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Dena Harris


Adjusting to Life with Cats

This book is dedicated to LUCY who started it all.


A big “thumbs up” to the Universe for all the cool cats out there—nicely done.

Many thanks to all my writer friends who managed to smile through gritted teeth when I asked if they would mind reading “just one more cat story?” Special thanks to Tom Truitt, Betsy O’Brien Harrison, “Maddie,” Sally, Kaptain, Cherie, and all the writers at The Writer’s Way who encouraged me.

Plus, hats off to all members of the Cat Writer’s Association (CWA) who remind me I’m not alone in my maniacal devotion to cats.

A big thank you to Rita Davis, editor of Cats & Kittens magazine where many of these stories first appeared. She said she couldn’t hire me as a humor columnist then proceeded to publish my stories in the magazine’s humor column for the next two years. (Ha ha! I win!)

Love to my family, who remind me daily they think I’m the coolest thing since sliced bread.

And a tremendous and loving thank you to my husband, the most patient, tolerant, encouraging, and supportive human being on the planet. Thanks for letting me write the stories so it always looks like I’m right.

Finally, love to my feline babies Lucy & Olivia for providing hours of entertainment and fodder for this book. I know as I write this chances are you’re both doing something really hideous to my chairs, but I love you anyway.


It’s happened. I have become that woman. The one obsessed with cats. Friends no longer put any thought into purchasing gifts for me. If it has a cat on it, they figure (correctly) that I’ll love it. That’s how it starts. People start thinking this way and soon—through no fault of your own—you’re living in a house filled with cat picture frames, cat gloves, cat bookmarks, cat plaques, cat mugs, and yes, even cat underwear.

How cool is that?

We couldn’t have cats growing up because my dad was allergic. We discovered this when we actually had a cat for a few months. Notice the few months part. I inherited my love of cats from my mom and for a while it was a tough call on who would have to leave, Dad or the cat. (Dad won by a nose hair because he didn’t shed on the couch.)

So I couldn’t wait to be an adult and have a cat of my own. But around age 18 I developed allergies. I practically blew up when I was around cats.

Desperate, I tried allergy shots but my allergist warned me I must “never, ever own a cat.”

Then I met Lucy.

She was about three months old, a stray, and playing with a leaf outside a building. It was a November night before the first frost and no one would take her home. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her.

“Hey,” I said, “Do you want to come home with me?”

She abandoned her leaf, ran to me, put her tiny front paws on my leg, looked up and said, “Mew.”

Well. I’m only human.

I packed her in my car and drove home. The look on my husband’s face when I walked in the door was less one of surprise and more one of resignation. He’d seen this day coming.

“No, no,” I said, cutting him off. “I know I can’t keep her.

It’s just for a day or two until I find a home for her.”

“Uh-huh,” he said and left the house without another word. When he returned twenty minutes later it was with litter box, food, dishes, and play toys, which he set up in the special “Lucy corner.”

He’s a good man.

And he was right. Lucy never left. Amazingly, I had no allergic reaction to her whatsoever.

This is not true of all cats. Our kitten Olivia makes me sneeze (but she’s so darn cute, I just suck it up).

Lucy is special. All cats are special. And it was obviously meant to be that I have cats in my life. I can’t imagine our home without them.

I hope you have cats in your life. And if you’re so inclined, feel free to send me a cat knick-knack for my home.

One can never have enough of these things.

—Dena Harris Madison, NC., April, 2005

Part I

The Cat


Feline Concerns

I’m worried about the cat. She keeps dropping mice into her water dish. I don’t think that’s normal. We wake one morning to find a small, red cotton mouse floating facedown in the dish. We figure she accidentally batted it in there. We set it on the side of the sink to dry out. The next morning, we find another one floating. Then another that evening and two more by morning. I mention my concerns to my husband.

“Something’s wrong with the cat. I don’t think it’s normal to keep putting mice in a water dish. Do you think she’s acting out? Like an act of aggression?”

“Maybe she just likes putting mice in her water dish,” he counters.

I grimace at him. “No, she must be upset about something.

This is her way of trying to communicate. What do you think she could be upset about?”

“That we keep taking the mice out of the water dish?” he offers.

I stop talking to him about it and instead watch the cat for clues.

She grows bolder in her moves. While she used to wait for us to go to bed or to work before drowning the mice, we now begin finding wet mice where moments before there were none. Walking back to the kitchen on a commercial break, we stop and stare at the water dish.

“Look, there’s another one,” says my husband.

“I can see that,” I say. “I told you she was upset.”

He continued on to the kitchen. “I’m not touching it then.”

I try talking to her about it. “Sweet-ums, why are you putting your mice in the water?”

She looks at me with perfectly round eyes.

“What’s the matter? Tell Mommy.” I reach out to hold her, but she bounds away.

I’m sure her hostility is directed at us and is no reflection toward the mice themselves. They have always been her favorite. We bring home a bag of five each month, and she goes crazy with delight, batting them around on our hardwood floors.

And where have all those mice gone? If we calculate bringing home five mice a month for six months, that’s thirty mice somewhere in our home. I can today account for the whereabouts of approximately three. I suspect foul play.

I speak to my mom who says, “She wants attention. That’s her way of telling you.”

“But Mom, I already pay her attention! I pet her every morning, and we play when I get home from work, and I pet her at dinner and before we go to bed.”

“Well then, maybe she’s trying to tell you to leave her alone.”

I cross Mom off the list of people I will discuss this with.

Then, as suddenly as they appeared, the wet mice vanish. No more floating cotton corpses. I watch the cat carefully, but nothing seems to have changed. She still likes playing with them, and she still runs from me when I try to pet her. But she is no longer drowning mice.

I hope this is a good thing. I mention to my husband that I am concerned about the cat because she is no longer drowning her mice. He stares at me in disbelief before throwing up his hands and leaving the room.

I suppose he’s right.

Maybe there never was a problem after all?


Never Feed A Cat Grape Benadryl ®

It’s a horrible feeling of helplessness and responsibility, tending to a sick pet. When examining an ailing animal, it’s vital one be calm, levelheaded, and not concede to overreaction.



2011 - 2018