Posted in Family

On “Inheriting” a Cat

cat and iPadGrandpa has never been a cat person. He has been a serial monogomist with a succession of beloved dogs, including Buttons the beagle, whose oil portrait still hangs in his living room. (My mother notes that he has no painting of herself and her brothers, so we know how Grandpa’s dogs have rated in his heart.) He tolerated my mother’s childhood pet, Puff–an aggressive tomcat who terrorized the neighborhood children by dropping out of tree branches onto them when they rode past, so that my mother regularly had to return fright-abandoned bikes to her neighbors–but he has categorically disliked cats his entire life.

Enter Suzy. Imagine our amazement five years ago when we heard that Grandpa had adopted a kitten. Suddenly the news from Grandpa’s house shifted from his cancer treatments, back surgery, and Grandma’s failing faculties to reports of Suzy’s latest cuteness. Suzy was a one-man cat, would not suffer anyone else to approach her, but would come running from any corner at Grandpa’s two-tone call of “Suuu-zeee.” She is sweetness personified–a stripey-faced tabby with enormous green eyes and a resounding purr… We just didn’t expect Grandpa to think so.

cat Monopoly
Suzy “monopolizing” our attention

Last winter, both Grandma and Grandpa had to move into assisted living within a few weeks of one another, and suddenly Suzy was left alone in their empty house. My two uncles, who live nearby and can’t stand cats, stopped by the house regularly to bring in the mail, scoop the litter box, refill Suzy’s food and water, and bring back reports to my anxious grandpa that Suzy was fine (meaning that she wouldn’t come out from under the bed when they visited). When my mother and I flew in to visit at Easter, we stayed in the house with Suzy. Starved for attention after several solo months, she crept under my quilt at night to sleep on my feet, and curled in my lap when I read in Grandpa’s armchair. “I’ve never seen her do that,” my mother remarked, shaking her head. The Big Family Question of the moment–ahead, even, of putting the house on the market, was the Question of Suzy. Where could she go that Grandpa would find acceptable?

And so I found myself on the phone with my husband (also “not a cat-person”) asking his thoughts about adopting. “It would be an honor,” he responded without hesitation. As a mark of the seriousness of the Suzy-placement-issue, I must report that Grandpa did not immediately jump at my proffered adoption-offer. I suspect that a prospective foster-parent undergoes similar questioning about household and environment before being approved to take in children!

But that’s how I ended up, at the end of the week, with a cat as carry-on luggage for my plane ride home. The husband may not be a cat-person, but he is most definitely a Suzy-person; he thoroughly fulfills the saying on our new refrigerator magnet: “Cats don’t have owners, they have staff.” Every week we send Grandpa a Suzy-update (with photos!) to reassure him that she’s doing well. At the moment she is curled on the bed
in front of me, my iPad leaning against her back while I type on the Bluetooth keyboard on my lap. Blissfully unconcerned with the fact that I’m writing about her (and that she’s serving as my “desk” while I do so), I’d like to believe she is content with her life as an Inherited Cat. Speaking for ourselves, we are certainly content to serve as her Staff.

Grandpa & Suzy


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

18 thoughts on “On “Inheriting” a Cat

  1. What a delightful essay! It seems that many people do not really like cats until they are owned by one. I love your sketch of your Grandpa and Suzy.


  2. What a lovely story! What to do with animals, when one can’t care for them is a very real issue. When my mother died, happily the owners of the place where she boarded the cat asked to keep her. I had a bunch of cats and wasn’t fond of Lady B. When we moved to Asia, we tried for months to find a home for our German Shepard. I didn’t know about the rescue groups then and the Internet was too new. Luckily we did find her a home, but the thought of taking her to a shelter was so upsetting! I am so glad that Suzy has found a home but gladder still that you love her so….


  3. So glad to discover your blog (thank you!) and so happy to read about Suzy. So many of the kitties at the HOKAFI shelter where I volunteer have been “surrendered” because of circumstances similar to your grandfather’s, but, in their case, there was no one who could take them on (or perhaps no real effort was made to find them home before bringing them to the shelter). Suzy’s big green eyes are shining with “character” in that photograph. I love it! She looks like she’s got some spunk.


  4. Spunk is right! :)
    And Suzy had the advantage of a strong advocate in my Grandpa, that’s for sure! Even his oldest grandchild wasn’t a shoo-in as “custodial parent” until he’d thoroughly considered… We’re very grateful, though (even my husband!–as you say, Pat, being owned by a cat changes people).


  5. Awww…
    So glad I read this story before calling it a night! We, my hubs and I, have been adopted by five cats with several more of them outside waiting for us to add them to our brood. We feed them the old cat food so I can’t figure why the finicky felines would come back for more of that stale stuff.

    Cats are such neat people~ :lol:


  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog and allowing me to follow you home. This was a beautiful tribute to both Suzy and your grandfather.

    My Dear Hubby is not a cat person. When we were dating he came home from college with a button on his jean jacket that read, “I love cats. Dead ones.” At the time, my family had three–very alive–cats. He’s since lightened up a bit, but his severe allergies to felines don’t help. Regardless, Dear Daughter loves kitties. When she was about seven she asked, “When Dad dies can we get a cat?”

    Now that’s a button I’d wear!


  7. You’re not kidding – half the reason I wrote about him was to remember the story, for whenever I actually have time to do more with it. :)

    Thanks for the subscription – and I loved your site! I’ll be back.


  8. Very sweet, especially the portrait of Grandpa and Suzy. The overwhelming urge I have to own a cat has just shot up tenfold! Just need to convince the flatmates now….

    Thanks for the follow, will be checking back in.


  9. I am always amazed at how quickly these little fur balls worm their way into people’s hearts. I was terrifed of them, but I fell in love with my Ex’s cat. Now my boyfriend who is not a pet person, is loath to give up my cats! I guess they now own us both :)


  10. I’d been a “cat person” most of my life until I discovered my allergy to them. And then I stayed a cat person for 2 more cats! When I got my 2 mini-poods I took a break from cats. Now they’ve both passed at ages 15 and 17. NEXT, I get an assignment to write about the local animal shelter – how the employees foster very young kittens in their own homes voluntarily. Next thing you know … I’m fostering. The thing after that? I adopted one of the little ones. I am again owned by a cat. Stop by my blog and you’ll see the story. Cats are Wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing your special voice on your blog. Cheers!


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