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How I survived Buddy, my daughter’s cat

Buddy the cat | Photo by John W. Fountain

He’s a cool cat. A black-and-white cat. Inquisitive and a tad bit sneaky, mysterious even. I still don’t know enough about him yet to call him your average cat.

But at least I can report that I survived Chicago the Cat, aka “Buddy,” during my trip last Thanksgiving to Seattle, where my eldest daughter and granddaughter live in the beloved land of Starbucks.

OPINION

I have admitted to having an aversion to cats. Partly it is the dog in me: the love for the adorable canine species and my conviction — after having been owner of four dogs of various breeds since I was a young pup — that a dog is still man’s best friend.

I became jaded about cats due to the bad PR and negative folklore that has cemented them in my mind as creepy, breath-sucking, evil-eyed creatures that likely patrol the gates of hell.

True or not, it kept me from ever desiring to be a cat owner. Indeed I had never spent more than a few uncomfortable minutes around the little critters. Until this past Thanksgiving.

My prolonged exposure to Felis catis wasn’t entirely by choice but fueled by love. I had forgotten that my daughter and granddaughter had a cat until after booking my flight. I confessed as much to my daughter with a chuckle. Buddy is a “good cat,” she had asserted.

But what if Buddy turned out to be a “bad” cat?

I needed a game plan for coexisting with Mr. Buddy, a short hair tabby mix.

Before I touched down, I Googled “cats” and “cat behavior.” I briefly studied up on their catty ways, their history, on how to “read” a cat.

Dogs are transparent. A wagging tail, a friendly bark or a growl. Cats are covert. Complicated.

How would I know whether Buddy even liked me? Whether he was plotting to scratch out my eyes while I slept?

Should I come bearing gifts? Catnip? Cans of tuna? A ball of yarn?

Much of what I read debunked the misinformation at the root of my bias, although one Google post warned that you should avoid staring into a cat’s eyes.

“Staring a cat right in the eyes is aggressive behavior. To help demonstrate your trust in a cat, you should either look away or blink slowly. …Cats will, in turn, close their eyes at you if they really trust you.”

Okay, so I was confused.

Don’t stare into a cat’s eyes. But if you do, blink slowly or look away. Or do stare into a cat’s eyes — long enough so you can see whether a cat closes its eyes, signaling trust.

Huh? What?

I arrived on a clear Seattle day, bearing no gifts for Buddy. He looked at me. I looked at him. “What’s up, Buddy?”

He kind of hunched and sauntered away. No meow.

I sat on the sofa. Buddy hopped up next to me. Soon he was following me throughout the house.

I stroked Buddy’s fur. He baited me with coy compliance, lying on his back as my fingers worked hypnotically. Then suddenly… Buddy snipped at me.

“Buddy, why are you acting all extra?” my daughter rebuked.

My granddaughter laughed. “Yeaaaah.”

They both chuckled as if they had a secret joke.

All jokes aside, I wasn’t about to be punked by a cat. But rather than playing cat and mouse, I decided to genuinely try and get to know Buddy. To lay down my defenses and to try and tap into my more felineous side.

And guess what?

I discovered a new friend.

His name is Buddy. He lives in Seattle. And he’s a real cool cat.

Email: Author@Johnwfountain.com

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