Neither husband or I are what you would call animal lovers. He liked the dogs he had growing up, but didn’t have a compelling need for one of his own. I never had a pet, unless you count the goldfish that lived on the kitchen counter one winter. My family's Yankee habit of turning the heat down at night didn’t bode well though, and the little guy went belly up after a week.
With that being the sum of my experience, owning an animal never seemed like a necessity to me. Nine years into our marriage though, our daughter arrived—and like most parents, we found out that expectations shift dramatically once a child is involved. By the time she was ten, our girl beseeched us for a pet. “Everyone has one,” she said, and she wasn’t far from wrong—when she completed an essay in school about her “family,” she was the only one in her class without a critter of her own.
When she came home with that bit of news, we felt bad and pondered the prospect of inviting a four-legged creature to live in our house—which provided us with months of conversational struggle. Neither of us yearned for a pet, but if we were to get one, our choices had us sleeping in decidedly opposite camps. Not only was his experience all dog, my husband professed to hate cats. He was the guy in the room that they head for, as a result of that implausible feline intuition that leads them to the person who will be most annoyed. As for me, well, non-leash-law-related dramas during childhood left me with a deep-seated fear of everything canine. I freeze when they approach me.
My husband did not advocate for a dog; he just didn't want a cat. As for me, if we had to have a pet, in my mind, a cat was the lesser of two evils. Back then, we were both working outside the home; our daughter was in after-school care and a happy dog would require more than our limited time allowed. For the most part, a cat wouldn’t poop on the floor and would maintain a level of self-sufficiency with which I could cope. We might have reached an impasse, but in spite of his reservations, there’s nothing my husband wouldn’t do for his family. So shrugging, he agreed to a cat adoption and off we went to the shelter. Two weeks later Winkie, a nine-week-old, mostly white kitten joined the team.
Except she didn’t. In one of life's many ironies, she and our daughter immediately drew lines in the sand and have either taunted or ignored each other since. My husband and Winkie disregarded each other, and I became the caretaker. Before I knew it though knew it though, emotion blossomed. Who knew a fuzz ball running to the door would be so warming? Even though it’s mostly because I'm the regular food supplier, Winkie surprised me with her level of attachment. She followed me like the puppy I didn’t want, snuggled under my chin and taught me the joy of non-human affection.
I'd like to tell you that she and my daughter became friends too, but I'm all about honesty here. And my husband, well, let's just say he noticed the cat when he had to. Nonetheless, over the years, she's evolved from a charming nuisance who climbed up the insides of the sleeper sofa and into the walls behind built-in book shelves, to a mature feline who occasionally charges our legs but otherwise, tolerates her humans with a condescending air.
Recently though, things have changed. Seven years into it, our indoor cat discovered her hunting instincts and presents us with evidence of the mice who have temporarily (I hope) taken up residence in our house. About the same time she found her inner stalker; Winkie abandoned my lap on the sofa in favor of my husband’s. She lounges with me until he sits, at which point, she paces in front of him mewing. Oblivious to the newspaper or magazine he’s holding, she leaps onto his chest.
At first he suffered her visits, muttering about cat hair. Then, she began catching mice. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but now, when she hops on board, his hand sits on her head stroking. As the first one to emerge from the bedroom each morning, he scoops her up as he walks to the kitchen. If she’s had a successful hunting expedition, he praises her. When we see evidence of uninvited creatures, he teases her for not doing her job. For her part, she demands and receives space on his lap each night and from my place on the sofa, I recognize something deeper then their growing affection.
Way back, I wasn’t sure I could love any animal, but I do. It’s even more of a surprise that the resident cat-hater and our feline have become friends. Winkie’s evolution into a mouser extraordinaire led to the last thing I anticipated. Long after you think you know yourself, or the person you live with for that matter, things can change. In a twist I never expected, my husband and I have both become "cat" people.
As the words to that old song go: "Two out of three ain't bad."