I have never been a cat person. I vaguely remember my grandmother having one when I was younger, but all I can remember of it was that it was a white cat named Snowball, it scratched me at least once, and I was allergic to them. So I kept my distance. My mother despises cats, so I think some of her cat hate rubbed off on me, firmly cementing me on Team Dog for life.
For a brief period in my twenties, I lived with a family friend who had a cat, and while I didn’t love it, it wasn’t the worst thing. The cat had no respect for boundaries, leaping up on my dresser or coming into the bathroom while I was on the toilet or in the shower. But it didn’t scratch me, so I didn’t totally hate it. But those few months confirmed that I never wanted to live full time with a cat ever again. Of course, the universe had other plans.
In February 2020, I met a great woman online named Beth. We started talking, and she told me about her cats. They were her babies, and she was extremely attached to them, especially because she was recently divorced. My mind reeled at the thought of falling in love with a cat lesbian. I knew they existed, but until that point, I had only dated women with dogs. I understood dog ownership; dogs are great companions who give you unconditional love even when you don’t ask for it. I loved walking in the door and having something there to greet me with a wagging tail. Cats are too aloof for my taste. I’ve always said, “If I have to pick up an animal’s shit, I want it to come when I call it.”
Anyway, this woman swore that her cats, Gilda and Madeline (named after comedians Gilda Rader and Madeline Kahn) were the sweetest, most loving cats. I really liked her, so I sucked up my indifference to felines. I admit, they were very cute. Not as cute as their momma, but their existence wasn’t a deal breaker.
The next test was introducing them to my human son. He was six and a half at the time and had never really been around cats before. The cats weren’t so keen on kids either — Beth has a niece who was obsessed with cats and had traumatized them, so we had no idea how the introduction would go. Gilda kept a curious distance between herself and my boy, but Madeline hid in the closet and hissed like a viper whenever he opened the door to see her. All in all, it could have been worse, and over time, the girls grew to accept the small boy as part of their lives.
At the beginning of our relationship, because of the pandemic, Beth would divide her week between her apartment and mine. She’d spend three or four days with us and then return home to the cats to give them some love and attention. I knew it was wearing on her; she needed time by herself as she was still really adjusting to being on her own for the first time ever. I knew she felt guilty for leaving the cats alone for such long periods of time, and deep down I feared they resented us for taking her away. The kiddo and I were so happy to have someone else in our life after it being just the two of us for so long. And while we welcomed the change, we had no idea how much of our life would soon be changing.
Because of the pandemic, Beth’s work became unsustainable and she needed to move in with us. We all knew it would be an adjustment because I lived in a significantly smaller apartment that was barely big enough to accommodate who already lived there. But she and the cats moved in anyway, and we all knew we’d make it work no matter what.
We decided that the closet was going to be the cats’ safe space. Of course it also happened to be the only major storage spot in the apartment. Soon, my already crammed closet became the home to their food and water, a litter box and a scratching post. Every time I had to get fresh towels or clean pajamas, everything had to be moved. I constantly knocked the water over, sloshing it on top of everything. The food bits had to be swept up all the time, and ugh, the cat litter was so gross.
Those first few months were a learning curve for all of us. With significantly less space and the inability to go anywhere, my son turned feral. His face and arms were covered in scratches, because he would often forget he couldn’t get up in the cats’ faces like he could with the dog. I had to get used to living with animals who’d jump up on everything: the kitchen counter, the towel rack in the bathroom, our laptops to crash virtual first grade and any Zoom meeting they could. And the shedding, oh my god, the shedding. For animals who spent so much time grooming themselves, I was amazed how much hair they shed. There was always a layer of cat hair on everything. The dog kept his distance as best he could because the cats made it clear that they were in charge. It was like the scene in Lady and the Tramp when Lady gets chased out of her own house by those rude ass cats.
That scene actually hit a little too close to home. Unlike in the movie, our dog was kind of chased out of his home by the cats. I had gotten him only a couple weeks before I met Beth and while things worked out for a month or two after she and the cats moved in, we knew it wasn’t going to work forever. The cats would hiss at him or he would bark at them and the fighting was giving my son anxiety because he doesn’t love loud and excessive barking, which was happening a lot. Add to that being in a small space and him being a big dog who was used to a house, and we thought the best idea for everyone was to rehome him.
