It’s often said that "Dogs have owners, cats have staff."
Never knew just how true that was until I brought home a Bengal kitten for my daughter.
I had brought one in for my best friend years before and he wanted to get a second one, so I brought in two, and took the second one home, where he was christened Streaky Bell. The name of the cat was a compromise between my wife and daughter: Jackie wanted Streaky, the name of Supergirl’s cat, and eight-year-old Mary wanted Bell after her favourite inventor (Dad doesn’t get a say). Odd coincidence, my daughter has Crohn’s, and wouldn’t you know, Streaky has Colitis. He was meant to be with us.
I wasn’t sure how the dynamic of a male cat and a female Schnauzer would turn out, but quickly found that everything under two feet was dog territory, and everything above, the cat was free to roam. Getting from one elevated position to another meant that paths crossed occasionally, but scuffles were short-lived and relatively damage free.
We had a cat when I was a kid, but it was one of those "I’m here, feed me, OK thanks, I’m leaving now" arrangements. Not really a pet. Streaky is an indoor cat, and never shies away from letting us know what he needs. Hence, my daughter is staff now, and to a lesser extent, me.
I’m not saying it’s a bad job, the hours are short and the pay can be very good. On a chilly winter evening, it rarely takes a minute from sitting down before I have a lapwarmer. And the simplest toys with a little catnip added (I keep an assortment of toys in a Tupperware container loaded with catnip, rotating them for freshness) can lead to hours of comedy. And a toy on the end of a string is an interactive session of fun.
But cat "ownership" can come with some cautionary tales. Did you know that some cats like bread? Like it well enough to open up cupboards and drag loaves out? Streaky thinks that the strip along the centre of the top of a loaf of bread is delicious, and ignores the rest, either leaving it on the counter for us to find, or knocking it onto the floor for Zoe to finish. We now have child locks on any cupboard containing any kind of baked goods.
My wife Jackie isn’t Streaky’s biggest fan, being allergic to cats. We use Allerpet on him, which works most of the time, but when it’s wearing off, he tends to sit on the couch behind Jackie without her realizing it. Soon enough, her nose starts to twitch, and she turns around to see him sitting there, all Cheshire Cat like. I get that look, and go get the Allerpet and reapply it. I do catch her complimenting the handsome boy often though, and he collects his fair share of head scratches from her.
He is part of the family, his woes and joys shared with us all, and we’re richer for his being here.