I Became a Cat Lady By Accident

As a self-proclaimed "dog person," I never expected to discover a fondness for felines.

I was never a cat lady; I grew up with dogs only. My first cat came as a surprise when a colleague said he was giving his cat up, since they really didn’t like each other. The cat was named Santos and he was pure black with copper eyes. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I said I’d take him—and the battle to get along began. He stayed on one side of the condo and I stayed on the other. If I approached him, he would hiss and try to slash at me. I took the hint and let him be. At night, I started to feel him come onto my bed—as long as I didn’t acknowledge him. By morning, he was gone again.

Slowly but surely we bonded and he became my best friend. He had a “charming” habit of expressing his love for me by head-butting my nose. It was a less than ideal way to wake up. He grew to a massive size—12 pounds of lean panther, and so long that when he draped himself across my shoulders, his head and feet would hang down to my chest. The vet loved him, too, as he would jump onto her shoulders and she would wear him like a scarf.

“Sans” seemed lonely when I went to work, so I set out in search of a friend for him. At the SPCA, I started to look at kittens. One was hanging upside down on the bars of his cage, screaming at people. He was black with a little white spot on his chest. Unable to get him out of my thoughts, two days later, I returned and brought him—my little Zac—home to meet Sans. Zac was sweet and small, and once he was home, he stopped screaming. Sans took one look at him and whacked him, hissed and bit me on the ankle. Needless to say, he was not impressed. For the next two weeks, Sans terrorized poor Zac. If Zac was sleeping, Sans would do a drive-by, whacking him on the head and running off. Zac finally started to sleep under my hair for protection.

Eventually they bonded, and all was happy in the house. Sadly, Sans got really sick and I had to say goodbye to him. I was crushed; this unexpected creature had worked his way into my life and I was so sad to see him go. Zac had always had him as a buddy, and soon went into a depression. He refused to come out from under the bed and he stopped eating. I was so worried, I decided to start looking for a new friend for him.

I learned that neighbours of a friend had a litter they were giving away. I went to see the kittens: there were two black ones, one white-and-grey and one orange. They were only four weeks old, so they wouldn’t be released for another two weeks. I focused on the black kittens but was told that they were already promised to others. I felt a tug on my back leg but ignored it. I thanked the people, and was leaving when the white-and-grey kitten climbed up the back of my leg, skittered across my back, clawed herself up my chest and proceeded to suck on my lower lip. I had been chosen—and I was fine with it.

NewtDeb Sandau
Newt soaking up some sunshine.

Two weeks later, I brought the kitten, Newt, home. Zac was instantly intrigued; I’m sure he figured that she would be his to boss around. Oh, how wrong he was! She pushed him around and set about claiming the entire apartment. But he loved to groom her, and she loved it in return, so they bonded quickly.

Suddenly, Newt was lethargic, shedding hair and miserable. I tucked her into my pocket and took the bus to the vet. He told me not to hold out too much hope. He said she had a bladder infection and gave me the medicine for free, with a reminder that cats have nine lives and a hope that this was just one of them. I was crushed; she’d quickly become my shadow and was a great snuggle bug. While Zac loved to sit under the lampshade and stare at the bulb, Newt was always on my chest, purring.

More Kitties to Come?

For three days I gave Newt her pills. Each time I came home from work, I was scared of what I’d find. On the fourth day, when I got home, she wasn’t on the couch. I looked high and low but couldn’t find her. Zac was screaming his head off, pacing back and forth under the window. Frantic, I was trying to figure out if she could have slipped out of the apartment. I then heard a chirp. I looked up and there was Newt. She was on top of the curtains, looking down at me. She leaped off and landed in my arms, purring and nuzzling my chin. From that day on, she ran instead of walked, bounced, fetched tinfoil balls and snoozed in my workboots, head down. She would lay in front of the fireplace, soaking up the heat till she singed her fur. I would come home to find ash everywhere, my once white-and-grey cat now a charcoal ball with claws.

When I met Dave, my future husband, Newt was enthralled by him. She’d lie on his chest as he napped, looking down his throat, and then would look at me in shock. He snored and it was nothing she’d ever heard before. She tucked her head under his chin and purred as loudly as she could. She loved him so much, she would wear his dirty work socks around her head like a bonnet as she walked down the hallway. If one fell off, she’d drag it into the living room like it was her kill. Those socks certainly stank like a dead animal, so I can understand her confusion.

Cat Lady - FoozDeb Sandau
Foozball (“Fooz”) lounging.

When Zac passed away, Newt was devastated. Her grooming buddy was gone, so I had to find her a new friend. Enter Foozball. He came into the house like a tornado and never stopped. He was black, lean and a total snob to most people. He loved our dog Brynn and the two would take turns chasing each other around the house and then box around the chairs.

Cat And Dog PlayingDeb Sandau
Fooz playing with Brynn the dog.

From one spontaneous offer to take a cat, I’ve been lucky to have enjoyed four so far. Each has left me with some wonderful memories. Each had their own personalities and quirks that made them unique. I don’t have any at this moment. I am still trying to convince Dave that we could get another one. So far, he has not been receptive to my whining. I can’t say my cat days are over: If I find the right one again, the one that picks me, how can I say no?

Next, read the heartwarming story of a woman who adopted her first dog at 65—and forged a powerful bond.

Originally Published in Our Canada