The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

January 27, 2014

Ryan Richardson: Even confrontational cats leave a lasting impression

JOPLIN, Mo. — Growing up in the Richardson household, we never had a cat.

We had fish, a few dogs and even a crab, but my father always put his foot down on a cat. Both sets of grandparents had a cat in their house, so I did have limited exposure to them. For the most part, I shared my father's view on them. They weren't the type of pet that I wanted to be around.

Fast forward to my mid-20s. I was living with a girl for a bit, and she broached the subject one day that she wanted to bring up her cat from her parents' home. We went around the subject for a while, and I listed every excuse I could think of.

"The cat box smell is terrible!"

"I have allergies."

"Cats are annoying, why don't we get a dog?"

Like any good boyfriend, I eventually caved.

From the moment Jewel entered our home, this cat and I were at odds. My door to my home office was always closed for fear of her destroying my work. The laundry room was also sealed off from the torrent of cat hair that I knew was coming. But this wasn't just my house, so I was forced to make concessions. Most nights, the cat slept at the foot of the bed. Other nights, she would wedge herself between us. I let it slide because I didn't want to argue over a cat.

This cat was supremely territorial as she slowly waged a war of attrition against me. During the first couple of weeks, she would urinate on my shoes if I took them off when coming into the house. The door to my room was perpetually scratched which I took as a sign of aggression. In her eyes, I was the interloper.

During the end of that first semester, I came down with a pretty bad sickness. I was laid up on the couch for the better part of a week with no one else home. The girlfriend departed to visit her parents, and I was left with the cat. It was now my responsibility to feed, water and entertain this feline that I was certain was planning my oncoming demise while I was already in my weakened state.

During that week, she started to warm up to me. She stopped hissing at me when I fed her. She spared my shoes. She even started curling up on the couch with me, and I would oblige her with belly rubs and the occasional ear scratch.

We weren't friends yet, but we had reached an armistice. For the next five years, we shared a home together until the girl and I split up. I hated to admit it, but I missed that cat in the time that followed.

Last week, I got the text that Jewel had passed. She was almost 18 years old so it was a matter of time, but it wasn't something I had ever really thought about. She wasn't my cat, so it was one of those things that rarely entered my mind.

Still, I remember how that cat proved me wrong. That cat wasn't being aggressive toward me, I was just being ambivalent towards her. Since then, things have changed, and I have grown to enjoy felines. It started with her. That is her legacy to me.

With that, I say thank you, Jewel. You will be missed.

Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at rrichardson@joplinglobe.com.

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