Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cat Love: Unrequited


“You adopted a kitten?” asked the woman behind the cash register.
“He’s five years old so technically he’s not a kitten anymore—”
“You adopted an adult male cat?” she gasped peering at me over her reading glasses. 
“Yes and my husband thinks I’m stupid for—”
“Bless you, woman!”

I was at the local bookstore buying a gift for my friend when, before I knew it, I was knee deep in a cat discussion with the bookseller.  She had rescued four cats of her own and insisted they—like all rescues—were happy just to have been adopted into a good home. 

“It makes rescue cats want to be cuddled.” 
“Not mine,” I said.
“Give him what they love and he’ll love you,” she said nodding vigorously, which seemed to contradict her theory of cats being happy just to have been rescued. 

But, then, what did I know?  I wasn’t a born cat lover like her.  She jotted down the names of the cat litter, food and toys she swore by and pressed the slip of paper into my palm.  Since adopting Jackson was still such a new thing, I was thankful to get advice from any enthusiastic, successful cat owner.  I thanked her warmly and on my way home, took a detour. 

Pet stores have a distinct smell I can only equate with “zoo”.  Scanning the shelves I noticed all the brands the bookseller had recommended contained the words “royal”, “majesty” and “your highness”.  Even the cat food labels were purple—the color of Old World, moneyed royalty.  In fact there was a direct correlation between the more purple on the label, the more green I had to spend to buy it.  But if the bookseller was right, this chi-chi food might be the way to Jackson’s heart and help him cuddle up to Mr. Wonderful and me.  I scooped up all the suggested cat items and charged them to my credit card.

At home I spooned the can of moist food into his bowl.  I refilled his domed litter box with clumping, lavender scents.  I lay the catnip-filled toy on the kitchen floor beside the scratch lounger.  Then I made a pot of tea and waited.  

Sometime after nine PM Jackson slunk out from behind our bedroom door and into the kitchen.  He skirted the table where I sat with Mr. Wonderful, then sniffed his food and ate a few bites.  Then avoiding us, he slunk back to our bedroom.

Following him I found he’d resumed his spot sitting in the small corner behind the door.  I whispered to him, I stroked his fur.  I treated him like the royal prince the food company told me he was.  In response he looked at me with a blank stare. 


Then I realized this cat was different.  His love wasn't for sale.