Our cat pawed the ground, ready to launch himself into my lap.

Our cat pawed the ground, ready to launch himself into my lap. Gary (yes, our children got the name from SpongeBob Squarepants) jumped and landed between my face and what I was reading because, obviously, what I was reading didn’t matter. He acts like one of our kids.

Typical child’s thought process: “Daddy’s reading/making an important telephone call/going to the bathroom. He must be lonely. I’ll jump on him and do something loud.”

Typical cat’s thought process: “Meow, meow, no one’s paying attention to me. Meow, meow, claw to the thigh. Meow, meow, I’m bored now, leave me alone.”

I don’t write poetry with enough regularity to be called something as insensitive as “sensitive,” but I once wrote a poem about Gary:

Stupid cat, on my keyboard.

Can’t type, stupid cat on my keyboard.

Can’t see my fingers, can’t type, stupid cat on my keyboard.

Stupid cat.

I wrote the poem longhand because there was a stupid cat on my keyboard.

I’ve never liked cats, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. Frankly, considering how the witch trials went, to the Puritans this makes me righteous. My cat-dislike stretches back to a childhood event that made me view cats less like something to love and more like something to chase with a hoe.

On the farm at 5 years old

My 11-year-old sister Jodie stood in the kitchen holding two scratched and dented aluminum pie plates of milk.

“Jason, you wanna help me feed the cats?” she asked.

I did, mainly because I’d get to go to the dusty, rusty implement-filled barn without parental supervision.

“Sure,” I said, gently taking one of the plates and heading out the door.

Old barns are magical places for small boys, full of dark corners, dangerous machinery and the occasional forbidden cutting tool hanging precariously by a nail on the wall. But, in this case it also meant barn cats, more than two dozen, that for some reason we couldn’t find.

“Here kitty, kitty. Here, kitty, kitty,” Jodie chanted as we stepped into the barn. With the promise of food, the cats usually came running, but the barn seemed deserted.

I turned to set my plate down, then looked toward the loft and gazed into the gaping mouth of hell. Twenty-four-plus cats poised staring down at me from the ledge. Then they pounced, crashing into my 5-year-old frame, burying me in claws, fur, dirt, and fleas. I screamed, struggled to my feet dripping with milk, and ran crying to the house.

Today

It’s obvious why I don’t like cats. But why – WHY – do they like me? Gary sleeps on my legs, sits in my lap and licks my feet when I step out of the shower. That’s just weird. He ignores everyone else. It’s like I’m a movie star and he’s a crazed fan who repeatedly breaks into my house.

Maybe cats like me because of some collective cat consciousness that feels guilty about the trauma they put me through as a kid. Or maybe they’re plotting against me.

Yeah. I’m going with the last one.

Stupid cats.