Since I was a kid, I have had a love-hate relationship with cats. Most feline exchanges would play out the same way.
I would go to pet the cat.
“Hey, cat. I’m just trying to pet you,” I would say. For some reason, it seems like this warning should prepare the cat for physical affection. Cats seem to love physical affection. They also love paper bags and scratching furniture, but that’s a whole different story.
“You will pet me over my cold, dead, lifeless body,” the cat would reply. Then the cat would run away and look at me, licking its privates just to punctuate its feelings for me.
Nevertheless, I would not give up. I would allow that cat enough time to finish its private grooming. It’s very rude to interrupt that kind of activity, I would assume. The last think I want to do at this point is offend the cat I am trying to pet.
“Okay, for real this time, cat. I’m just going to pet,” I would say, trying to ease the cat’s mind lest he feel that I am really just trying to hunt and kill him. “I promise it will feel good.”
The cat would look at me with its dead, lifeless cat eyes. “I can tell you one thing,” it would say. “It will not feel as good as this!” Then he would bite my hand and run behind some piece of furniture. At this point, I usually give up. Who wants to pet an animal that poops in a box anyway?
For the last 25 years of my life, this has happened over and over. (Editor’s note: This may or may not be true as it is very difficult for Nathan to remember the first few years of his life. As far as he is concerned, he has always been able to walk and control his own bowels.) Even my own cat would come and sit next to me then, for no reason, bite my hand. It was his way of sending a warning.
“I will sit next to you, but if you so much as lay one finger on me, I will forcefully remove that finger with my teeth.”
When my friends got a kitten, I was excited. This was a chance for a fresh start. Kittens have no reason to hate me. They have no preconceived notion that I am trying to ruin their life.
I walked up to little Hamish and stuck out a hand.
“Hey, Hamish,” I said.
He sniffed, then wrapped his paws around my hand and bit me. Every time I saw the cat, he would bite me. I would sit down and see him on the other side of the room. He would notice that my foot or hand were unoccupied, then duck way down against the floor. There he would sit for several minutes, scouting it out. Maybe it was a trap. This could be the time that there was a cat-eating snake hiding behind me, waiting for a chance to have a Hamish-sized snack. After several minutes, figuring that any snake would have gotten bored and either eaten me or left, he would pounce.
Across the room he would bound, jumping over furniture and ignoring his forsaken cat toys. He had spotted his prey. It just happened to be one of my extremities.
To me, this seemed like a jerk move. I had never once tried to bite the cat. For one, he is hairy and it would take forever to get that cat hair out of my teeth. For another, I have seen the cat eat food. He is not starving to death. Trying to eat my hand is just pure cat gluttony.
So, like many other cats before him, I gave up on Hamish. I wrote him off as another in a line of cats that reaffirm why I prefer dogs.
Then, today, I sat down on the couch. Much like he has done in the past, Hamish came over. I prepared for the worst. This could be the time that he goes for the throat. I grabbed my phone just in case I needed to make a quick 9-1-1 call.
Instead, this happened:
Maybe there is hope for cats after all, I thought. Every so often, he would stand and walk up to my face, rubbing against it. A few times, he crawled under my hand to urge a petting. I could be a cat person after all. They are not all bad.
Of course, then he bit my hand and ran away. For one second, though, this cat and I were friends. I had hope for the future.
Now if cats would just learn that I am not food…