Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why I like my cat better than most people

I am Annabel. Revel in my cuteness.
So, in the tradition of extraordinarily self-indulgent blog posts, I've decided to do a posting about something very near and dear to my heart: my cat, Annabel Lee.  (At the shelter, she was called Annabelle, but, being the morbid type that I am, I decided to name her after an Edgar Allan Poe poem about a dead girl.)
I adopted Annabel Lee from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington on September 12, 2010.  She was, at the time of her adoption, approximately six years old, and she had been taken into the shelter as a stray.  She's very well socialized.  She doesn't scratch or bite or chew on odd things or fail to make it to the litterbox.  I suspect that she had an owner, and the owner, rather than taking her to a shelter, dumped her out.  This infuriates me.  It's not the first time I've heard of something like this happening.

My friends, family, and coworkers were shocked that I adopted a cat because, up until that point, I had been terrified of cats.  I was attacked by two cats a few years ago--not strays, but house pets.  For years after that, I couldn't stand to be in the same room as a cat.  But I wanted a pet, and a dog simply wouldn't work with my schedule.  Plus, I couldn't stand the idea of being ruled by fear.  (It's the same reason I often volunteer to rent cars and drive in strange cities, even though I'm terrified of driving.)  So adopting a cat it was, even though I practically broke out in a cold sweat at the shelter.  I had read Annabel's profile online, and I thought her gentle disposition would be a good match for me.  (And just as a side note, the shelter staff was extraordinarily understanding when I told them that I wanted a gentle, easygoing cat, and I explained my fears.  I honestly thought they'd look at me like I was nuts and kick me out.)

Who, me?
The shelter staff brought Annabel out, warning me that she was often shy at first.  She came up to me, rubbed against my hand, started purring, and attempted to nuzzle my face.  I was hooked.

To be fair, I still, if asked, wouldn't call myself a "cat" person--in no small part because that label annoys the hell out of me.  I think people try to use whether you're a "cat" person or a "dog" person to say something about your personality, and I enjoy nothing more than defying such easy catagorization.  Also, I don't think it's fair.  Cat person, dog person, bird person, not-an-animal person, whatever.  So long as you're not kicking puppies or drowing kittens (or dumping them out on the side of the road when you decide you don't want them anymore), it's all good.

But I also wouldn't call myself a cat person because I'm still not comfortable with other people's cats.  It's not the bone-shaking fear of a few years ago, but more like...a healthy, wary respect.  I stay out of their way, and they stay out of mine.  Cats are, from what I understand, territorial creatures.  As am I.  I love Annabel not because she's a cat, but because she's my cat.

Which kind of brings me to the subject of this entry: why I like Annabel better than most people.

I am deeply cynical about the human race.  As a former extrovert who became a jaded introvert at a very early age, I find myself constantly on guard around people.  Most people are inherently self-serving; I'm certainly no exception.  If you're lucky, you'll have a few people in your life who will have your back.  But in most cases, what you'll find is that people are "fair weather friends."  Sure, they're there when things are easy and fun, but when things get more difficult...not so much.  There's nothing wrong with that, really.  Some people you're just not as close to, and you drift apart.

I have very little use for fair weather friends.  It's one thing to not be as close to someone, it's another to feign closeness when it doesn't really exist.  It's why I don't consider myself "close" to many people.

Furthermore, people always have their own agendas.  I work in an office.  Office politics are brutal.  I've seen some things go down recently that just enrage me...moreso, because my actions were the catalyst of some of these things.  I love how people can be all nice to your face, and then turn around and stab you in the back.  Why bother?  I mean, if you're going to take someone down, at least be straight about it.

Annabel likes to expand her mind by reading books and
watching soap operas.
Which brings me back to Annabel.  There is a complete and utter lack of artifice there.  She's a cat; what would she need artifice for?  When she's happy, she purrs and nuzzles me.  When she's unhappy, she snaps at me.  (Though she's rarely unhappy; she's quite the contented cat.)  When she doesn't want to be petted but she's willing to indulge me, she makes this noise that is the cat equivalent to an "ungh" with an eye roll.  When she's hungry or wants attention, she meows.  When she's near me and doesn't feel I'm paying her sufficient attention, she'll nudge her head/paw/body in between me and my Kindle/my computer/my iPhone until I pet her.  There's a delicious amount of selfishness to her behavior.  She wants what she wants.  She shows me what she wants.  I give it to her, or I don't.  (If she's trying to get me to pet her while I'm doing work, for example, I may not satisfy her desire.)  She gets happier, or she jumps off the couch or bed and moves on to something else.

She doesn't pretend to be happy when she's not.  She doesn't act nice to my face and then say things behind my back.  She isn't conspiring to "get" me.  I feed her and give her clean litter.  She sleeps on my chest and purrs in my ear.  It's a very straightforward relationship.  I don't have to feel constantly on my guard, listening to all the things she doesn't say or reading between the lines.

She doesn't hold grudges.  When I was away for a few days at Christmas, I had a friend come to feed her rather than putting her in a kennel.  When I came home, my normally docile Annabel ran into my lap and started going crazy nuzzling and head-butting me.  You'd have thought I was gone a month!  For weeks afterwards, Annabel would follow me all around the apartment.  She'd meow plaintively outside the door when I went into the bathroom.  I had to keep pushing her off my lap when I needed to work.  A human would have been angry that I left.  Annabel was just happy that I came back.

There are very few humans in this world with whom I feel I can totally let down my guard.  It's the constant back-and-forth, the dance of conversation, of interaction.  But with is what it is.  She is a reasonably content house cat, and I am an oft-grumpy human who sometimes prefers to lock herself away in her apartment with her Kindle than interacting with the rest of the world.  We dig each other.  It works for us.


Ryan said...

Awesome post beth! I agree that it's nice how animals lack all of those fake layers. Just the other day I was dealing with office politics shenanigans. Maybe next time I'll sit there grooming myself... I kid!

Beth Woodward said...

Thanks, Ryan! Hmmm, grooming yourself at the office...wouldn't be the first time I've seen someone doing that. (The people who whip out the nail clippers drive me NUTS!)