After my wife’s conversion, ours includes cats

When I first met my wife, she wasn’t a “cat person.” She grew up in a family with dogs, and they were her “go to” pets.

When I grew up, we had a farm overflowing with animals — cats, a dog, cattle and chickens, along with the occasional horse and pig.

My wife’s dogs had the run of her house. They were part of the family, and she talks about the ones that were standouts — Big Dog, CB, Elvis — as she describes their escapades during the long small-town Texas summers.

Animals on our farm, though, were there for a purpose rather than entertainment. The cattle were there to provide food or breed, with their calves sold each year to help pay our bills. The chickens produced eggs to eat, the pigs typically wound up in our freezer, and we always kept one cow to provide our milk each day. The horses were my sisters’ youth agriculture projects, the cats lived in the barn and chased down mice and rats, and the dog was the intruder alarm system.

Anyway, when we married, my wife politicked constantly for a dog. But dogs need lots of attention, and since we both worked outside the home, that wasn’t possible. So I suggested instead that we get a cat, because they sleep most of the day anyway. And so we did.

Our first cat was friendly and loving, but it developed a serious problem that led to a week’s stay at an emergency vet facility. The cat recovered after a long and expensive stay, and when it came home, it loved us just the same.

But it hated — and I do mean hated — everyone else. Which was fine because we didn’t have a lot of visitors back then anyway.

Its eventual replacement has a place in my wife’s pet hall of fame: Spike trailed my wife throughout the house as first one son, and then another, was born and grew. It was common to see all four of them (my wife, two tiny sons and the cat) clambered together in a rocking chair, watching Winnie the Pooh at two in the morning when one son was sick and the other couldn’t sleep.

That cat wanted to be in the middle of everything; he was “Nana Kitty,” the self-appointed third parent. We rescued it from the SPCA primarily because when our almost 2-year-old saw the cat, he accidentally picked it up with an under-the-neck chokehold, and the cat just hung there like a rag doll, enjoying the attention.

Spike lived with us 13 years, until his little body finally gave out.

Now, as I write this column, our two cats (both rescued from local shelters, one after a car accident claimed its front left leg when it was 12 weeks old) are curled up next to my wife. They’re purring and occasionally stirring a bit just to make sure they’re not missing anything.

My wife is now a cat person. She claims she can look at the cats’ faces and tell what they’re thinking.

I look at their faces, and all I see are two round eyes staring back. I’m sure there’s something going on back there, but I choose not to worry about it.

If they’re hungry or thirsty, they let us know. And they’re no longer animals or even pets. Instead, they’re always hanging around with us, just like family.

Because that’s what they are.