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I want a cat. I want a dog. Cat, dog, cat, dog! The debate has been raging now for nearly three weeks. The dog’s devotion and optimism, and yet, the cat … so sensitive, so sweet, so self-contained. You can take dogs places, plus they are great conversation starters at the park. But cats are so wise and have the makings of such great stories. What to do, what to do?

I have been petless for nearly a year and a half since my beautiful Siamese, Mimi the Cat, died at age 20 after a long and happy life. What you say! Have I forgotten Mikey! Did I not put a tick in the box beside “fish” in the pet census? Does Mikey not count? Well … in a word, no.

Fish occupy that nebulous category between knickknack and screen saver. They are more than a plant but less than an animal. That is not to say hat Mikey is not at the top of food chain as far as great fish go. We definitely communicate, especially when I tap the bowl and show him the bright yellow fish food container. And Mikey is no slouch in the looking good department. He swishes those long blue fins with the finesse of a fan dancer.

But it’s hard to hug Mikey, and there’s only so many cute things he says. But a cat or a dog now, you’ve gotten story material for life, and when you’re blue there’s nothing like a throaty purr or wagging tail to get your priorities back on line. So like I was saying the only debate I had was should I get a dog or a cat.

I visited shelters, spent hours online at Petfinder and lurked around Petsmart on the weekends. And then I saw that the Placer County shelter had so many cats they were giving them away – no adoption charge. Here was a pet I could afford!

As I read over the available felines I found several that caught my attention – not only were they older but some had been at the shelter since last spring. There’s nothing like gratitude for tight bonding. So yesterday I loaded the kitty carrier in the back of the car and set off for Placer County.

The first candidate, Pebbles, was a real talker and very restless. The second, Lucy, was extremely timid and fearful. But the third kitty, misnamed Nutmeg, was a real sweetheart. She had long black and white fur and big yellow eyes. She had been living on the streets since summer and at seven years old, she was definitely mature. I felt we already had a lot in common.

Before you could say “Here, kitty, kitty,” I was on the freeway with a passenger in the back. After I set up the litter box and the food and water bowls I opened the carrier and out she stepped. While I sat down and watched, she blinked a few times, sniffed the corners and then sat down for a late afternoon toilette.

When she was done, she came to where I was sitting, hopped on my lap and invited me to pet her which I did. We did experience some difficulty as she is not a long and lean type of kitty but more of the plump and round variety – another thing we shared in common.

When she sat across my lap her head and front paws hung over the edge; when she tried to sit beside me our mutual widths could not be accommodated in the extremely narrow easy chair. Later on I noticed that her plumpness could not be attributed to overeating (she had a light appetite like myself) but was probably plump as a result of a genetic curse (the similarities continued to astound me).

That night she joined me in bed. Except for an occasional hairball hack, the evening was quiet. She was quite adept at dodging my flailing arms and legs and on the two occasions when I made a quick trip to the bathroom she graciously accompanied me.

Now the only thing left to do is give her the right name. She is certainly not a “Nutmeg” but maybe a Fifi or Lena, a Madeline or Sofi. Or, how about Rachel, Louise, Dixie ….

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