A Different Type of Love

Growing up, I had very little contact with domesticated animals. My mother was really allergic to cats and dogs, so we had a few gerbils, but that was it.

I’d encounter dogs every now and then, but I didn’t understand what they wanted from me with their sniffing and licking and growling. I had very little contact with cats.

So when I started dating C. in 2005, I was introduced to my first cat. Catface was a beautiful, prissy cat who liked to play mind games with humans. It was hard not to like Catface, even though she wasn’t exactly friendly.

When C. moved in with me, we decided to do something together: We went to the human society to get a kitten. This was a huge step for me, as I never thought I’d own a pet, much less actively try to find a pet. But I think my affection for new creatures was growing.

If I remember correctly, there were a few kittens at the human society that fateful day, but we thought the ginger tabby looked the cutest. We sat down in the room with the little guy, who promptly extended his claws, walked up my arm, and across my shoulders, nuzzling against the back of my neck.

He was the one.

In those early days, Biddy (rather, he was named Baby Bok Choy back then) would sleep on my chest or between C. and me. He considered us his parents, I like to think.

As much as I loved him from day one, I wasn’t the perfect father. This little guy has drawn my ire quite a few times. The time that stands out from the rest was when I settled down with a hot dog one Saturday afternoon. I got up to get something to drink, and within a few seconds, Biddy had dragged the hot dog from its bun onto the floor.

I overreacted. I grabbed Biddy by the scruff of the neck and slid him across the room, way too forcefully. I look back and cringe at what could have happened to him had he hit the wall at the wrong angle. C. was terrified and scared, and we ended up hugging it out, both of us crying. I realized that even in anger, I needed to connect to some element of compassion and tenderness–not just with Biddy, but with everyone.

When C. and I broke up, she offered me Biddy, saying, “He likes you more.” I don’t know about that, but it was good to hear, and I came to enjoy having Biddy as the only creature to greet me when I came home. He would take me around the condo and show me things–the leaves on the balcony, the ball he pushed too far under the sofa, his food and water bowls. We’d play and cuddle and wrestle, and I’d give him a few bites of my human food at dinner. He became a companion of sorts.

One of the worst things I’ve had to do was give Biddy up for a few months while I lived in a different apartment and rented out my condo. The man who took care of him owned a number of cats, and although he loved them, he wasn’t the best at feeding them. I visited Biddy the first week, but it was so hard to bare that I didn’t see him again for another month and a half. When I saw him again, he came scampering to the door–somehow he remembered me. I could barely recognize him, though. In just under two months, he had lost at least four pounds. I was shocked and scared, and it took every fiber in my being to not scoop him up and take him away that day. Fortunately, my friends Jay and Erin were able to take him in two days later, and I moved back into my condo with Biddy later that week.

Now it’s just me and him. Two bachelors enjoying the good life.

I know it’s a little weird for a 29-year-old man to care about his cat and talk about him the way I do, but I wanted to share this journey with you for a reason. I grew up without a place in my heart for animals. I almost scorned the very idea of owning a pet, like that was something people did if they weren’t able to connect with other people.

Boy was I wrong. I feel like there is so much more love in me because of Biddy. Because of him, I’ve learned things about compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, and dependency that I otherwise never would have known. He’s a good cat, an affectionate cat, a playful cat. He’s my boy.

Having Biddy reminds me on a daily basis that I’m capable of loving another being as much as I love myself.

This one’s to you, Biddy. Happy third birthday. May we share many more together.

Jamey


13 Responses to “A Different Type of Love”

  1. Jasmin says:

    Cute! I’m sure Biddy feels the love you give everyday.

    Baby Bok Choy. He doesn’t look edible. Why is he called Biddy anyway?

    Also, Happy Birthday, Biddy!! Let’s party until dawn! Catnip for everyone!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Well, Baby Bok Choy was a mouthful (pun!), so we started calling him Bitten Kitten. Then that became Bitten Boy, then Biddy Boy. Finally it just became Biddy, although I call him Bids sometimes too.

  2. david holloway says:

    there’s nothing strange, sinister, lame, pernicious, weird, or silly about telling the world you care about your domestic animal. like you, i grew up without the space or money or time to devote to an animal. i never understood the appeal of a dog and grew to despise them as symbols of everything i could never have as a youth–expendable income, an expanse of yard, etc. but now i have two dogs. and i would choose their companionship over a human’s any day. phyllis reminds me of me–she doesn’t seem to care about anyone other than herself and secretly pees all over my single family home. and lucius would kill you (jamey) or die trying if he thought i was in danger (as an added bonus, he eats his own poop). animals show us who we are, if you ask me. that’s why you’re alright in my book, jamey, and that’s why michael vick is a prick.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thanks for your comment–I’m glad you (and others) can relate to the idea of not having and not understanding pets when we were younger, and then learning about all the great things pets bring to our lives now that we’re adults. Your dogs sound awesome. Please don’t train the one to specifically hunt me down.

  3. Eric says:

    Michael Vick would love this post.

  4. Dionne says:

    Awww…you’re such a good daddy:)

  5. Biddylover456802367236 says:

    It’s been a long while since biddy and I have spent quality time together, but I still consider him a dear friend. I hope he has a good birthday filled with lots of catnip and belly rubs!

  6. […] had Biddy for over 3 years now, and we have a pretty good thing going on. However, over the last few months […]

  7. @JMJKDulce says:

    I want to write a much longer response, but in short…LOL I was born into having dogs, and I am a dog person, because I have a mild fear of cats. I had a cat when I was younger, and that thing was crazy! I love all animals, but my pulse races when I am around cats. Way to confront fear? Volunteer at a cat shelter with almost a hundred roaming free. Hehe, people still can’t believe I did that. I wouldn’t get one myself, but if someone I dated had one, I wouldn’t mind. I would just have to have a sit down with that cat and see if we could come to some sort of arrangement.

    • Dionne says:

      Cats require a different type of raising than dogs. You can equate raising a dog as you would raising a child, but a cat is like raising a moody teenage girl. Yes, I speak from experience..lol. When they are kittens they are willing to do anything that you want, but as they get older their moods start to change and with that their independence emerges. You have to change with them and let them assert that independence. (sigh) I wish I had a cat now, but my living arrangements don’t permit me this luxury.

      • Jamey Stegmaier says:

        Yeah, I’m fortunate that Biddy has stayed pretty fun and non-moody (though he has his moments, especially with doors and food). I’m hoping the kitten will grow up to be just as lovable and playful as Biddy.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      That was bold of you to volunteer at a cat shelter despite your fear of cats! I’m impressed. You’ll probably want a cat mediator/whisperer to sit down with you and the cat in question to sort things out.

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