Exception to the (cat) rule

I was 6 years old when I begged and begged my mom for a kitten until she finally gave in. We drove the 15 miles to the animal shelter in search of the perfect kitty for our family. My first grade teacher had read my class a story about a little, gray kitten named Sam, and I just had to have one of my own.

Star, the cat (My son named her). Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Star, the cat. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

The shelter had a few kittens, but there was one that was bold enough to come right up to me. He let out a “mew” and stole my heart. I held him in my lap on the way home, but he cried and squirmed until I let go. He ended up under the front seat and wouldn’t come out no matter how much I coaxed him.

My sister said he looked like a Ralph. He was my cat, and I wanted to name him Sam, but then someone mentioned that there was already a dog in the neighborhood named Sam. So Ralph, it was.

Ralph the cat got a taste of freedom one night when someone held the front door open a little too long. He shot like a bullet out the door and didn’t come home until the next morning. In the span of 12 hours, he had become an outdoor cat.

Ralph didn’t like to cuddle. In fact, he didn’t like to be held at all. My little tabby became a Tom Cat who prowled the neighborhood looking for a little action. He would drop by once in a while to eat, maybe, get out of the rain, or to sleep one off.

I made the mistake of taking him to my grandpa’s grocery store to visit and he got away. Grandpa called a couple of days later saying he’d found Ralph and that we needed to come get him. I learned my lesson, and just left him alone after that. One morning, Ralph crawled to the front door, almost too weak to make a sound He’d been in a fight and he was badly hurt. Surgery for pets was practically unheard of back then, so my striped tabby was put to sleep.

I didn’t own a cat for years after that, and maybe now I know why. They smell. They act crazy when they are in heat. They mark their territory all over the house. If they aren’t declawed, they ruin the furniture with their constant scratching. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I learned that I am not a cat person when I agreed to take my son’s cat for a while. “A while” turned into a month, and now it is going on two months. Star is annoying and wants to go outside all the time. She is messy, and wild, and she jumps up on my mom, who doesn’t like that, and we have to shoo her away from the furniture. (She is not declawed.)


She is a very sweet and loving kitty and I don’t want to take her to the shelter. I won’t. She deserves a home and I made the commitment to take care of her. And we’re all still getting used to each other. The dog, too, which I had concerns about. But I think the addition to our little family unit is good for Bindi, who needs a little excitement in her life. The vet said she needs more exercise, and she gets that, while chasing Star around the house.So, it’s not all bad.

I’m not sure if I ever really considered myself  “a cat person.” I know people who are “cat people,” and you can tell when you walk into their house that they own a lot of cats. But they don’t seem to care. Maybe that’s the difference.

I may not be “a cat person,” but maybe I can make an exception….just this once.


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