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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: When you are old, your children shall buy you cats

Andrew Kreider
Andrew Kreider's cat, Mo

Cats are not dogs.

For fifteen years, as long as the kids were at home, we had a dog around the house. I get dogs. They are simple to understand, and for the most part, they are happy to be understood.

During the COVID lockdowns, I had all the kids home again. One of them brought along a goofy dog named Teo. Teo has the body of a black lab and the legs of something much shorter. He is a chronically anxious bean, who chews his bone obsessively and constantly asks for belly rubs. He is the friendliest companion you will ever meet, and will wiggle at you for minutes on end when you come home at the end of the day. Teo is my best buddy. But I knew he wouldn’t stay forever.

In preparation for leaving me alone again, the kids decided that I was going to need a companion to replace Teo. And that this companion should be not another dog, but a new cat. There was no discussion with me about this. They simply decided for me. This, I reflected, must be what it’s like to get older. Your kids start buying you animals without consultation.

I put up a good fight, arguing irascibly about the burden, the responsibility, the fuss – all the while secretly enjoying the prospect of getting a new member of the household. Day by day, I would receive emails with pictures of possible matches that the kids had found on the websites of the local animal shelters.

Finally, just before the kids all left, we took the plunge and filled out an adoption application at a local shelter. A short while later, I received the news that I had passed muster, and was welcome to come and choose a new cat. My daughter was nominated to go with me – and so we set out with full hearts and an empty back seat.

At the shelter, I made the mistake of telling the cat adoption expert that I was concerned about a cat getting lonely in my house when I was at work. Without missing a beat she smiled and replied: Well, why not adopt two cats? They can keep each other company. I was trapped! As the English say, In for a penny, in for a pound.

As we speed-dated around the shelter, two cats stuck out. One was a stern-eyed tabby with a beautiful sleak coat. The other a tiny white and grey kitten with a pink nose and a striking ring tail. It was an easy choice. And so, just like that, Mozart the tabby, and Peppercorn the kitten, came into my life. In short order, we were driving home with two yowling cardboard carriers bouncing around in the back seat. How do I do this? I asked. I hadn’t felt this inadequate since we brought our first child home from the hospital.

I had a lot to learn. Mo and Pep didn’t behave like dogs. They wouldn’t come when I called. They climbed on top of every cupboard and burrowed under the furniture. When I wanted to find them, I couldn’t. And when I wasn’t expecting it, I would almost step on one. These were not exactly great companions.

In my confusion, I turned to the Internet. After reading many articles, I came to an important realization. Cats are not Dogs. They don’t chew obsessively on bones, and they don’t wiggle at you when you walk in the door. If Mo and Pep were going to be my new family, it was going to be on their terms, and in their time.

So, I gave up trying to make friends. I put out food and water, cleaned the litter box daily, and decided to just ignore the girls. In response, the girls also ignored me. They alternated between sleeping languorously in the morning sun and then chasing each other at Red Bull speed around the living room. But over the days that followed, things started to change, ever so slowly. I began to notice that Mo was following me around the house – stealthily. I would turn around in the hallway and catch sight of her eyes, narrowed in the shadows. As if she was hunting me.

And then one night, as I was stretched out in an easy chair in front of the TV, it happened. Very quietly, a tiger-striped shadow passed across the couch. There was a whisper in the air, and then THUMP! four paws landed on my chest. I looked down into a pair of green eyes, blinking slowly at me, while the chair shook with a deep rumbling purr. Mo had caught me. From the top of the bookcase, Pep looked on with amusement.

So it seems I now belong to two cats. They are decidedly not dogs. Their names are Mozart and Peppercorn.

Music: "Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67, The Cat" by Sergei Prokofiev