Years ago, I was standing in the pet supplies aisle of a local grocery store selecting our cats’ menu for the week. A tall, heavy man with glasses was standing nearby, his plastic basket filled with cans of cat food and topped with a large, yellow catnip mouse.
We started talking cats. He pulled out his wallet and showed me pictures of his 12-year-old Maine Coon, Timmy.
“I’ve taken him to a few shows, and he’s done real well at them,” the man told me. “He means everything to me. I haven’t got anybody else. Only — I hate to say it — it’s almost worse the fonder you get of them. It makes it harder when something does happen to them.”
I suggested getting a kitten now so that he wouldn’t be totally bereft when Timmy did pass.
He admitted that he’d been checking out Maine Coons at shows with that thought in mind. Then he suddenly smiled and said, “Only maybe this time, I’d get 2. That would be a good idea, don’t you think?”
Our Love of Cats
This is the kind of thing that happens when cat people meet. We burst into spontaneous accounts about our cats. Sometimes there’s even an actual cat there.
“Usually if I stop to talk with a cat on the street, inside of 2 minutes there is a crowd of cat-loving people around me,” Winifred Carriere observed in her book Cats 24 Hours a Day, “exchanging anecdotes, exhibiting snapshots, swapping old wives’ tales and sound advice…. We share each other’s sadness when the story ends ‘but he died’; and we share each other’s happiness when it ends with ‘even at that age, she’s perfectly healthy, lively as a kitten….’”
Like Calling to Like
“I love belonging to a subculture of cat owners,” enthused Nancy Davidson in The Secrets of Lost Cats. That’s right, cat people: We’re a subculture.
There are people who follow the Renaissance Fair circuit, much as “Deadheads” used to follow the Grateful Dead around on tours.
Still others make a point of traveling up to Providence, Rhode Island, to participate in the festival honoring horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. (Lovecraft, by the way, wasn’t big on people, but he was drawn to felines, whom he viewed as “cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see.”)
Cat people, like just about everybody else out there, are simply searching for a place or a group to belong to. And they have found it with others who share their passion for cats and all things feline.
“To me, it reflects acceptance,” reflects Cordy Diaz, who is owned by several cats.
Other cat people “accept me with all my quirky, independent stubbornness” — something, she laughingly admits, that the felines in our lives frequently exhibit. “I am loved for who I am and as I am.”
It’s only human to gravitate toward someone who speaks the same language.
“Other cat lovers understand me,” says Susan Graham, a breeder who’s active in cat rescue. “They get what I mean when I talk about poop problems or how giggly I get when they [cats] do something silly — especially the rescue cat people.”
A Sense of Community
Periodically, somebody does a study of cat people versus dog people. The former are seen as being more introverted types who stay inside a lot and don’t necessarily own their own homes. (Don’t ask me how they came up with those findings.)
“It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively,” Professor Denise Guastello, the author of one such study, said back in 2014, “because they’re going to want to be outside, talking to people, bringing their dog. Whereas, if you’re more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.”
One generalization, an “if” and a “maybe” don’t exactly make for a compelling argument. Not all cat people are introverted. They actually have a very strong sense of community.
You see it with “breed rescues working to save and rehome displaced pets,” points out Donna Pawl, who got 2 of her cats through Burmese Rescue.
“Various breed rescues also work together to provide volunteer transport of animals from the area to a new home miles away. Then, of course, there are the TNR [Trap-Neuter-Release] volunteers and their supporters getting feral cats fixed and vetted … and finding homes for those who show a willingness to be rehabilitated.”
Here’s a cute look at life as a cat lover:
But it goes even further than that, as the many cat groups on Facebook show.
Cat people respond with advice about a sick cat at 1 a.m. They share posts about missing cats, even if the cats are in other countries (you never know who might see the posts). They rejoice when the cats are found and commiserate when they’re not.
They send presents to one another’s cats. One friend, Fran, sent Tansy, my youngest Abyssinian, a box of cat toys on her 1st birthday. I’ve never met her, but she has become a good friend.
Cat lovers are always coming up to me at book signings, but not necessarily to buy books. Often, they just want to share stories about their cats to someone who speaks the same language, who has shared their experiences.
That’s what being part of a subculture’s all about.