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Morning Sun
  • Peter Chianca: My life among the cats

  • It’s an interesting phenomenon: When people find out I have four dogs, they’re fascinated, as if they’ve just stumbled upon some fanciful combination of Dr. Dolittle and Willy Wonka. But when people find out I also live with three cats, they tend to back away slowly, as if they’ve just met someone … well, who lives with three cats.

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  • It’s an interesting phenomenon: When people find out I have four dogs, they’re fascinated, as if they’ve just stumbled upon some fanciful combination of Dr. Dolittle and Willy Wonka. But when people find out I also live with three cats, they tend to back away slowly, as if they’ve just met someone … well, who lives with three cats.
    Not that three is some huge, inordinate number of felines. It’s just that there seems to be an understanding that with each cat you add to a household, you come exponentially closer to having one of those hairy, smelly homes where the cats have slowly but systematically overrun every room. To the general populace, it’s a very short leap from having three cats to having so many it causes the house to implode in on itself, like the one at the end of “Poltergeist,” except with cats.
    I, personally, have never been a cat person. We didn’t have one when I was little, and the cat my family got when I was a teenager didn’t seem to have any use for me. My wife thinks this was because I only referred to it as “the cat” or, on days I was feeling overly familiar, “cat.” As I recall it had a name, but I stopped using it when it steadfastly refused to respond to me. (In my defense, I don’t think the cat had a name for me either, or if it did it would be unprintable in a family newspaper.)
    So it was this impression of cats — narcissistic, aloof, capable of dangerous subterfuge if left to their own devices — that made me wholly unprepared for the introduction of Buddy, Autumn and Trixie into my life. For one thing, I find myself typing a sentence containing the words “Buddy, Autumn and Trixie” rather than “cat, cat and the other cat.”
    We wound up with the three of them after my wife, a freelance writer, wrote a newspaper story on a local feline rescue group. My wife should probably not be writing articles about abandoned pets, because whatever she gets paid tends to be more than eclipsed by the subsequent food and vet bills when they come to live with us.
    I was skeptical to say the least, but Buddy immediately started trying to win me over. He fell right in with his canine companions, exhibiting dog-like qualities such as accompanying us on walks around the backyard and greeting me at the door. I also got the impression that he would, without hesitation, bare his claws and affix himself to an intruder to protect the household, unlike the dogs, who would either hide or try to lick them to death.
    Page 2 of 2 - But Buddy’s sister, Autumn, is even more the opposite of my unnamed previous cat. She has a tendency to crawl onto your stomach and put her little paws on your shoulders, like she’s trying to make up for the poor social skills of all the cats that may have come before her. She’s also a licker, which — as you know if you’ve ever been licked by a cat — is a nice gesture but not the most pleasant sensation, sort of like being rubbed by wet gravel.
    I’ve yet to win over Cat No. 3, Trixie, who still tends to dart out of the room when I enter, as if she has a sneaking feeling I’m going to stomp on her. But every so often, if I sit completely still, she’ll curl up next to me and let me scratch her neck. I’m assuming these are the days I smell most like salmon.
    I should clarify that I remain a dog person. For one thing, the smell of cat food makes me nauseated, and I’m still perplexed at the sheer volume of the meowing as I open the can — apparently they feel the need to loudly dissuade me from eating it myself. Then there’s the whole dead-mouse-on-the-porch thing. (And before you send me letters about how it’s more humane to keep your cats indoors, you haven’t seen my sister-in-law’s indoor cat, which can barely heft its huge torso onto the couch — it looks like it ate Garfield.)
    But I’ll admit it — despite all my former feelings to the contrary, there’s a certain pleasure to be had in nodding off on the couch surrounded by purring balls of fur. I still think they’re capable of subterfuge when I’m asleep, but I’m hoping if I keep calling them by their names, I’ll stay on their good side.
    Peter Chianca is editor in chief for GateHouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. He writes periodically about life with pets for The Longest Tail Blog. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca.
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