I am not a cat person. Which isn’t to say I’ve never owned a cat. I have, but I’ve never really enjoyed having a cat around. I just like other pets more. I’ve had a variety of pets, and they’ve always been of the more playful variety — birds, dwarf hamsters, and even a chinchilla. But I never wanted a cat again. Cats are indifferent. They’re not cuddly. They’re bossy, demanding, and they make your apartment smell. Also, I think I’m mildly allergic to cats, although I don’t know if it’s their dander that makes me stuffy or just the dust that seems to accumulate in those crazy cat-peoples’ homes.
My partner Tim, however, loves cats. He thinks they’re smart, he thinks they’re cute, and it was his dream that when we found a place together we could add a kitty to our little family. Of course I was eager to move in together, so I agreed we could “think about it,” but I was really hoping that I could delay that decision as long as possible. I didn’t think I could be happy with a cat in the house. The things we agree to for love, am I right?
But over time, instead of dreading the day we brought a cat home, I started to wonder if I could make the decision my own. You know, add a personal flair to our choice of cat so that even if this wasn’t my first choice of pet I’d still be excited to see it when I came home. So I started researching cat breeds to see if there were any I found genuinely cute. I learned that there are some cats I actually don’t mind; in particular, I find long-haired cats to be extremely cute. But even with a long-haired cat, I reasoned, I’d be miserable if my allergies acted up all the time. On a whim I looked up if there was such thing as a hypoallergenic cat. Turns out that there are a variety of breeds that are easier on the allergies than other. And some breeds were even cute! I began to wonder, just how far could I could customize my new pet?
I next researched different breed’s dispositions. Was there any way I could safeguard against opening my home to a cranky, bossy lump on a log? I was afraid our new cat’s disposition might change the otherwise cheerful dynamic in the house. And I didn’t want our cheerful chatter to annoy a pet who preferred quiet. Yet at the same time, I wanted to add “lap cat” to my search terms. I realized that, as a full-time student, I was going to want a pet who didn’t want to play all the time, but who had a gentle enough demeanor that I could have quiet time and work on my dissertation when I needed to. I also imagined it might be quite picturesque to have a sleeping pet warm my lap in the winter while I type away.
So in all, I was looking for a cute, hypoallergenic, playful cat who also understood the importance of downtime. I thought for sure I was seeking an impossible combination. Perhaps I just had to convince Tim that a cat wouldn’t work for us.
Then I found the ragdoll. This gorgeous breed met all my conditions and then some. Outrageously cute, playful, and hypoallergenic, the breed gets its name from these cats’ tendency to flop when you hold them, making them a perfect lap cat. On top of these great qualities, they’re very trusting so they’re friendly to strangers (great when entertaining guests), and they’re naturally gentle so they have a soft meow and they never bite or use their claws (saving your furniture and curtains from certain destruction). Tim was thrilled I’d found a cat I liked, so we kept our eyes open for an available ragdoll kitten.
Mushu entered our lives on a brisk autumn day last year. He’s an ultra-dilute lilac lynx ragdoll, which means he’s all white with the softest silver on his ears and nose. His ice-blue eyes have a soft tint of lavender. He’s absolutely magical. And as the breed grows for a full three years, he will eventually become a giant, fluffy cat, which I think is also pretty magical. He has a fetish for wool socks, he will fetch and return a toy if you throw it for him, and the best part is he comes when you call his name. He’s the happiest little guy and he’s always up for a good time. Even my friends who aren’t feline friendly agree that he’s the best cat in the world — more like a puppy than a kitten. When they visit, they even ask for the catnip bubbles so they can play with him.
I never anticipated how much Mushu would change my life. I’m not exaggerating when I say I think he’s changed me as a person, simply by changing my habits. For example, he enforces quiet time. As a doctoral student, I can easily (and do) work around the clock, reading and writing through the night without taking any personal time for myself. But with Mushu around, there is a new sense of urgency to relax at the end of the day. Moosh expects his snuggles on the couch at around 9pm and he won’t leave me alone until he gets them. And I miss those 9pm snuggles when I work too long. This was merely cute at first, but I’ve begun to realize it is very beneficial for me to prioritize daily down time.
And our cat doesn’t just take, he gives, too. Mushu is our patrol guard. He takes the intrusion of a fly very personally, and will not rest until he has eliminated the intruder and our home is pest-free. I appreciate this immensely because I wouldn’t be able to read if there was buzzing in the house but don’t have the patience to hunt it down myself. I never thought I’d see a cat as a contributing member of the family, but there you have it.
As he is a new and contributing member of the family, over the past few months I have found myself considering his needs in a way I never thought I would. Mostly I wonder if he’s lonely for another cat to play with. Like an only child, he is dependent on Tim and me for all his social interactions, and often we don’t have time to play. As Cindy, his previous owner told me, without companionship, Mushu would “wilt like a flower.” I’ve begun to sense a change in his energy levels in the last few months, and I wonder if it’s because he’s lonely. I needed time to work, and he needed a friend, which is how I, a “non-cat person,” started to wonder if, it would’t be so bad to get a second cat…
Stay tuned for part deux…….but as the curtain closes for now; Mushu brought something extraordinary to my life that I didn’t even realize I needed. I wonder how many other people out there are missing out on something special?
Comments Welcome! Have you ever had a pet enter your life that you were not interested in only to find that you fell in love with them?