This summer Paul and I are house-sitting for a faculty couple while they are in Italy. The house comes equipped with a swimming pool, and a long haired cat with kind of a hare lip, named Pouts. I’ve never really been a cat person, though the cats of friends generally innocuous enough. I’ve always thought that more time around any specific cat would lead to some greater affection on my part. I am now questioning this.
So far Pouts and I have been cordial. I scoop her litter box, and wipe up the occasional hairball/vomit. She brushes against me once or twice when I come home, and swats her tail, sending pieces of spider-web like fur drifting through the air each time, despite daily brushing. Sometime I try dangling a catnip toy, or a little ball with a bell inside. She yawns, lies down, and looks the other way. I don’t press the issue, because really, the little jingle ball doesn’t interest me that much either.
And then yesterday I felt we had a little bonding moment; she came and kneaded my leg while I read a book on the bed and I thought, hmmm, this is not unpleasant . Soon after, I left the bedroom to find little pieces of poop up and down the hallway. This is apparently a sign of displeasure from cats. I certainly got the overall message, but wasn’t sure what provoked it. Her box had been cleaned that morning, her food had been timely, petting and brushing perhaps even more so than usual, what-up? Then it occurred to me, perhaps she could sense my ambivalence! Maybe she knows I don’t really love her, and that’s why there’s poop on my floor!
“Should I feel guilty for my lack of maternal instinct?” I ask my cat-loving friends. No, they tell me, it’s not me, it is the cat in my charge. “Pouts is without charm,” they say, “not like our cats who are amazing and cute and laden with personality.” As tactfully as possible, I remind them that the enchanting properties they speak of in their own animals are also not so readily apparent to me. They say it will be different if I ever have my own cat. I will be intensely in love with it. “You mean when the hormones kick in?” I ask. Something like that, they say.