Note: For the sake of continuity and the safety of the participants, both the plot and the names of characters in this story have been changed. No cats (real or fictitious) were harmed in the writing of this story.
It all started 16 years ago when we (by “we,” I mean my wife) told our daughters we’d buy them kittens. Now, 16 years later, our daughters have moved and one cat has recently passed away. The other cat is still with us (by “with us,” I mean alive and in charge). I am convinced we are stuck and The Cat has won. We have a few fine memories of The Cat, but life is full of transitions and he has served his purpose. Our eldest daughter, who The Cat belonged to, lives across town, owns a dog (a better choice from my perspective), and denies any emotional attachment or responsibility. Our other daughter lives at college and also denies any responsibility. My wife and I would be experiencing all the signs of empty-nesting except for The Cat. So, no matter the cost, our goal has been to be cat-less by the end of the summer.
Wherever I go, I’ve tried to help The Cat make his necessary life transition.
Me: “The Cat would be so good for you,” I tell the 40-year-old barista. “He could keep your coffee warm and and he can even bake pastries.”
Barista: “Sorry, I live with my parents and they’re allergic to cats.”
Me: “Then The Cat is perfect for you, because he probably won’t live very long.”
Barista: “Why are you trying to get rid of this cat, anyway? Didn’t you say it was your daughter’s?”
Me: “What were we talking about?”
I also tried selling The Cat at a garage sale.
Me: “Free cat.”
Person: “Cute. I’m interested. How old?”
Me: “16 years. His sister passed a few months ago and he’s a bit lonely.”
Person: “Never mind.”
Another Person: “How awful. He’s already gone through so much with losing his sister and now you want to move an elderly cat?”
And Another Person: “How cruel. Your kitty must be traumitized. How dare you do this to him!”
Me: “Would you like him? We’ll even give you a weeks worth of food and some litter.”
I am not an evil person. I wanted to do the humane thing and give The Cat to someone who needed a cuddly companion to entertain them with endless hours of yarn-chasing. I’ve avoided any hint of animosity toward The Cat. I pay for his food and greet him kindly each morning. But the summer is coming to an end and each day The Cat is still with us. Each day, I have asked him if he would like to leave and each day, like Melville’s scrivener, The Cat replies, “I would prefer not to.”
In the pursuit to free our house of fur balls and litter droppings, I found the world contains four groups of people:
(1) The haters. Easily recognized by the subtle statement, “I hate cats,” these are evil and hurtful people who do not deserve mention or compassion. After all, hurt people — hurt cats.
(2) The liars. “Oh, I would love to have your cat, but my little Jimmy’s eye-lids sweat profusely whenever he hears a cat’s tiny meow. As you know, Jimmy’s studying to be a world-famous neurologist, and he can’t read his neurology books with sweaty eye-lids.”
(3) The crazies. “I’m not sure . . . I already have 23 cats in my one-bedroom apartment. Oh, what the heck! What’s one more cat? I’ll be right over to get him! Actually, can you deliver him to me? I saw his picture on your eBay post and I’m busy knitting him a sweater.”
(4) The jugmentals. “Why are you getting rid of a cat? Why don’t you let him be in peace? It might only be another 10 or 15 years . . . be kind to him. Let him live his final days in dignity.”
Early tomorrow morning, I will walk into into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I will greet The Cat, like I have the past 5,870 days.
Me: “Good morning. The time has come and you must quit this place. I am sorry for you, but you must go.”
The Cat: “I would prefer not to.”
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