There are certain phrases that incite concern and fear, as in Paul Revere’s call to arms, “The British are coming!” And then there’s, “Honey, there’s a letter for you from the IRS.” But all these pale in comparison to my wife’s question, “Has anyone seen the cat?”
I did not grow up as a cat person. I was a dog person. In my family we nearly always had a dog that spent his/her time outside, lived in a dog house, and brought joy to the Epps kids and caused tears and sorrow when they died.
To this day I can take you back to the place I grew up and, with great certainty, direct you to Butch’s grave. All my life, I thought Butch was a bulldog, but family photos reveal him to be a pit bull. No matter, when Butch died even my Momma cried and she hated dogs.
My wife, on the other hand, was a cat person. When we were dating, I was introduced to a gray tabby named “One-eyed Jack.” Jack, it seems, lost an eye in a fight with another cat. Once we were married, like it or not, cats became part of the household.
We currently have two cats: “Kitter,” originally named “Spaz,” is close to 17 years old. She is small, delicate, friendly, and getting on up in cat years.
Then there is “Petey,” a Maine Coon cat that weighs in at nearly 30 pounds. Petey is around 4 years old and, since he was neutered at an early age, retains many of the qualities of a big, huge kitten. Petey, too, is very affectionate and even plays “fetch” when in the mood.
Both cats have been neutered and are inside cats, having been de-clawed, although Kitter was an outside cat for the first half of her life and was a mighty hunter, causing all the lizards, moles, chipmunks, snakes, and birds to virtually disappear from our lawn. The ecosystem has recovered since Kitter was taken indoors.
My wife is always fearful that these de-clawed family members will escape to the outside and meet their demise. I think the first sentence ever learned and uttered by our grandchildren was, “Close the door, the cats will get out!”
If my wife hasn’t seen one of the cats for awhile, then comes the question, “Has anyone seen the cat?” There will be no peace for anyone who happens to be in the house until the cat is located.
Last winter, I was outside at 11 p.m., in a driving, cold rainstorm, clad only in shower shoes and a robe, calling for the missing cat for over half an hour. The cat, of course, was found inside sleeping peacefully. I, on the other hand, had to take a hot shower just to stop the shivering and to unthaw my frozen joints.
The cats are always found inside. I have told my wife that I could be lying dead in the backyard for days and she’d never miss me but if the cats are missing for an hour, the National Guard is notified. She denies that, of course, but I still have my suspicions.
As far as I know, every time the question is asked, “Has anyone seen the cat?” the cat has always been found sleeping somewhere inside.
Not that they can’t escape … grandchildren and adults do leave doors open once in a blue moon but, at this point, the cats have remained confined.
The fact that the cats have never been found outside does not sway my wife one bit. If a cat is absent for any length of time, she cannot rest — well, we cannot rest — until the cat is located.
Over the decades, I confess that I have become a cat person, something I never thought I could ever be.
If I am in my study, these two follow me and plop down nearby as I do my work.
If I watch TV, they come to the room where I am and plop down there too.
When we go to sleep, these felines see it as a time to jump on the bed and cuddle.
They have become part of our family. I have learned to love them — and to keep the doors closed.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at email@example.com.