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January 05, 2010


My wife loves cats. Me, not so much. So, naturally, the year before we were to be married, I decided to get her one for Christmas. That was almost 10 years ago. Looking back, I’m unsure as to where this bright idea originated. Maybe it was my way of proving to her I was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, and therefore was good husband material. Actually, she had already accepted my proposal, so I guess I would have to attribute it to an episode of pre-senile dementia.

Back then my dislike of cats had me convinced that I was actually allergic to them. So, after deciding to get her one, I started doing some research into cat breeds that were supposed to be hypoallergenic. I didn’t have any luck finding any of them in my area, but I did find someone who raised another breed. Somehow, somewhere during my extensive investigations into the world of cats, I was able to convince myself that as long as I got her a purebred, any purebred, I wouldn’t be allergic to them. I guess the idea of dropping several hundred dollars for one would somehow cure my allergy?

The breed I stumbled upon was a Snow Leopard Bengal. I called the number in the ad, and the lady gave me directions to her place. She also told me she only had one kitten left. As it was nearing Christmas, I figured I ‘d better hightail it over there, before someone else snatched up this fine example of purebred feline aristocracy.

He was cross-eyed, had a crooked tail and just looked like he wasn’t quite right in the head. But she still had no qualms charging me the full price for him; with the proviso that I not let him sire any offspring, due to his shortcomings. The last thing I wanted was to produce more cats, so I happily agreed, and wrote out a check for $300.

In my eagerness to get over there, I had forgot to bring anything to put him in for the 30-minute ride home. So I just put him down on the floorboard of my truck, hoping he would stay put. I barely avoided several accidents, as he was constantly getting underneath my feet as I was trying to drive. The repeated screeching of brakes, swerving, and me cursing a blue streak had both of us pretty harried by the time we got to the house.

It took a while before I could get him out from underneath the seat, and as soon as I got him inside, he made a mad dash and scooted under the couch, not to be seen again for the rest of the evening. Which was fine with me, as I needed to get to the pharmacy for some bandages and iodine for my hands.

It took a couple of weeks before he would come anywhere near me. It was just as well, as I had to keep him hidden whenever my girlfriend came over. He must’ve come out while I was at work, as the food I left for him would be gone, and there were droppings deposited in the litter box. And I was appreciative that he knew how to use the litter box. But when I was at home, the only sightings I would get were his head, poking out from beneath the couch, with a squirrelly look in those crossed eyes of his.

So finally Christmas eve arrives. After exchanging gifts, I told her I had a surprise for her. I told her to close her eyes, and hold out her hands. As she did this, I went to extricate Teddy from the guest bedroom, where I would put him whenever she came over. By now, he was fairly comfortable with me picking him up.

Sometimes you learn lessons quickly, sometimes it takes a while for something to sink in. This was one of those quick lessons: the gift giving routine of “close your eyes and hold out your hands” should really be reserved for inanimate objects. As soon as she felt something squirming and hairy being placed in her hands, she screamed, and threw her hands up, and he went flying across the room. He made a beeline for underneath the sofa. It was several weeks before anyone could get near him again.

Over the years, my aversion of cats, and his ambivalence towards me have both gravitated towards a middle ground of toleration, and even acceptance of one another. And he no longer has a crooked tail. A few years ago, when my daughter was two, she slammed his tail in the door, right where it was bent. Of course, it was several weeks before anyone could get near him again.