WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM JOEY THE CAT

My wife and I have been married for a very long time; but, no, it’s not true, that our wedding took place right after Lincoln’s second inauguration. Anyway, the key to making  a relationship last as long as ours has, is compromise. Each partner has to be willing to give a little when there are differences of opinion in approaching or handling various situations. Compromise is the key to a successful relationship. For example, some years back my wife wanted to get a cat. I didn’t want a cat, mainly because of my allergies. So we compromised…….and got a cat.

During our younger years we had dogs for pets; but as we we aged, cats appeared to be the wiser choice. After all, cats didn’t need to be walked at 10 or 11 at night, especially in the freezing winters with snow and ice, that we experienced when living back East in our younger days. So as we grew older, we acquired a kitten while still living on the East Coast, and moved her with us, when we relocated to Las Vegas. This little kitten grew into a healthy, mature cat,  and gave us great pleasure and enjoyment for 18 and a quarter years until she died. We were naturally devastated at her loss, as if a member of the immediate family had died. (As a side note, any pet owner has to know ahead of time that when they decide to acquire that cute puppy or kitten, it’s all going to end badly. At some point, you will likely outlive your pet and experience a broken heart when it dies.) And so it was with us. We then went 3 years with no little furry creature running around the house; until my wife, one day decided that she could no longer take it- not having a pet in our household.

She had read in the local paper that Best Friends Animal Society was giving away free kittens at a local pet store, and that’s where we needed to proceed to. Immediately.  (As it turned out, these free cats were at best, semi-free, since we had to pay various fees associated with the cat’s inoculations, spaying, etc.) But this is where we found a 12-week-old, white and grey kitten with big blue eyes, that we decided to adopt. They told us that the kitten was a boy, and we were too oblivious to check further, so we named him Joey. Several days after bringing “him” home it finally dawned on us to more closely examine the cat’s gender. It was then that we became aware that “he” was really a girl; but we figured that the name Joey could also be considered female. So Joey it was. They had put the kitten in a small shoe box with handles and air vents, gave us a small bag of toys, and wished us good luck as we rode home with our new pet.

Right from the beginning, Joey made her presence known. I don’t think our previous cat had uttered more than half a dozen meows in the 18 plus years she lived with us. But this new cat started meowing, (or “kvetching” as my wife put it) right from the get-go.  The first morning after we brought her home, she wandered through the house crying her little head off. I finally figured out why. For all of her 12 weeks of existence, she had been surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of stray cats in the animal shelter where she lived. These included her mother and her siblings. Now, suddenly, there were no cats-only these 2 big,  strange, looming figures.  What had happened to all her little friends and family?But the thing about cats (and dogs too) is that they adjust very quickly to new circumstances. In no time, it seemed, she became very comfortable with us. Cats have been bred over many thousands of years to be simpatico with humans and it shows in their behavior. Since there are no other cats around it became incumbent upon us to be her playmates, such as chasing around the house, or throwing toy mice for her to run after. Sometimes I engage in roughhousing with her and she will take my fingers in her mouth as if to bite down in retaliation. But it’s only pretend and she never can bring herself to actually bite.

I have learned that if you treat these little animals with affection, they will unabashedly give you their hearts. The older I get, the more I seem to appreciate the company of animals and less of people. With people, and especially with guys, it’s all about appearances and pretenses. No matter how much turmoil, or despair, or anguish a guy might be suffering through, he will almost always put on this front that says-“Oh yeah, I’m swinging, man. If life was any better, my body couldn’t take it.” It’s always about facades and pretenses to present to the rest of the world. But with animals, what you get is what you see. Their very innocence precludes them from any sort of affectation.

Joey is 7 years old now, middle-age for cats. She never hesitates to kvetch about some displeasure, like forgetting to give her treats, or not taking her out for playtime. She is so attached to us, that it’s painful to leave her the few times a year we travel, even though we hire a cat-sitter. I think if I had it to do all over again, I would engage my life’s energies in working with animals. I have great admiration for those people who work to save endangered species,  especially from the butchery caused by the greed and selfishness of those that would kill elephants, for example, to obtain the ivory in their tusks. I also admire those whose daily job is simply to care for abused and homeless animals. ( I would hope that the ninth circle of Hell, as described in “Dante’s Inferno”, is reserved for animal abusers.) I believe there is great personal reward in devoting one’s life toward these ends.

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