My Mother’s Cat Legacy

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Photo courtesy of www.morguefiles.com

By Abigail Humphreys

I am a CRAZY CAT LADY, and I come by it honestly.  In fact, I am proud of it.  In truth, it was inevitable. I became a CRAZY CAT LADY because I was born to one.

When you read those three words CRAZY CAT LADY, most of us conjure up an image in our minds.  Perhaps it is the stereotype of a lonely single woman with 30 cats. Maybe you have an aunt who talks to her cats like they are human and, supposedly, they can understand her.  Perhaps you work with someone who talks about their cats more than their children. These are all clear manifestations of the Crazy Cat Lady. Experience suggests there are two key components that make a Crazy Cat Lady: Compassion and Commitment. My mother, by daily example, taught me both.

Cat Compassion

My Mother embodied the first component of being a Crazy Cat Lady. She was a compassionate person with a big heart. When I was growing up my mother ran a daycare in our home and taught me, and the children in her care, the importance of compassion towards humans and animals alike. She would joke that there was a sign in our backyard visible only to cats, that read “if you are sick, wounded, or pregnant scratch at the back door.”

Abigail’s cat Molly, apparently at home in the house plant wilderness.

I lost track of the number of times one of my family members opened our back door expecting to find one of our house cats, only to discover a stray with a runny eye, a broken leg, a wheezing cough, or so pregnant that you could see the kittens moving against her sides. Sometimes the cat in question found their way to our front door in the arms of one of the neighbor children. They would look up at us holding an emaciated or injured cat and ask if it was one of ours. Everyone knew where to take a cat in need.

My mother could never turn her back on a cat in crisis. She would always state very clearly and very sternly, “We are not keeping this cat! And we are not keeping a kitten when they are born either!” My sister and I would gravely nod our heads in acceptance. She meant those words every time she said them and my sister and I truly, if not reluctantly, accepted them every time they were spoken.

The problem is that it takes about 6 to 8 weeks for a cat to heal or for kittens to be born and weaned. During that time, we were tending to the cat. We were focused on making the cat feel safe and secure. As we were getting to know the cat, we were also coming to love them. With that kind of commitment, getting rid of a cat is difficult business.

It is easy to see how my mother would take in stray animals; she was a loving person. However, why only cats? Why not dogs, birds, rabbits and other animals. The truth is we did take in a rabbit with a broken leg once. We had him treated ant our vet and then we rehomed him within two days. So, what makes cats so special to my mother and Crazy Cat Ladies everywhere? The answer to this question is the second component of being a Crazy Cat Lady:  Commitment.

Kitty Commitment

We Crazy Cat Ladies are in things for the long haul.  We are not looking for unconditional love from our pets. We want to earn the reward of their love. There is an adage that dogs have owners but cats have staff.  Spend any time around both types of pets and you will feel this saying in your bones.

According to Buzzfeed, cats spend 70% of their lives sleeping. This is Molly, spending her 70%.

I have a friend who trains assistance dogs for The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. I love when he has one of his assistance dog trainees with him. I rush right over to say hello and get a warm tail wag greeting. It makes me feel wonderful… for about 60 seconds. Then the next person stops to say hello to the dog and gets the same warm greeting. It is at that moment when I am seeing the dog wagging their tail for someone else that I understand my mother’s, as well as my own, attraction to cats.  A dog’s love is, meritoriously, generous.  A cat’s love is selective.

When I hear my cat purr or she roles on her side to have her belly rubbed, I feel special. I know I have met all my cats needs and this is my reward. It takes time and commitment to learn your cat’s personality. I now can tell when my cat is upset that there is not fresh food in her bowl. When my cat wants to play, I can tell within seconds whether she wants to chase something on the floor or leap in the air after her feather. My cat even likes to be taken outside for walks on a harness and leash. Yes, I am my cat’s personal staff. Like myself, all Crazy Cat Ladies feel the reward is well worth the cost.

All this aside, we Crazy Cat Ladies often have love to share with humans as well as cats. We are compassionate people and we are committed. We have love to offer and are willing to earn your love in return. My mother could not have taught me a better lesson. So, next time you meet a Crazy Cat Lady don’t dismiss them out of hand. Consider inviting them into your life. You may be surprised at how much richer your life will be with a Crazy Cat Lady in it.

In loving memory of Laura Anne Lago January 14, 1943 – Septmeber 2, 2016. Laura was born in Grand Rapids MI. Laura graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelors in Art History. During her career Laura served as a postal carrier for the USPS. Laura ran an in home Daycare program for 7 years. She taught Montessori preschool for 10 years. Laura found her calling as a religious educator for the Unitarian Universalist Denomination. Her career as religious educator included 28 years as a professional Director or Religious Education and 40 years of teaching Sunday school at various congregations. Laura moved to Toledo in 1991 to take a position at First Unitarian Church of Toledo. Laura lived and worked in Boston the final five years of her career.  When she retired she returned to Toledo’s Old West End neighborhood and her beloved Ann Manor.

 

[one_third last=”no”][/one_third]Abigail Humphreys was born in Midland, MI.  She moved to Toledo in 1991 with her mother and considers herself a proud Toledoan. Abigail studied Biology at the University of Toledo and participated in the Honors Program at UT. Abigail is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist and an active member of the First Unitarian Church of Toledo.  She is also a self professed crazy cat lady.

Cover photo courtesy of morgue files.