Saturday, December 4, 2010

New feature: CATURDAY!

I've decided to try to do a cat-related blog post every Saturday - an anecdote or ramble or even just a funny picture.

Today, I will tell you how and why I acquired a cat in the first place.

It's funny - if you'd told me even five years ago that I would willingly become a cat owner one day, I wouldn't have believed you.  I've always been a hardcore dog person.  I didn't hate cats, but I kept having unpleasant experiences with them - trying to pet friends' cats and getting my hand attacked, for instance - so I was definitely cautious with cats.

But then in 2008/2009, through a series of bizarre circumstances, I ended up babysitting one friend's cat(s) after another after another.  Basically there was at least one cat in my house at any given time for about a year.  And...they started to grow on me.  I got to know each kitty really well, and it turns out each one had a distinct personality and a set of hilarious quirks - none of which were "let's rip up Meredith's hand when she's trying to pet us."*  One cat in particular used to lie pressed up against my butt/lower back while I perched on the edge of the couch painting, and I loved that; his steady, purring presence helped still my twirling brain and put me in the right headspace for making art.

Eventually the catsitting ended and I decided I wanted a pet of my own - but I'm really not in a place in my life where I can care for a dog, as much as I'd love one.  And so I decided to shop for a cat, although I felt kind of conflicted about it.  What if I wasn't cut out for cat ownership in the long term?  What if I got a cat who seemed nice but turned out to have a streak of pure unadulterated evil in his little peanut brain?  I was (and am!) still pretty scared of a cat's claws, so if I got a cat with rage issues I'd end up feeling terrified in my own home.  I'd have to wear shoes all the time and tiptoe around with a flashlight and a baseball bat, or something.

These are the very first pics I saw of him. :)
But my friends convinced me that I would be fine, and when I started browsing the Toronto Cat Rescue's** website I fell in love with a photo of this one little guy they'd named "Sinatra".  I love animals who are really distinctive looking - I'm shallow like that - and this Sinatra kitty had blue eyes and a hilarious black blob in the middle of his face.  Better yet, his description made him sound like the best, most well-adjusted cat in the whole world: very sweet and calm and friendly.  They estimated that he was two years old, which I also liked - a kitten is more prone to playfully attacking people and that would freak me right the hell out.  I immediately contacted the Rescue to make an appointment to meet him and it turns out his foster home was right up the street from my house!

The conjugal cat visit went well.  I brought a friend for moral support and a second opinion; the foster mom sat my friend and I down in her spare bedroom, brought "Sinatra" inside and shut the door so we could all hang out.  He was, of course, all distracted because he was in an unfamiliar room with unfamiliar people.  Mostly he just prowled around the perimeter of the room on his belly to make sure the premises were secure, but it was still obvious that he was a pretty mellow kitty - not the type to pounce on my feet or scare me with a lot of sudden movements.  What really clinched it for me is that when he came close enough for me to gently hold one of his front paws, he didn't scratch or hiss or even try to pull his paw away; he just looked down at my hand and then back up at my face like, "Buh?"

I had a really good feeling about this cat, and my friend did, too.  His foster mom had told me all kinds of things about his health, habits, likes and dislikes, and it sounded as though he and I would be really compatible.  So...I took a chance and said yes. 

Over the next week I agonized over getting exactly the right dishes, litter box, toys and food for my impending bundle of joy.  When I finally took him home, he adjusted way faster than his foster mom predicted: he did start off hiding under the bed, but within half an hour he was on the couch with me, purring and rolling over for a belly rub.  He truly was an awesome and friendly kitty right from the beginning; little did I know that he would bond with me more and more strongly as he realized I was his permanent mommy.  He's a part of me now...a furry little piece of my heart.

Meanwhile, the name Sinatra didn't really do it for me.  I posted on Facebook asking for name suggestions and my cartoonist friend Brett (of Weird Green Cat fame) suggested Birch "because birch trees are black and white."  It was perfect.

And that's how we became a family. :)

*By the way: the many seemingly random hand-clawings I'd experienced in the past had given me the idea that cats are all deeply eeeeeeeevil, but in retrospect I realize I just wasn't approaching them properly.  I tended to go for the head-pet via the direct route: darting my hand straight toward a cat's face.  This would quite understandably make the cat go "OMGWTF" and swat my hand away (it works with people, too). 

**I can't speak highly enough about the Toronto Cat Rescue.  Their volunteers are friendly and dedicated and amazing and they're always completely honest about what each cat is like - they want to put the kitties in a permanent home, not foist them on someone who will discover some horrible secret and bring them right back.  If you're shopping for a cat, please please please check out the Toronto Cat Rescue's website instead of going to a pet store.  They have cats and kittens of all ages and descriptions - you won't be disappointed!

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