My late husband often said that there are two kinds of people in the world: cat people and dog people. Actually, what he used to say was that there are cat people and sane people. Barry was a dog person, obviously. But I never held it against him.
He, in turn, was extremely tolerant of my feline tendencies. Extremely. Our first home together was near a north shore beach, in the midst of kiawe and ironwood trees. The area was known as a good place to dump unwanted kittens, and within a year of living there, I had accumulated several dozen cats. They weren't really pets, as Barry kept reminding me, but I fed them daily and gave each of them names. It was sort of an upscale feral cat colony, and Barry didn't mind because it kept the feral rats at bay.
Each morning, I filled an old hubcap with dry cat food and set it on a big wooden spool table in the front yard. I'd stroke each cat and greet them by name as they emerged from under the house and out of the thicket. Spooky and Stormy grudgingly allowed me to scratch between their ears while they dined, but dashed back into the kiawe woods after eating their fill. The others took a more leisurely pace, and a few, like Pog and Patches, stayed close to the house, presumably on rat patrol.
Barry agreed to allow indoor privileges to the cat of my choice, and Kimo was my first. He was a true beach cat, accompanying me on afternoon walks along the shore, chasing sand crabs and sharpening his claws on hunks of driftwood. I'd often find him sitting on the crest of the huge sand dune between our house and the beach, surveying his oceanside territory.
When we moved into our Waiehu home, I received a beautiful, sweet-tempered blue point Himalayan kitten as a housewarming gift. Barry wasn't fond of Musashi, but he indulged me, to the point of letting me adopt another kitten from the same breeder, two years later. Eventually, all that Himalayan hair got to be too much for his allergies, and it was my turn to be understanding and accommodating. With heavy heart, I gave away Musashi and Puakea, and haven't owned another cat since.
Barry's allergies are no longer an issue; I've been a widow for seven years now, and several friends have suggested I could use some feline companionship. They're right, I would love to have a furry, purring buddy to come home to. Trouble is, I'm not home enough to properly care for a pet. But one day, probably when I retire, I'll get a new roomie from the Maui Humane Society's kitty condo.
Nearly all of my pets have been rescue cats. Kilowatt, a scrappy, skinny orange tabby kitten, was found in a cane field and brought home by my first husband, Jim, the only one of my three spouses who was also a cat person. The first of three cats adopted by Jim and me, Kilowatt was definitely Daddy's cat. In fact, when we divorced, Jim insisted on joint custody of our son and full custody of Kilowatt.
Our second cat, Marconi, was as devoted to me as Kilowatt was to Jim. He was around 3 months old when we brought him home from the animal shelter, a sleek black kitty with green eyes. His claim to fame was playing fetch. Every evening while watching TV after dinner, I'd toss a crumpled cigarette pack across the room, and Marconi would chase after it, bat it around for a little while, then carry it back in his jaws and drop it into my open hand. After a few rounds, he'd crawl into my lap for a nap. This was our routine for over a year, until my pregnant belly eliminated his comfy perch. When he could no longer fit on my lap, he stopped playing fetch. Our relationship was never the same.
Now I have a new relationship, with a neighborhood cat who looks a lot like Kimo, only with gray patches instead of black. A few weeks ago, I bought a water dish and some cat food for my daily visitor. I don't know whether he has a home with humans, so I keep the water fresh and put out just a little food each day. I figure, having him around will deter rodents. But he's not a pet, not really. Even if I do decide to give him a name.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.