I have a confession to make. I am afraid of cats.
I'm not afraid that they'll attack me or sneak up in the middle of the night and suffocate me (as they have been known to do to babies for centuries — look it up on the Internet).
I'm afraid that one day, despite years of resistance, I will end up owning one.
We had a dog for years, and I never had a problem. But now that Harry is gone, my wife and daughters have been lobbying for another pet, and somehow have decided (without any input from me) that a cat would be a good idea.
As explanation, I am highly allergic to cats. When I got out of college, I stayed with my brother and his wife for a time, and they had a long-haired gray cat named Samantha. Samantha was a friendly feline, always coming over and climbing on my shoulders as I sat on the couch. This caused my eyes to swell and my throat to close up until I looked and sounded like Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" movies. To this day, when we go to someone's house and they have a cat, I can last only 20 minutes or so until my eyes feel like hot coals. Cats are my Kryptonite.
The other problem with owning a cat is that cat owners, unlike dog owners, tend to be (and I say this with love and understanding) crazy. They often have more cats than they should and regularly give them names, complete with titles, that reveal the depths of their devotion. (No animal should be named "Mr. Jenkins Pittypaws, Esq.")
When cat owners talk about their cats, they go into a kind of wistful trance. They don't just love their cats, they're in love with their cats. I know my comments will drive a lot of cat owners crazy, but to be fair, it's not really that far of a drive. (I'd ask those who are offended to berate me in email rather than snail mail. Just opening the angry, cat-dander-infested letters might cause anaphylactic shock.)
I'm open to the idea of getting another pet. We regularly stop by the local animal shelter looking for just the right dog. (I'm thinking a middle-aged mutt, one without too much energy, who likes to eat dinner and fall asleep on the couch. A canine version of me.) To get to the dog section, though, we have to walk by the cat section, cage after cage of felines curled up in balls, stretched out on their backs, or, worst of all, playing with little toys. This always makes my wife and daughters swoon, and within minutes, they start in with the pleading stares.
There's also a community room at the shelter where they've set up a fake apartment with a bed and couch and cats everywhere — under the bed, climbing the walls, peeking out from behind the drapes. I shudder every time I pass the glass-enclosed community room. It would be like sending me to the gas chamber.
This past weekend, on the way to the dog section, my wife stopped at one of the glass windows on the cat cages and called me over. Inside was a small, grey, striped kitten. It was rolling around on its back, scratching itself, looking over at us for a reaction, and then going back to its cute act. My wife looked at the name card — "McFly" — and melted.
"I want McFly!" she said. "Just loooook at him!" Somehow, my wife has a way of making her eyes look as big as saucers when she wants something. She did this now. I glared at her.
As soon as we got home, my wife described the kitten to my daughters, even acting out the cute way that little McFly looked up at us while wicking his wittle paws. My daughters oohed and ahhed just the way my wife had, and all three stared at me with big saucer eyes while I just sat and tried to ignore them. My wife asked why I didn't go get a shot or something. One of my daughters accused me of faking my cat allergies. The other demanded that I go sit in the cat-infested community room for ten minutes to prove that I couldn't live with a cat.
My fear is that one day, not too far from now, you'll see me walking down the street, coughing and wheezing, fumbling along because my eyes are too swollen to open properly. If that happens, stop and say hi, and ask me how I'm doing.
But only do it if you have time to look at my photo album of Mr. G. Whilikers Whiskers dressed up in cute, cat-sized outfits.
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