The Thief Who Stole My Heart

For the longest time, I’ve always wanted a cat. My obsession started in second grade when we had to do a research project on a prehistoric animal; I chose the saber-tooth tiger. It was the ferocious snarling face that revealed those large vicious fangs, the powerful, rippling muscles of its lunging body, and the dangerous, wild lifestyle the saber-tooth tiger boasted that awed me speechless. So upon discovering that saber-tooth tigers were related to modern, domestic cats, my heart was loaded, cocked, and aimed directly for cats.

Unfortunately, my parents didn’t share the same love. Every year I would ask for a cat, but I always got the same stern, “No,” and when I asked why they would tell me the same stories each time.

“Ick,” My dad would always start, “cats are dirty and smell funny. In the village when I was a kid, people only kept cats to kill rats. So until we have rats, we’re not getting a cat.” This always tempted me to bring home a couple of rats, but I just never figured out how to enter the sewers.

Then it was my mom’s turn, “What will you do when the cat dies, huh? What will you do when your best friend dies, because that’s what a pet is! When I was young, I loved my dogs so much, but one day my mother decided the dogs were two unnecessary mouths to feed and wanted to put them down. Oh how the seven of us jumped on the dogs screaming and crying as we hung onto their coats for dear life. You should have seen my mother trying to drag all of us out the door. Unfortunately, we were forced to let go. Now, is that what you want? Hmm?” At first the story scared me, but as I grew older I would argue that our situations were different and that she was being a drama queen. She never listened.

So I waited patiently, always hoping that they would finally relent on my next birthday, but that “next birthday” never came. Right when I was about to give up hope, my seventeenth birthday rolled around. It wasn’t a special birthday, just the awkward age between my sweet sixteen and my legal eighteen. My parents were still resilient as ever and were absolutely against the cat, but my friends were a different story. On the day of my birthday, they showed up at my front door with a wide-eyed, shaking kitten. At that moment I was overcome with a tidal wave of joy. My lifelong wish had finally come true! I knew my life was about to change, but I didn’t know just how much.

After a surprisingly short and relatively smooth start with my parents, Bandit was able to successfully assimilate into the family as the most beloved member. I had prepared a long list of plans and adventures for Bandit and me and after waiting almost a decade, I was more than ready to take off. I wanted to paint pictures of us, dress up in fashionable outfits together, teach him how to swim, go on road trips, set out to explore the woods in my backyard, and other feral escapades. All cats are like fearless pirates, or so I thought.
To my surprise, Bandit is the most timid and docile cat I have ever met. Every time I open the front door, he hisses and arches his back then sprints into my room to cower under the bed. Well there go the expeditions in the backyard. Whenever he has to go to the vet’s, he insists on using the car seats as his litter box. Bye-bye road trips. In the bath, water makes him howl pitifully, so showing him the freestyle stroke is definitely out of the question. It is required that he leaves a trail across my oil pastel paintings then smudges paw prints across my clean sheets of drawing paper. Just when you think he’s done enough, he goes to the bathroom…in my closet.
I was only an amateur cat care taker in the beginning, so I didn’t understand how to cope with his antics. Puzzled and confused, I applied what I knew best and impatiently yelled lectures at him. They didn’t work. So then I tried, I hate to admit this, forceful tactics. Carrying him to the outside world as he struggled and frantically meowed didn’t work either. During all of this, he was developing and closer and more intimate bond with my mom. I was jealous and hurt. How could the one thing I loved most, love my mom more? I contemplated many theories including: maybe she has a brain control device, she can speak the cat language, or she was luring him with a secret stash of treats. I went with the cat treats one, and confronted her about it.
“I don’t have a hidden stash of treats, silly. What I do have is patience.” My mom coolly replied.
Ever since then, Bandit has been teaching me to be more and more patient. I’ve become a much calmer and less rash person, thinking before I leap. He has taught me to grow up and that I cannot shirk my responsibilities, such as cleaning his litter box because if I don’t he will make a wet statement in my closet. He’s also brought my family closer by leading me to my parents’ rooms. We eat dinner as a family at the dinner table more often now, usually with Bandit as the topic. I still wish he was a little more courageous at times so we can go adventuring, but I think with a little time and extra care I can get him to go outside with me. Bandit has been more than just a cat to me; he’s my little saber-tooth tiger.

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