I have two cats. One is a female torby—a mash-up term for a coat color that is both tortoiseshell and tabby striped—named Cinder. The other is a male one-eyed orange tabby with white markings named Jack.
Jack doesn’t love me.
Almost two years ago, I started having a hankering to own a cat again. We hadn’t had one for a few years, and I still really missed Pudgie, our seventeen-year-old cat who passed away shortly after we moved into our current house. She was a sweet, petite brown tabby whom we referred to as the perfect cat. Okay, she did barf frequently, but she didn’t wreck furniture or make much mischief. I missed her unobtrusive presence, even though we had two dogs and a guinea pig to fill the void.
I convinced the rest of the family to let me look for an orange tabby to adopt. I found one listed at my local shelter and went to see him, but he had been pulled by a rescue group already. I made a list of a number of other cats that I liked, but I couldn’t make a decision. I wanted to go see some others at an adoption center in a local Petsmart. We ended up going to a few Petsmarts and there I saw Cinder (called Lacey at the time) and Jack.
Cinder reminded my mom of Pudgie. Different eye colors but similar faces. She was sweetly interested in us through the air holes in her plexi-glass window. Jack was the orange tabby I was looking for, and very interested in my dog Luna whom I’d brought along—more so than in me. I held both of them. Cinder settled onto my lap immediately and purred. Jack was most interested in looking out the door at Luna but he was also a kitten still so I didn’t expect him to sit still long.
The shelter was overseeing this adoption center in the Petsmart, so my application with them allowed me to adopt both cats for the price of one. I couldn’t choose between them anyway, so it seemed meant to be. We brought them home and although it took Cinder a bit longer than Jack to settle in, they now have full run of the house and get along well with the dogs.
They’re nearly opposite in how they relate to me and my family, however.
Cinder adores me. She would be sitting on me twenty-four hours a day if I allowed her to. Always touching me. Always wanting to be petted. She likes my mom, too, but I am her person. Sometimes I have to move her off of me because I just need some personal space. Cinder tolerates the dogs (I think she secretly likes Luna but doesn’t want to cuddle) and is suspicious of most men. Wherever I am—the kitchen, my bedroom, the bathroom—she wants to be, too. She even sits between the fabric shower curtain and the plastic liner while I am showering. I have no privacy.
Then there’s Jack. He adores the dogs, especially Luna. If it were possible, he would crawl inside of her. (She returns his affection with puzzlement and seeks out her own space). He likes my dad and my nephew, a frequent visitor. It doesn’t matter to Jack that my dad doesn’t particularly like cats. He loves my mom, and purrs loudly while sitting on her lap. I can hear it across the room. He nudges her to pet him and invades her personal space relentlessly.
Jack doesn’t love me.
I feed him most of his meals. I clean up his litter box. I provide him with toys and treats. None of that seems to matter. On most occasions, I get no indication of enjoyment from him if I pet him. Sometimes he even ducks away from me. On a good day, he permits me to pet him a few times. On a rare day, he will give me a squinty-eyed look of pleasure, or a subdued purr, the rarest response. Most of the time, though, my gestures of affection are met with disdain and avoided.
I don’t know what I did to earn his displeasure in the early days of our relationship, but whatever it was must have been very grievous to linger in his feelings towards me. No amount of care I have given since has changed his lack of desire to bond with me. He just won’t love me.
And yet, I love the turkey anyway.
I worry about him slipping outside and getting lost or hurt. I watch his weight so he won’t get diabetes. I share bits of his favorite foods from my own plate. All for the hope of that elusive purr and head nudge to my hand.