollie the kind of love and nurture that he, being an only cat, had never received.

I regard Brewsky as our wise and loving adult, Ollie as our exquisitely sensitive and emotionally vulnerable adolescent, and Scully as our dominant and intellectual girl child. A person who has but one cat is deprived of the joy that comes with observing the differences cats display in their interactions with their humans and with other cats. Different cats are like different people in that their worldviews and their preferences vary enormously. Dogs are that way too, but they’re so fixated on pleasing their humans that the creatures they are within themselves get swallowed-up. I don’t mean here to discount the joy of having dogs because it is their determination to do everything they can to love and to be loved that makes dogs so adorable.

I must admit to finding it very hard to warm up to a person who genuinely dislikes either dogs or cats, and I frankly hate it when people’s preference for one leads them to trash the other. Such people fail to understand that their preference for one species over another is entirely a function of what they want and what they need, and has nothing to do with superiority. To hate either species makes the hater look dim-witted and closed hearted, but haters never seem to realize this. The important thing is not what we love, but that we love.

The last time I was in PetSmart, they had a beautiful black rescue cat that someone had returned because they thought he miaowed too much. God help me, but I wanted that cat, and I wanted him all the more because he had been abandoned at least twice…. I want to bring happiness to all unwanted pets, but I can’t do it, and I hate it that I can’t do it…. 

One of my cats—Ollie, as it turned out—came to sleep on the pillow that I put in the chair beside me, so I keep alternating between writing and petting his soft, soft fur. Oh, the joy—the joy, the joy, the joy.