In which we accidentally become cat people

A few weeks ago, just after cat arrived at my house, my 3-year-old walked up to me.

“I always wanted to have two pets,” he said, so matter-of-factly that I was surprised that I had never heard that sentiment before.

In our house, we’re dog people. My husband grew up with cats and dogs, always preferred dogs and when we got married, I tested the waters with a long-term dog-sitting gig. After 10 months of daily walks with an incredibly well-trained beagle, I decided I liked dogs, too, and when the beagle’s owners were able to return to their home, we adopted Laika from the humane society.

Laika, who is some kind mutt mixed with a German shorthaired pointer, has always been more of a cat than a dog. She prefers to sleep all day, hiding from people, than being with us. Skittish when we first brought her home, she soon warmed up to us and anyone who came over to visit.

When my older son was born, I was a little worried about how she’d take it. Never fear – she immediately accepted him as her own pup, and would often scold me with a loud whine if the baby cried too loudly. Her message always came through clearly – she could do better and she could help him faster, if I’d just let her.

About a month ago, she and I were out for our regular morning walk when a pretty, long-haired cat approached us. Laika usually bolts toward any creature that moves in her path, but the cat must have gotten the drop on her, because there was no sudden charge away from me. Instead, the cat walked right up to the dog, brave as can be, and started winding around Laika’s legs.

The cat followed us all the way home, and I had to rush the dog into the house, through the back door, just to escape. Assuming the cat would return home, I gave it no further thought that day.

That night, we didn’t make it home until almost 8 p.m., a good 13 hours after I had left the cat behind my house. Over the howling, freezing wind, we heard an even louder yowl.

My husband, who has often told me how much he doesn’t like cats, looked at me and indicated I should bring it in. We found some kitty litter in the garage (doesn’t everyone keep some on hand for soaking up spills?) and I poured a scoop of dog food. Cat spent a week in the basement, hiding from Laika and my boys, who enthusiastically began chasing it, whenever the opportunity presented itself.

We spent two weeks calling it Not-Our-Cat, posting its picture on a local garage sale group on Facebook and checking with the Calhoun County Canine Shelter, to see if anyone had reported a missing cat. I asked everyone I encountered for a week, too, talking up the cat’s good manners and gentle ways with dogs and children.

Finally, we realized we had become cat owners. My husband even admitted that if we had to have a cat, at least we found one that’s cute and well-behaved. The dog, who weighs a good 50 pounds, has yet to lose a drop of blood to the cat, despite hours of playing. In fact, getting her own cat seems to have done wonders for Laika. Suddenly she’s focused on how she cat gain access to the cat’s food bowl, instead of stealing my kids’ snacks. She spends more time up, running around, than she has in years. As she approaches her 10th birthday, she’s started to show her age a bit, but having a friend has perked her up a bit.

My dad, who can’t stand dogs and treats his cats at least as good as he treated my sister and me, if not better, was especially pleased to hear we had acquired a cat. More importantly, I think, is the fact that the cat apparently chose us.

When the cat settles down on my lap, purring and kneading its paws into my shirt, I realize that having a cat isn’t such a terrible thing after all.