Monday, October 10, 2011

Invasion of the Upside Down Cats

When I was growing up, my family had its share of dogs and cats. As an adult, I don’t have any pets because I don’t want the added responsibility of caring for them and for Bill who is partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes. I’ve always enjoyed other people’s pets.

It’s funny how animals react to certain objects. One evening when I was single, I left my apartment and went down the hall to visit my friend Becky who had just acquired a cat named Princess. I was wearing cat slippers at the time and didn’t even think of it. When I first saw Princess, I was struck by how much this tiger-striped cat resembled Howard, a female cat we had when I was a little girl. Howard had long since passed away, but maybe her spirit had come back to me in Princess’s body. I approached and said, “Hello, Princess.”

But the first thing Princess saw were two upside down cats invading her territory. She snarled, hissed, and spat. I dared not pet her, but continued talking to her. “It’s okay, sweetie. I’m a friend of your new mommy’s, and I want to be your friend too.”

“Maybe she thinks your slippers are going to attack her,” she said. “Why don’t you take them off and see what happens?”

I sat on a nearby couch, removed the slippers, and placed them on the floor. Princess came over and sniffed them. I think she then realized they were harmless, but she still wouldn’t have anything to do with me. Needless to say, I never wore the slippers again when I visited Becky.

During the many years of Princess’s nine lives, I tried everything I could to develop a rapport with her. Becky bought her a myriad of toys, and whenever I visited, I tried tempting her to play with one of these, but she would have none of that. When Becky was out of town, I visited Princess twice a day, fed her, and changed her water, but although she knew I was the one supplying the sustenance, she showed absolutely no gratitude.

One day while Becky was gone, I bought a can of tuna at Wal-Mart. I used half of it to make a sandwich for myself, and brought the other half to her. I put the can on the floor next to her food bowl, and she saw me do it. Since tuna was one of her favorite foods, I thought surely this would bring her around to me. But that evening when I came back to check on her, the can of tuna was completely empty, but Princess performed her usual growling, hissing, and spitting routine when I approached and greeted her.

I gave up after that. Maybe I should have given her the whole can, but I doubt it would have mattered. When Princess first saw me, she saw two upside down cats. First impressions mean a lot, even to animals.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

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