This is a story I wrote several years ago. It's my Valentine to my friends,
especially my friends with cats as family members.
especially my friends with cats as family members.
“You should get a kitten,” my daughter said as she pushed another cardboard box in the back of her little hatchback.
Donna still looked like my little girl to me – all curly red hair and freckles. But she really was a young woman going out into the world – leaving for college two hundred miles away from me.
“Yeah, a kitten,” Donna repeated. Her departure was just moments away and the pull at my heart was not getting any easier.
“I mean, Mom, Dad’s gone and you had to put Snuggles down…”
Snuggles, an old tabby rescued, as a kitten from the local shelter, had been her cat.
Now I could see where this was going. Following her father’s death when she was twelve, I had made my daughter the center of my life. Now she was going off to college and even the family cat was gone.
“I’ll be fine,” I assured her, not really believing it myself. “I have my job. Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Ed are nearby…”
“You already spend too much time at the hospital,” Donna said. I had to admit that being the nursing supervisor was a time-consuming job. “And,” she continued, “you really should start to date again.”
In the six years since Karl’s death I had made a few small stabs at the dating game, but was not impressed with what I’d found.
I shrugged. “Maybe,” I said.
“Think about it, Mom. Save a little kitten from the shelter.” She really knew how to get to me.
“I’ll think about it,” I said, remembering how comforting it was to have a purring Snuggles curled up in my lap.
A while later she was gone and I was alone. I called the shelter.
That was how Murray, a gray and white kitten, came into my life. By spring Murray had grown into a large, happy cat with just one problem: Murray did not like any men.
I’d found out Murray’s distinct dislike of the human male the day I had to call in a plumber to fix a leak under my kitchen sink. The plumber was looking at the leaking pipe. I was in living room, reading. I had just come to an exciting part of the book when I heard an ear-shattering scream, a clunk and extreme swearing.
Within seconds the plumber was suddenly packing up his tools to leave, saying in no uncertain terms that he was not working for a woman who had a wild animal as a pet. Something had hissed at him and jumped on his back, claws digging in, causing him to raise his head and bang it on the underside of the sink.
The “wild animal” was sitting on the back of my sofa, ears back and tail straight out watching narrow-eyed as the plumber walked out the door. “Bad cat,” I said to the offender who purred to be petted.
Ed, my brother-in-law, fared no better with Murray. If Ed visited with my sister, Sylvie, Murray would tolerate him from a distance. But if poor Ed came alone – like he did to fix the leaking pipe the plumber had abandoned – he was greeted with hisses and Murray backing away, head down and rump up. “Something’s wrong with that cat,” Ed would say, shaking his head.
I finally had to accept that I was living with a very jealous male – one with claws. With me Murray was a calm, loving animal, always ready to curl up in my lap or nap against me. I really looked forward to his green eyes looking up at me with love every evening when I came home.
After several months I’d almost forgotten about Murray’s behavior…that is until the evening I had my first date in years.
John, a divorced friend of Ed’s, asked me out for dinner, offering to pick me up at home. He seemed like a nice guy. Maybe this would work, I thought. I had forgotten about Murray.
When the doorbell rang, Murray was nowhere to be found. I walked down to the foyer of my bi-level and opened the door. John never made it up the stairs to the living room. Murray, lurking on the landing above the entranceway, whacked at my date’s head with claws out.
“What was that?” John exclaimed, barely missing the plumber’s fate.
“Just my cat,” I answered.
“Never did like cats,” John muttered. Dinner was our first and last date.
“You need an animal therapist,” Sylvie said after hearing about my bad first date.
“Like a cat whisper,” I laughed.
“Yeah,” she said seriously. “I think there’s one at the vet’s office. Don’t worry. It’s a woman.”
I made the appointment and with Murray tucked safely into his carrier went to the office. The receptionist ushered us into one of the rooms. The office was large, with several veterinarians and I always requested one of the female ones for Murray. Unfortunately this time a man walked into the examining room.
“I…I’m sorry,” I stammered, suddenly embarrassed. Was it because he was a man and I was worried about Murray’s reaction? Or was it his handsome face with the silvery mustache? Maybe it was the bright blue eyes that seemed to smile at me?
He looked at me and then looked at the carrier. I had been opening it when he came in. I stopped, afraid of the wild animal inside. “I’m Patrick Ross. I just joined the practice. I’m an animal behaviorist.”
“I thought you were a woman…” I stammered again and he laughed.
“You had an appointment with Gretchen. She had a family emergency and I’m filling in.” He turned the carrier around to look in the opening and I braced myself, imagining flying claws. “Just what seems to be this handsome young man’s problem?”
As he went to open the door to let the tiger out, I put my hand on his to stop him and immediately noticed no wedding band. Again embarrassed, I jerked my hand away and said. “It’s just that…that…Murray…”
Too late. Patrick Ross had opened the carrier and was gently taking out a docile large gray and white cat. Where was my cat? What happened to my Murray?
“So, you don’t like other men around your Momma,” Patrick was saying while holding Murray to his chest and scratching his ears. Murray’s rumbling purr was loud and I felt like a fool.
“Not until now,” I said to save face.
“Did his bad behavior happen at home?” Patrick asked, those blue eyes holding mine.
“Hmmm…yes,” I said.
He held Murray up and gazed into his face. “Could be territorial instincts,” he said. He looked at me. “Maybe we need to do this on his own turf.”
“Okay,” I mumbled.
“I can come over later tonight and see how he acts with me there. Would that be all right?”
Come over anytime, I thought as I looked at that ruggedly handsome face. But I said, “Yes. That’s fine.”
That night when I opened the door to Patrick, Murray was in the foyer ready to greet the guest. My big bad cat rubbed Patrick’s legs and purred loudly.
Patrick beamed at me. “Seems like he doesn’t have a problem with me,” he said smiling at me. “Maybe he just has good taste,” Patrick laughed.
I started to laugh, too. “Would you like some coffee? And I just made a cake.” I said.
“Homemade cake? I haven’t had homemade cake since…well, since my wife died last year. I’d love some.”
Patrick followed me into the kitchen. We sat at the kitchen table for more than an hour with coffee, cake and conversation until I thought of something.
“I wonder where Murray is,” I said.
Patrick laughed, “On my lap, sound asleep.”
Murray had made his choice and so had I.