I’m more of a dog person at heart than a cat person. My family had only one cat once while I was very young, but dogs were a constant presence in the house. So when my wife and I had a home and furkids of our own, I was quite content that they were both of the canine persuasion.
Occasionally, my wife would ask about getting a cat. While she had grown up with dogs like me, she also had experiences owning a cat. So many need good homes, she would remind me.
“Can we afford one?” I’d ask her. Our oldest, Rupert, was already a senior citizen and on a twice-daily arthritis pill along with ever-more-frequent vet needs. Not cheap. We would talk about it, and then decide that maybe later we could look into adopting a cat from the humane society during one of their periodic drives.
One sunny summer morning the decision was made for us.
After returning from the park with our dogs, we went around back to wash off their playtime dirt and muck. Before we could get started, both dogs bolted for the back fence, and from the overgrowth on the other side we could clearly hear a tiny throat mewing at around 90 decibels.
Our back fence separates the yard from a loading dock area for a large hospital, and there is, by design, no way through. We had to climb back in the car and get around to the other side, then listen for the miserable sounds until we located the source.
A tiny grey and black striped kitten with white splotches, looking scared out of its mind, was in the honeysuckle growing on the fence. My wife held up the towel she had brought from the dogs’ bath pile and directed me to try to shoo the kitten toward her.
Kitten had other plans. It bolted, and we followed. Half an hour later we finally managed to rescue it from under the hospital’s industrial-size trash dumpster. From the few that saw us, I’m sure the hospital staff had interesting conversations that morning.
We brought Kitten into the sunroom on the back of our house and started feeding it tuna. I already knew that my wife would want to keep it, and I was starting to wonder how the dogs would feel about this. Rupert was a bit territorial. He was just about the calmest and most loving male I’d ever known, but he would practically bark foam from his mouth whenever he saw a neighborhood cat set paw on his yard through the front window. I could only guess what he might do if we brought a cat inside the house.
The next day I took our new arrival to the vet for a first exam. With no collar or tags, we checked for a microchip, and then got shots, deworming and a leukemia test, and I learned that Kitten was male and no more than 10 weeks old. I got a lot of advice from the staff about introducing him to the dogs, but for the time being we confined him to a room in the basement for box training. As he learned to use his box, his territory gradually expanded until we ran out of doors to close and realized that it was time to let him have the run of the house. Gandalf, as my wife had named him, had to meet the dogs.
As my wife set down in the living room with Gandalf on her lap, I carefully let the dogs approach him. They had been catching his scent under basement doors for a couple of weeks, but this was the first face-to-face meeting. I held my breath. Rupert went directly to my wife and the big-eyed little kitten in her lap. He put his nose up to Gandalf, took a deep sniff, and his tail went rigid. I held my breath.
Rupert began licking Gandalf, faster and faster. He was cleaning the kitten! Rupert didn’t seem to know where to look, but his tail was wagging so fast that he almost lost his balance. Gandalf was getting downright waterlogged. I usually only saw Rupert get this excited when it was time for food or for the park, but it became clear that Rupert was having a great day. He didn’t know how it had happened, but from the look on his face, I could tell: Rupert had just become a dad.
Gordon Murray is a make-believe grown-up from Wichita, Kansas, who is often confounded by the behavior of his two dogs and cat, and feels compelled to share his experiences with complete strangers. He's pretty sure that the cat would kill him if the money was good enough.