VERNON COUNTY - In early winter last year, Newman, my green-eyed orange-colored cat, died, leaving behind Farley, my sweet-natured tabby. For weeks, Farley paced from room to room, looking for his lost buddy. He no longer wanted to go outside to play and his food dish was left full.
Farley needed a friend, and soon! I didn’t want to introduce an older cat because I’ve learned it’s hard to teach an old cat the trick of not disturbing the parakeets, ducks, geese, and even the dogs. I have one rule at my place: that we all, every species living here, must coexist peacefully.
Off to the Driftless Humane Society I went with Dane, cat lover extraordinaire. Little did I know that Monkey Butt, a sleek, mostly black kitten who is now best friend to Farley, would bring so much joy to my household.
Farley and Monkey provided perfect entertainment on cold winter days. They would roll together on the living room floor, then jump up and chase each other from room to room, leaving the kitchen rugs in a tangle and braking at the wall, where each of them would hop up and dash in a different direction.
Coming home to find Monkey rushing to the door, asking me to pick him up and cuddle or to fill his bowl with food, made me forget any challenges I’d had navigating slippery roads, as I drove home from work. I hadn’t had a new cat in my house for so long I’d forgotten how pleasant it could be.
By the time my creek was rushing with melting snow from the nearby hills, two more kittens needing homes, Lorca and Maurice, had landed here. I now think of Monkey as a gateway drug to an all-natural kitty high.
A home with four boys roughhousing is often chaotic. My stairwell, going up to an attic bedroom, is a Friday evening drag race when we’re all home together.
Monkey is in the lead, and here comes Maurice on the outside, but Farley takes a flying leap, knocks Maurice over the side and races back up the steps to win! Good thing Maurice lands on his feet. Lorca, the biggest cat, watches sleepily from the cat tower. I pick Maurice up to comfort him in his defeat and exclaim, “How did I end up with four cats!?”
But, it doesn’t matter. I know they’re good for me.
I read recently that owning a cat reduces my risk of heart attack or stroke by one-third. Imagine how much protection I get with four cats! Studies have also shown that cats can lower your blood pressure, reduce the stress hormone cortisol that acts like a time bomb in our bodies, and keep the doctor away. According to one study, cat owners had far fewer doctor visits than non-cat owners.
What the research fails to take into consideration, in my humble experienced opinion, is how many times cat owners like me have gotten up at night, only to step on their cat, making the critter scream like its tail is being cut off, causing us almost to have a heart attack on the spot. Still, I would agree my cats calm me most of the time. Just stroking their soft fur seems to make me breathe more slowly and deeply. I only wish they’d eat ticks.
Late one evening, when Dane and I were reading in the living room, we heard a commotion out in the kitchen. A rustling noise became louder and louder until a plastic bag with a tail at one end went flying through the living room and up the stairs.
Dane hurried upstairs and found the bag hiding under my bed with Monkey’s tail still sticking out. It took a lot of sweet talking to get Monkey to come close enough so he could remove the bag. Poor Monkey was shaken up but otherwise unharmed. We had a good hard laugh, and I realized the people who do research on the benefits of owning a cat should add humor to the list. Hardly a day goes by where I’m not smiling or laughing over some cat antic.
As nutty as my cats can get, they also can be so quiet I don’t even know they are here. Half the time I’m walking around calling their names, wondering where they’re hiding—in Finnegan’s dog bed, sound asleep in the laundry basket, or inside the clubhouse on their cat tower.
Cat haters around the county are probably thinking, Can’t she just say no to having yet another cat? News flash: I can now! Four is enough. If I couldn’t say no I’d be known as the valley’s crazy (but healthy!) cat lady by now.
But where I live, I have the room, and I can afford to feed them, neuter them, and treat them for fleas and ticks. My house doesn’t smell bad, it’s clean enough, and I have tons of love to give.
Many people might benefit from adopting a cat from our local shelters, which are full of cats who desperately want a forever home. Many are already neutered or spayed, they all know how to use a litter box, and they’re just waiting to brighten your day. After all, while owning a cat might keep the doctor away, I know it will chase away your winter blues!
I’ve hit my maximum cat limit, but maybe there’s room in your home and in your heart for a feline friend. Contact the Humane Society of Crawford County, 608-648-2461, or Vernon County, 608-637-6955.