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Things I Learned From Adopting Cats Author: Tanner Meyer, MSW LMSW

Cats or dogs? One way or another, nearly everyone seems to have a strong opinion about this debate. My entire life I have been an animal person, rescuing ducklings and fish and frogs, bringing home strays, spending hours at the Human Society volunteering, so I’ve never really had a favorite. But, I was raised with dogs, so I knew them best. They are nearly always excited to see you, greeting you when you walk in the door. They travel easier and are more social; you can go for walks or to an outdoor patio and they will happily tag along. And some even love to cuddle! I thought dogs were the bee’s knees.

Unfortunately for my parents, I persistently asked for a cat growing up. My dad, though, is allergic, and my mom just couldn’t be persuaded. Believe me, I tried everything. I even brought home 3 different kittens, all to be sent to the shelter or rehomed. Until one day, finally, I impulsively adopted an adult cat, brought him home, and no one made me return him.

The excitement lasted about an hour. He escaped the crate the shelter put him in. He screamed the whole drive home. He was terrified of my dog, (who also was not too fond of the cat) and he lived under my bed for the first week or more. I began to panic and cry; I had no idea how to take care of a cat who seemed so unhappy. I had no idea what I was doing. My cat, Marley, had to teach me how to take care of him. Here are 3 things he taught me:

  1. Patience

For the first few months, we just coexisted with one another. He did his own thing, I did my own thing, two roommates trying to learn how to live with each other. We were not bonding. I cared about him, as a living, breathing, dependent thing. But I didn’t love him, and I think I can be quoted a time or two to have said “If he ran out the door one day, I don’t think I’d be sad”.

He would never chill out in the same room I was in, preferring solitude of an empty room, under a couch or bed. I desperately wanted to have him curl in my lap, purring and ‘making biscuits’ on my legs or chest. I missed the immediate connection I felt with my family dog, who loved me no matter what, and wanted to be at my hip wherever I was.

After what must have been nearly 6 months or more, I was sitting on the couch watching tv during the pandemic, and he joined me on the couch. Thanks to the pandemic, I sat on that couch every day for hours, and we started to spend more and more time there together. Then one day, he sat in my lap. And then he did it again. And again. And again. And then he even let me hold him. To this day, I am the only person he tolerates holding him.

Now, I’ve eaten my words. I am a cat person now. I would be gutted if he ran out the door and never came back.

2. Boundaries

Marley preferred, for many, many months, to avoid most human and animal contact. His best days were spent in empty rooms underneath beds or couches. When I would try and coax him out from under the bed, he would hiss. When I picked him up, he would wiggle away, one time even biting me. And sometimes, as is characteristic of cats, he would allow me to pet him, but when I pet him for a second too long, he would gently sink his teeth into my hand, my sign that he had had enough.

At first this was off-putting for me, and nearly unpredictable. When dogs want attention, they want it in endless supply. I could go pester my dog with a rub or a pat or a hug or a kiss or a snuggle and he would comply, sometimes with a sigh, other times with a tail wag and a lick. But Marley didn’t seem