It was a chilly Saturday night in Chicago and I was snuggled up on my new beau’s sofa watching SNL when an alarmingly high-pitched “meeeeew!” called our attention from the awkward jig Ashley Simpson had broken into after having been exposed lip-syncing on live TV (perhaps in an effort to distract the audience?).
I turn to Ed quizzically.
“Um, sometime he gets lost,” he says, shaking his head.
In a one-bedroom apartment? I thought to myself.
“Meeeeeew, meeeeew, meeew, meew!” the cries became sharper and shorter while increasing in proximity and urgency.
“Ian, it’s okay buddy, we’re over here,” Ed said gently and encouragingly, not moving from the sofa.
A smallish black head popped out from behind the wall, eyes wide with amazement. Turning the corner his impressive girth was revealed – all 22 pounds – complete with undercarriage cleaning the floor as he lumbered into the room. Not exactly the physique one would have associated with the frightened high-pitched cries of moments ago. He’d been in the hallway barely 10 feet away.
The Cat Factor
I’d fallen for a guy with cats. I know not all women would agree, but his having cats only made him more attractive to me. At 6’3” he was all man, but cat ownership added a different dimension to his appeal – sensitive, caring, responsible.
He’d had Ian and Shelley since they were little kittens. Shelley was daddy’s little girl and had a slightly disturbing habit of sitting in Ed’s pants when he was using the facilities. I’ll never forget the day she led me – rather seductively – to the bathroom, jumped into the tub and stared at me intently.
“She wants you to pet her,” Ed shouted instructions from the next room, “It’s her safe place, it means she trusts you.”
I was “in”.
I Got Cat
Between weekends together we spent evenings talking on the phone recounting our days. Me: lonely and missing him. Him: recounting the “cutest” and “funniest” Shelley and Ian escapades. I was alone and he had these little characters keeping him company, entertaining him, showering him affection (okay, maybe they just wanted to be fed). I wanted what he had.
One trip to Petco and “Kip”, a very objectively handsome 3 year-old gray tabby, entered my life.
He tricked me actually. The cat not the guy.
Kip presented as a docile sweet lap cat sitting like a lump on my lap when forcibly removed from his cage. I envisioned us together on the chaise, Kip curled-up in my lap as I read or watched TV. Then I got him home.
From the moment the carrier door opened, Kip proceeded to run around the apartment non-stop for what seemed like days. Up-and-down the stairs, behind and under every piece of furniture, and crouching behind the ottoman expectantly waiting for me to throw the toy mouse for him to chase.
As for holding him? Ha! He would straighten his joints pressing his paws against my chest leaning his head back to get as much distance between us possible. If I persisted, he would stare past me into the distance eyes glazed over and go to his “happy place.” I swear I could hear his cat-mantra “mind over body, mind over body” until I finally released him out of guilt.
My boyfriend told me I’d lucked-out. That most cats would have mauled me by now. This is not what I signed up for. I had been duped.
Single with Cat
After Ed and I broke up my Mother not all together jokingly asked me if he would take Kip. Since it was his influence that had resulted in my getting this cat that in her eyes “tied me down” and precluded my ever having nice furniture.
While Ed’s having cats made him more attractive in my eyes, would the same be true for me? Or had I been forever burdened forever? (my mother had called horrified after having seen a segment on the local news about a cat who was 38 years old).
And so it began.
Consulting with girlfriends to determine the most optimal time to admit cat ownership to men. Some friends suggested I say nothing. Ever. But wouldn’t it be awkward to have a man show-up only to have Kip rush him at the door? What if he had allergies? Decidedly online dating profiles could not mention the cat or show evidence of his existence – though in the spirit of full disclosure I did check off the “cat” box under animal ownership. Of course to balance things out, “dog” had to be checked under the “animals I like” section.
No cat wallpaper on the Blackberry, and photos of Kip could only be revealed if having a bad date (the plan was to stick the Blackberry in his face asking him to “Say ‘hi’ to my Kippie-Cat!”).
I don’t think he had an adverse impact on my dating life. But how could I truly ever know. Perhaps there had been men who saw errant cat hairs on my coat, or who noticed “cat owner” in the profile and who I never met because of Kip. I guess ignorance is bliss.
And little did I know things would get more complicated once I had cat (s).