It’s suddenly Smokey all through the house

We didn’t seek a cat.

For the last five years, our only pets have been a pair of aquatic turtles, and except for sharing our home with a pair of turtles, I’ve been fine with that.

I didn’t need a new pet.

The universe thought differently.

The cat belonged to the neighbors. When they couldn’t keep him, the universe, with a little coaxing from our children, sent him across the street to us.

At first, it was easy to accept the will of the universe. The cat preferred to be outdoors. He slept, ate, and conducted all his other animal business outside. This was his main selling point. Imagine having a pet—a mammalian pet at that—without the sheen of hair on the furniture, without the odors, without the mess! My wife imagined it with gusto, and the picture her mind painted was a heavenly masterpiece of hygienic pet ownership.

With all the angels singing above our heads, how could I object?

Alexa, the electronic matron who watches our every move and tells us what to do and which products we should order right now from, told us to name him Smokey. We obediently named him that, because we didn’t want the CIA, or the even more powerful, to put us on the naughty list.

Giving us our order for the day

I don’t know for sure if it were Smokey or the universe that pulled the old bait and switch. Possibly, it was my wife.

It must have been the universe that sent the Yellow Jacket to investigate Smokey’s outdoor food bowl. It was definitely my wife who immediately insisted that Smokey’s food bowl be moved inside the house, where nasty insects couldn’t tamper with his kibble.

And then Smokey came regularly inside the house. The next time I saw him, he was resting on a chair in the back room.

The dominoes had begun to fall. With Taliban-like speed, he conquered the rest of the house. The master bedroom fell to him within days. I found him curled up beside my wife one night. I gently explained to him that it was only a two-person bed. He gave me that indifferent cat blink that says things like: “Yes. And there are already two people in it.”

The goalposts have been moved on me. The enticements about having an outdoor cat are long gone. My wife no longer goes to bed without calling Smokey inside. He has made a habit of sleeping with us, despite the balmy outdoor nights he once claimed to adore.

My wife now puts a cat sheet over the comforter. Smokey begins his naps on this, but in the midst of his air-conditioned sleepy raptures, he often stretches himself onto the bare comforter. You can tell by the sheen of cat hair.

He’s a nice cat though, and he still does his dirty work outside. Everyone’s happy about that, except Alexa, who’s burning up with the knowledge of where we can scoop up great deals on litter accessories.


This tail was made for pulling

face-off with cat

“The thing I love best about you is that you’re so unpredictable.”

Our baby and our cat are best friends. This is an unexpected development. When the big boy was a baby, he and the cat had an awkward relationship. The thing they had most in common was a wariness of the other. They might have been reality TV show contestants.

Since the big boy was the first baby, it is possible that the cat resented the way he stole the limelight. In a childless house, the cat was a pet. After baby-number-one arrived, the cat became more like a mobile piece of décor. The squeaky, helpless, crying wheel got the grease, and the cat got to make adjustments in his expectations. This may have soured the cat on the idea of human babies. The baby’s herky-jerky, heavy-handed flailing may have played a role as well. We’ll never know for sure.

Baby-number-one and the cat had their rare, sweet moments, but these were mostly when the baby was very drowsy or already asleep. The two of them were never best buddies.

Baby-number-two has taught the cat a lesson in demographics. Mr. Cat is outnumbered now, and since he hasn’t had all of his man parts in more than a decade, and there are no eligible bachelorette cats in our house anyway, he’s not likely to roll back the tide. Facts are facts.

To his credit, the cat has adjusted to his changing world. He has reached out to this new baby in an effort to mend fences with baby-kind. He flops down beside the baby and allows himself to be petted, if petted means having little fistfuls of his fur grabbed, his tail tugged, and his ears pulled. All of this is a form of attention, and the cat has come to appreciate that.

The cat also understands that this baby means no harm. He has a lighter touch than his brother did and that probably helps. If his grabby style of petting hurt the cat, the cat likely would not keep eagerly subjecting himself to it. But it doesn’t hurt, or at least it hurts better than nothing.

Their relationship is not all sunshine and lollipops, though. They’ve had their spats. One time the baby must have tugged upon the wrong piece of cat, because the cat had to yell at him. “Stop it! That hurts!” the cat said. That’s what I think he said, anyway. It was in cat language. It sounded mostly like “Rrrairrrlw!” but I think my translation is pretty close.

The baby cried after the cat scolded him. His feelings were hurt. He was only trying to play with his friend.

Another time I warned the baby in a stern voice not to tug the cat’s leg like he was. I was hoping to avoid another cat-yelling incident. I did avoid it, but the baby cried at my warning anyway. He’s very sensitive about his cat.

It’s tough when all you want to do is play with your best buddy and all it does is get you yelled at.