What the cat knows…


What the cat knows
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When we were growing up, we had a house cat.

I shouldn’t say “we,” really, because that cat was all my little sister’s, except that my big sister named her Belly, after one of her favorite mid-’90s girl grunge bands and I got the heroic ranch kid privilege of rescuing her as a tiny abandoned kitten from underneath my grandma’s deck while my 5-year-old sister clenched her small, nervous fists under her chin and waited for her turn to hold her.

And so the runty calico cat with the weird name came to be ours and stayed through the entirety of my little sister’s childhood. And she was a typical cat in all the ways cats are cats.

She did her own thing. She waited at the door to go out and then would immediately climb up the screen, tearing it to shreds and driving my mother crazy. In an effort to try to deter this habit, we were given permission to use our squirt guns in the house. But only on the cat clinging to the screen door, of course.

But Belly didn’t care. She knew how to get our attention. She knew how to get what she wanted. And what she wanted was to sleep in my little sister’s bed every night.

After she was tucked in, if my dad forgot to leave the door open a crack, the cat would sit out there pathetically whining until the little kid version of my sister, with her wild hair, leaky eyes and big heart, would let her in. Every night for 13 years until my sister left home and left that cat behind.

Belly didn’t live a year without my sister in the house. My little sister was her person. And in a different life I’d be the type of skeptic that doesn’t believe in those sorts of bonds, except I watched that cat come and get my little sister before she gave birth to both sets of her kittens in that house that raised us all, which is an uncommon behavior for any animal, especially an independent cat.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Jessie Veeder’s Coming Home columns

I’ve seen it with my dad and his horses, too. And I’ve had it with my old dog Hondo, who always slept on the floor on my side of the bed, even though he was technically my husband’s hunting lab. My mom has a cat now that will only sit on her lap — that is until the few times a year my uncle from Texas arrives, and then that cat’s all his. It’s as if she’s saying, “Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Yes, I think we choose them, and then they choose us, because maybe they just know better.

Last week I brought my two young daughters to Dickinson, N.D., to sign the paperwork to adopt a big, orange house cat from an animal rescue. As I write, I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do such a crazy thing. Maybe it was that heroic ranch kid rescue gene in me, but the last thing I need is another wild creature in these walls.


And Lord knows there are plenty of cats for giveaway out here in rural North Dakota, except I saw him in a photo all curled up in that cage and I made a decision. Oh, I used the “we need a mouser” excuse on my husband, but this big orange cat is clearly a lover, not a fighter and my husband knows it.

Time will tell us what this cat knows.


7 thoughts on “What the cat knows…

  1. Aww, he looks like a cute cat! Has he been named yet?

    I miss having a cat after mine sadly had to be put to sleep last year. I know what you mean about some animals choosing specific people — I had a very close bond with a kitten I got when I was four years old. We grew up together and he was always more attached to me than anyone else in the family.

  2. What is the cat’s name?

    I grew up mainly with dogs, all of whom chose one of my parents as their person. We got an orange tiger cat when I was a junior in high school, supposedly as a present for my dad who loved all animals but wasn’t sure about living with a cat (plus the two dogs already at home). They loved each other dearly. But Gus-Gus was an equal opportunity cat until my dad passed. Then he was mine. He wouldn’t sleep with me or any human, but he’d wake me up every morning. He’d check on me during his nightly rounds. Best of all, he’d sleep on my feet when I was typing away on my computer.

    Now I have my first pet that has claimed me. My chinchilla, Chester. He’s my baby. I’m diabetic and he wakes me up at night if my blood sugar drops to dangerous levels. He alerts to high blood sugar as well. All skills he taught himself. He runs to me for hugs, comfort, or when he’s scared. We’re connected at the heart.

  3. Memories! Being an animal person bar none I’ve had many cats, a few dogs and many horses. Orange tabbies are a favorite…we’ve had two… both rescues. Mr Keats, the spelling more imaginative than the name, who graced our home as an in-out kitty for 16 years and Kelly, weighing in at 20lbs. for nine years. Both a joy! Today we have a domestic black kitty named Buddy who hit the road on tour last summer for two months and returned very thin and hungover. And Stripes the one eyed city feral cat who knew better than to hit the road tour with Buddy. Sober as a Judge or most Judges. Enjoy your new friend he’s in kitty haven with your family!!!! Enjoy your Spring Jess and thanks again for the memories!!!

  4. What a lucky kitty!!

    We can’t have a cat, because Hubbs is deathly allergic, but a neighborhood kitty has adopted us. She stops by on her “rounds” for a pet or 5 and loves to sit on his foot or curl up against my leg. She won’t eat (we’ve tried to feed her, maybe she prefers Chimpunk ala King) and she doesn’t stay long … but having her around calms my farm kid heart.

    Please update us all with his name and new adventures as a House Cat ~ so lucky!


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