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  • Writer's pictureCatherine White

Vibing w/ Cat White

I may be single but, make no mistake, my bed is always full!

As the proud servant to four fur babes – three cats and a dog – I sleep with a variety of sexes and species nightly.

I feel bad for those who experienced loneliness throughout the pandemic – hours of solitude and … serenity? Heck, the only time I was alone this past year was the rare occasion I had to go into the office since I worked remotely most of the time. My pandemic experience highlighted how much MORE tending to my overlords I can accomplish when my commute time is eliminated.

While I’ve enjoyed working from home for the past year, there have been adjustments. Instead of one supervisor looking over my shoulder, I had THREE felines overseeing my activities. Actually, they were more job hinderers than helpers, constantly trying to “help” me type on the keyboard and breaking into my virtual meetings for impromptu serenades.

Those of you familiar with my Star-Gazette columns may recall my support of the Chemung County S.P.C.A., and other area animal shelters. After leaving the newspaper I co-organized several benefits with current Chemung S.P.C.A. board member Roger Laughlin, whenever and wherever I could.

I was raised with cats and have lived with them from the moment I first drew breath. When I was born my mom had a tabby named Annie who only liked my mom. She would hiss and spit at everybody else and, I’m pretty sure, that’s where I developed my appreciation of personal space.

Innumerable cats followed. Mostly strays that were welcomed in by us kids’ open arms and my mom’s exhaustion as a single working mother of three.

In addition to the two to six cats that “ruled the roost” in our three-bedroom Hoffman Plaza apartment growing up, my siblings and I spent a good chunk of time at our babysitter’s. She always had two dogs that went almost everywhere with her. She also had at least one cat, a rabbit and a turtle in her home daycare. Then, after earning her master’s, my babysitter opened a chain of daycare centers called Over the Rainbow and each location had a variety of small pets – resident cats, guinea pigs, turtles, etc.

When I first moved out on my own, I thought I would take a break from pet ownership - Save a few bucks on cat litter and food, and put those funds towards my Kingsbury’s bar tab. About a week before I was set to move, one of my mom’s friends told me about a black stray kitten under her porch. She asked if I wanted to take it with me, otherwise she’d need to take it to the shelter. I took it as a sign and Jinx became my first official living being for which I was solely responsible.

Jinx, my beautiful black masochistic house panther, was a lover and a very social cat. He groomed cats and dogs alike, waiting until the unsuspecting animal was relaxing to pounce, hold them down with his paws as he diligently licked their face or their ears or their neck.

I was moving in with friends and there were no other pets in the house. I had also started a job as a highway construction inspector on the Corning Bypass, so I was gone from about 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Whenever I was home, poor Jinx stuck to me like glue. Inconvenient for the socially active twenty-something I was at the time. The situation was remedied when I started taking him to kitty daycare at my mom’s when I worked. Jinx was such a smart, talented cat that he would go from our front door to my car, and then saunter form my backseat into his grandma’s to play with her cats while I continued to work. Then I’d pick him up in the evening and he’d go home exhausted from spending the day with his friends. Absolutely ridiculous, but my love of pets began early and continues to this day.

Austin, TX is incredibly pet friendly, particularly when it comes to dogs. There are doggy daycares, parks and dog-friendly restaurants everywhere. Acceptance of breeds that have been labeled dangerous, such as pit bulls, is growing, as well.

When I first moved to the area, a cat café was opening that helped shelters by taking some of the rescues and helping to get them adopted. In addition to serving coffee, the café held events like Yoga with Cats and Adult Coloring with Cats where folks could just come and hang out with kitties. Truly a cool hangout for cat people such as myself. My Mom and I thought we had found nirvana when we visited.

While I’m a self-described, unabashed cat lady, I’ve also got plenty of room in my heart for the pooches. As mentioned, our sitter growing up had dogs, including a goofy, grinning, floofy white Samoyed Husky and an easy-going Black Labrador who loved having her belly rubbed. Those dogs were like family and even earned me a little spending cash as a youngster when I would dog sit.

My younger sister, Liz, also went the dog route, rescuing a dog named Miles once she graduated high school. Miles earned his name. He was an escape artist who liked to run for “miles”. When Miles passed, my sister got Merlin, a Black Lab, for my nephew. Merlin made the trek from Elmira to Austin with us and was our very good boy during our first few years in ATX.

Traditionally, Liz is the dog person and I’m all about the kitties. Recently, however, I’ve had the opportunity to take care of my nephew’s pup and I am in love! Tigger is an old blonde Pittie who likes cats and actually purrs in his own special way! He’s also become fiercely protective of me. Something that I’ve found cats aren’t really concerned about, generally.

Tigger, and the cats, made quarantine bearable. They kept me busy and entertained, and soothed my soul when I worried. I know it’s not an option for everyone, but for those who can, please rescue an animal from your local shelter. If you can’t adopt yourself there are plenty of other ways to help. Host a fundraiser, donate – money or your time – to local shelters and animal protection efforts like Spay/Neuter programs.

Pets have always made my life less scary and more joyful. I hope to one day retire, and run an animal rescue farm, where cats and dogs can be adopted to loving homes or spend their days running free, being loved on and never knowing that they’re not home.


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