I was never a cat person.
Cats seemed distant, arrogant, egocentric, aloof. They get sick on your carpet, eat your unattended food, and protest when their bathrooms are not cleaned on a regular basis. Differently than bratty human guests, we can’t ask cats to help with the chores, pay rent, pay for damages, or kick them out. Cats were all demand and no delivery. I always thought I’d never bring such a jerk into my house.
Life had other plans for me, however. When I married Amy, I inherited Casey, her 9-year-old tabby. Being slightly allergic to cats and slightly annoyed for having to attend to one, I immediately proceeded to impose new rules for him in my household. There would be no Casey in my bedroom, no Casey on the couch. Casey would not eat from the dinner table, and behaviours such as pawing on doors, scratching the furniture, and howling outside my door at 4 in the morning were to be strongly discouraged.
Casey however was a different kind of cat. Instead of distant and aloof, he actually enjoyed being around people. Perhaps due to my strict rules, he would rarely beg for food at dinner time, and after a while wouldn’t even try going into my bedroom. Casey was also very vocal. He would not let a human’s meow go unanswered. He had a uncanny ability to realize people were talking about him and would meow in agreement – or protest – from his little kitty bed a couple of rooms away.
Despite his obedience and sociability, Casey was still very much a cat. He liked his meat, chased laser pointers, enjoyed his rubs, and would occasionally stalk and pounce on a tennis ball or rubber ducky.
He was a special cat. I learned very quickly to like Casey and enjoy his company. Eventually I would proudly show his vocal abilities to visitors, and they would all be impressed at how such an enormous cat could jump up and catch a flying treat with his paws in mid-air.
Casey was a different cat. I took pictures of him. I published some of his “talking” videos on YouTube. Eventually I went from putting up with a cat to having a pet.
As we pondered the decision to conclude his life due to his complications with diabetes and pancreatitis, I found myself overcome with emotions. I would wipe the tears every once in a while and tell myself that it was silly to cry. It was just a cat.
“But Casey is a different kind of cat,” I would tell myself.
This morning I held him as the vet, gentle as a feather, arranged for his passing. Casey fell asleep peacefully. I lost a friend and a gallon of tears.
Following a week of depression as we prepared for today and a few hours to collect my thoughts, I concluded some things.
Casey taught me that we can love without expecting anything in return. Casey taught me that cats are not distant, arrogant, aloof, or jerks – those are simply how our fallible humanity perceives God’s creatures when they are not capable of being subdued like horses or dogs.
But Casey was a special cat. Or was he?
It turns out that Casey was indeed a special cat, but not in an absolute sense. He was a special cat because he was the only cat I ever had, and he showed me that we can and should love everyone whether they pick up after themselves or not.
Casey helped me move from disliking cats, to tolerating one, to loving a special one, to appreciating them all.
Thank you Casey for tolerating me.