“You haven’t had to compromise much since I moved in,” Beth said during a particularly tense argument.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I hissed through my teeth so I didn’t wake up the sleeping boy. “I had to rehome the dog. I gave up my closet. I live with cats.”
It’s hard having new people in your space. I hadn’t lived with a partner in years. When I lived with my ex we were more like roommates who had sex. After we broke up, my son and I lived with my parents for three and a half years. I never had privacy or my own space, so when my son and I moved, I really made the space mine as much as I could. Some would say I had a hard time adapting because I grew up an only child, but it’s really because I spent my entire adult life living with someone else and never really getting my space. I was happy to finally be in a romantic relationship again, but it was a major change that I didn’t think about at first.
I had hoped that one day I’d be in a relationship again and that it would be serious enough to live together. And I understood that it meant giving up my autonomy and space. But what I wasn’t expecting was how quickly it all happened, even though it’s exactly what I wanted. I feared we had rushed things too quickly and that it was going to be a disaster and end horribly. The cats weren’t the sole problem, they were just the easiest thing to place all of my fears on. If I couldn’t live with them, maybe it meant that I couldn’t live with her. The thought of things not working out sat in the back of my mind for months, even after we were engaged. I’ll admit, sometimes they still creep up just to fuck with me even though we’re much more solid than we were then.
A little more than a year after Beth and the cats moved in, we were finally able to move into a bigger apartment. By then, we had learned how to cohabitate pretty peacefully, but I was very excited to be less cramped. The girls love having more space — it means more shit for them to get into apparently. Do I love that they jump up on the counters and chew Dorito bags? Absolutely not. But I have created a more comfy space for them on top of the refrigerator. Do I enjoy when Madeline lays all over my black sweatshirts? Definitely not, but I’ll eventually learn to put them away. Has the small boy learned not to get in the cats’ faces? Haha, of course not, but now he’s afraid enough to do it less often. Did we get another dog? We did, and the cats treat him like an annoyance that won’t leave.
It’s the middle of the night and I’m trying to roll over. I can’t because I’m pinned between Madeline and the dog on either side of the blanket. I groan as I shoo her off the bed so I get up and start the day, and when I walk over to my clothes and yet another sweatshirt is covered in cat hair. I go out to the living room where a tubby cat meows at me to feed her while I’m still wiping crust from my eyes.
They’re lucky they’re cute.
As a cat queer, can I just say pictures of the cats please.
Also I’d like it on record that my cats always run to the front door when I get home and they are generally anything but aloof!
Another cat queer here to second Gem! All pets are individuals, like humans. I met several cats before adopting mine and chose affectionate, playful cats. They come when called, do tricks, and enjoy walks in a harness.
My short-hair cat mutts shed way less and with softer fur (and don’t slobber or smell) than every dog I’ve met, and I did have dogs growing up. It might be more noticeable because dog hair can get buried irretrievably in furniture or layered more evenly on floors whereas cat hair piles up on top or gets blown around. I use tape or a vaccum to clean it up cause who likes hair everywhere, regardless of what animal it came from?
I keep their litter box in the garage or catio and let them out like you would dogs. (Love when they utilize a walk to restroomize outside!) And use a walnut-shell litter that seems expensive up front but lasts longer and smells better than clay or paper.
All this to say: pick the right personality and care setup, et voilà! You love cats now. 😉
Thank you for sharing your story! Your experience is probably similar to my partner’s, as they’re the allergic one and I’m the cat lesbian. We also got a dog, who the cats tolerate, and all moved in together during the pandemic. This is super relatable and I’m glad things are working out for you!
between my cat allergies, distaste for fur everywhere, and my firm belief that Everybody Needs To Calm Down About Pets, i feel this deeply and love that you found someone who made it worth it. y’all are adding a point to the ‘love is not a lie’ column. <3
Cat pic attached to this post screams ‘you mean you fell in love with us, right?’