Cats are under-appreciated. People who hate cats tend to list popular stereotypes as reasons for their hatred. They’re not lovable or affectionate. They want nothing to do with you. They’re evil and secretly plotting your demise every time you leave the house. Some cats fall into two out of three of those stereotypes. But most cats who love you will love you beyond whatever low expectations you have towards them if you give them a chance.
Cat people know how wonderful cats can be. They are affectionate. Some will sit on your lap, purr endlessly, and claw your legs. Others will swat your hand when you stop petting them, a sign that they don’t want you to quit. There’s a bond between cats and humans that’s different than bonding with a dog. You may not always know it by their outward behavior, but you can feel it in your heart.
As a kid, whenever my family would visit my grandmother’s house, my sister and I try to hunt down her cats. Their names were Emma and Lily. They weren’t the nicest cats. They were old, grumpy, and, understandably, wanted to be left alone. But we were children who didn’t have any cats in our daily lives. Cats were foreign creatures and they were mysterious. My sister and I were very curious to solve that mystery. Somehow, the cats always outsmarted us or made it clear by hissing and batting at our tiny hands that they wanted nothing to do with us. They were old and only knew kids who wanted to chase them down.
I was a dog person before my family adopted two cats. I was convinced that dogs (specifically, puppies) were the end all be all. I dreamt of having a pug puppy and playing with it since my friend who lived a few houses down had a pug. We had a dog named Layla and she was lovely. But as a kid, I wanted a puppy of my own.
Then the idea of a cat entered the picture. My sister had gotten a bird for Christmas. The bird, unfortunately, passed away two weeks after the holiday. My parents felt awful and my sister begged them for a cat. By the end of January, a black and white cat had entered our home. My sister named her Mendy.
The best way to describe Mendy is by her unofficial nickname: “ghost cat.” My sister said she was friendly at the adoption center at Petsmart. I don’t know what happened between adopting her and bringing her home. To this day, Mendy lives in almost complete isolation and hates everyone but my mom (and occasionally my dad). I can see the anxiety running through her each time she meows out of fear. Whenever she’s around my mom and I walk in the room, she contemplates whether or not she should stay frozen in place or run away. Running away almost always wins.
Mikey came into the family a week or two before Christmas that same year. After speech therapy, my parents took me to the nearest Petsmart to look at the cats for fun. I instantly felt connected to this one tabby cat who rolled over on his side in his cage the second I put my hand in to pet him. To my surprise, my parents had already decided to adopt him. Mikey meowed all the way home.
Mikey is a light in my life. He’s a people’s cat. He loves to be petted. He loves his butt scratched. He loves to go into an empty room and meow because he enjoys hearing the sound of his own voice. He will more than often come when you call him and he still loves rolling over on his side and purring. My mom is Mendy’s person and I’m Mikey’s person.
There’s something about bonding with a cat that’s unique and special. People who aren’t cat people don’t take into consideration that cats can form strong bonds too. They care for you. They’re there for you when you’re down. They’re affectionate in their own cat ways.
My cats bring me joy for different reasons. One is a people’s cat and the other hates most of the people she lives with. Mikey used to sit in the middle of a room when we would have guests just to be involved. We would always tell people we had another cat but I wouldn’t be surprised if they questioned that statement because no one ever saw her. At dinner time, Mike would hop up on the table and watch us eat dinner, especially if there was chicken or fish on our plates. Now, I will occasionally bring him over because he’s too old to make the jump himself. If someone is making something in the kitchen that has chicken in it, Mikey will sit by their feet and beg for scraps. If I’m up late at night, I will hear Mendy meowing nervously as she patters her paws quickly across the wood floor to grab some dry food. I have scars on both of my hands from Mikey scratching me. I’ve only picked up Mendy once to save her from barking dogs who had cornered her. She was surprisingly light for having a hanging belly. Picking up Mikey is the complete opposite experience. He’s very heavy because his belly is quite full.
Each cat is different. The cats in my life couldn’t be more different. But the people who they love mean everything to them. There’s a clear connection between love and affection. Cats bring the people in their life joy. Their personalities and emotions are very unique and if they find the right match with a human, they feel loved and safe. They will purr when you pet them or when they’re sleeping. They’ll form small holes in your jeans from kneading. They will bring reptiles into the house and bite their heads off as a form of affection. They’ll greet you at the door the moment you arrive home by rubbing against your shins. They may even beg for your food when you’re eating meat or fish. It’s the little things about cats that are delightful to see.
Cats are like humans in that they have a different response to everyone they’re around. Those they know, they love. Those they don’t know, they can act hissy or curious towards. Some cats may follow the well-known stereotypes but if you’re able to love a cat, you may find that cats aren’t bad after all. In fact, they may even bring you joy.