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November 19, 2013 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick
Last week was a big week for introductions for me. I met the two newest members of my family: Cats newly adopted by my son and his girlfriend and by my daughter. My son's cat is Phoebe (nickname Smelly Cat) and my daughter renamed her cat Cat (nickname . . . um, . . . Cat).
We've always been a dog family. Cats have come into the periphery of our family several times, but they were kept at bay by my husband's claim to have allergies (the same reason he uses to keep us in artificial Christmas trees, away from state fairs, and out of Michigan altogether).
In 1999, we came very close to convincing him to let us keep Bridges, a stray kitten who entertained herself by walking under any leg, arm or curved piece of plastic that formed an overpass, and entertained us by stalking her reflection in the broiler door. But then someone sneezed on NYPD Blue, my husband snapped out of his daze, and that was shut down. We gave Bridges to the piano teacher, who renamed her Linus, fattened her up, and moved to north Jersey.
We embarked upon a lifetime of one dog after another and forgot the cat idea.
Until last month.
My daughter decided she needed a low-maintenance roommate, so she started looking for a cat at the exact same time that my friend Toni was moving and needed to find a home for hers. Meanwhile, my son and his girlfriend decided they needed a four-legged companion and adopted Phoebe from a shelter foster home. These two cats are polar opposites. I'm not sure they're in the same species.
First I visited my daughter. It was 48 hours before the cat would even come out from under the bed while I was in the apartment. One night I got up to go to the bathroom and glanced into the living room and there was Cat, sauntering around unawares. When she saw me she froze - and I mean froze - mid-step, until I walked into the bedroom and shut the door.
I didn't see Cat again until it was time to take her to the vet. My daughter was the captor and I was the assistant captor, relegated to approaching the capture process with the carrier and then backing off when the cat freaked out, scratching my daughter to ribbons and causing other secondary injuries. Despite my ancillary role, the cat insisted on associating me with the whole nightmarish incident. I doubt I'll ever see Cat again. Her last words to me were a quiet but pointed hiss.
"She's really very sweet," my daughter said, "to me. When it's just me and her here, she lets me pet her and she's really, really nice. To me."
Next I went to my son's apartment. Phoebe greeted me at the door, poked her nose into my camera bag, and was trying to figure out how to search my pockets. She let me swish the ribbons-and-feathers-on-a-stick and performed tricks such as jumping all around the room, chasing the laser, closing the blinds with one paw, and participated in a group activity: putting a Lord of the Rings jigsaw puzzle together. I blame her for the temporary loss of tiny Viggo Mortensen's head, which wasn't found until after I left town. Phoebe was seen swiping at the puzzle pieces. You do the math.
They're not dogs, new in-laws or babies, but as far as new family members go, these are two cool cats. Hello, kitties. Welcome to the family.
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