2 Cats! Incoming!
“Are you officially turning your key on getting the cats?” — a text from my wife.
‘Turning our keys’ is a phrase we’ve adopted from Crimson Tide (the 1995 movie starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington). According to the movie, submarines can only fire nuclear weapons when the two highest ranking officers (each sole possessors of keys to the launch system) agree to do so. The phrase lends itself well to the ever-present need for domestic decision making. Are you turning your key on….Orlando for vacation? Visiting my family for Christmas? Going full digital with movie purchasing?
For most people, adopting two cats and bringing them into a house that already has two dogs would fall squarely into the key-turning category, but after reading her text I realize it doesn’t. It actually sounds like fun. No, our dogs are not cat friendly (cat = chase), which means the house will become an obstacle course of doorway-blocking, bare toe-destroying baby gates, and nothing quite wrecks a home’s feng shui like a litter box. But my wife and I are animal people. Either of us could text the other asking, “Are you officially turning your key on the orangutans?” and most likely the answer would be, “Yes!” (neither of us, obviously, would have made very good submarine captains).
Now we have two cats and they adore her. They follow her wherever she goes. They sleep peacefully in her lap, perch loyally atop her shoulders like parrots whenever they’re hungry or want to play, and sprint to her side every morning, as if their day cannot begin until they glimpse her face. It’s all wonderful and sweet, but difficult to fully appreciate when they run like heck whenever they see me coming.
Having grown accustomed to the rowdy, touchdown-celebration greeting practiced by our dogs, watching the cats flee from me is puzzling. Having two dogs means you always come home to a hero’s welcome. The second they see me through the front window, they tilt their heads back and bark like mad. In the deafening language of dogs — those long, comma-riddled sentences of brain-piercing, single syllable cheers — they alert the entire neighborhood of my return. “BRAD IS HOME! HE’S FINALLY HOME!”
With no regard for braking distance, they come sprinting at my shins. They prance and mosh atop my feet, doing everything they can to trip me down to face-licking height. If they had Gatorade, they’d pour it on me. If they had shoulders, I’d be hoisted upon them. If they had cigars, they’d light one up and stick it in my mouth. The only thing missing is Kool and the Gang’s Celebrate pumping out of the stereo and a ‘Brad’s #1!’ banner unfurling from the ceiling.
The cats, on the other hand, not so much. To them my arrival is not a cause for celebration, but escape. I do not inspire a party. They look at me like someone who has come to collect on a debt they won’t be prepared to settle any time soon. With their tails sticking antenna-straight into the air, they run like their life depends on it. They shoot quick, fearful glances over their shoulders to make sure they’re not being pursued, and, if I do happen to continue in their direction, they move even faster; four-legged animals searching desperately for the shelter of the nearest four-legged furniture. If they could hold a baseball bat, they’d be swinging it. If they had pepper spray, I’d be drenched in it. If we had a panic room, they’d be locking themselves inside it.
Eventually I decided if they’re going to treat me like an ogre, I should at least have the pleasure of acting like one. Now, whenever I make eye contact with the cats, I growl. I make my already heavy footsteps fall like thunderclaps, and when I reach for them I stretch my fingers out wide the way I would to palm a basketball. Horrified, their eyes grow to the size of quarters.
Catching me playing this way, my wife shakes her head. She reaches down and pets them softly atop their heads. “Ignore him,” she says. “He’s used to playing with dogs.”
I look over and notice my goofiness, along with my wife’s caressing assurances to the cats, is being witnessed by the dogs from behind a gate. They sit and stare, looking like they’re not yet sure what to do, but are starting to get an idea. They look like two submarine captains deciding whether or not to fire a nuke.