Insight: A cat tale

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By Jackie Mundt, farmer and rancher

Our household has only one rule about pets. We cannot buy or seek out pets, they must find and choose us. This rule is not my creation, but it is easy to follow because I have always been apathetic to pets.
I don’t dislike animals but lack an interest in pets. I am not the person who stops to talk to dogs in the park or asks about someone’s pets with interest beyond friendliness. Owning a pet has always seemed like a chore I want to avoid at all costs.
Life rarely goes how we plan. During the polar vortex cold spell last February, my life was transformed by the unlikely arrival of two new pets.
At some point in the bitter cold days, we noticed the appearance of a couple of stray cats. We knew these cats needed help surviving the cold spell and put out food, a heated water bowl and some straw bales to keep them dry, warm and full.
The cats continued to show up for meals, and we began to learn their personalities. The female tabby had ninja stealth, which she used to get her food. The grey male was more interested being friends with the tabby. He followed her bellowing the most pitiful “hello-oh” in hopes of becoming her friend.
She was not impressed. This created hours of entertainment for us as we watched him try to sneak food without alerting her.
We later learned he made that sound constantly when he was looking for others. Fittingly, we named him Hello Kitty.
After a few weeks, milk was added to our meal offerings in an effort to try to get close enough to pet them. In the spring, the 100 pounds of cat food and somewhere between 5 and 10 gallons of milk paid off. Marc was able to pet the tabby, now named KitCat. She soon discovered the joy of a good scratch behind your ears, and it wasn’t long before both cats lined up for scratches.
At some point in this long campaign to convince the cats to become our pets, I went from rolling my eyes to a willing and enthusiastic participant. I was even the first person to let them into the house when they showed signs of curiosity.
By fall, KitCat was living as a mostly indoor cat with the personality of a mercurial princess who spends her days issuing orders and punishing those who dare ignore her. She is funny and sassy, demanding and sweet, playful and curious.
It became clear by the affection, wrath and possessiveness that KitCat chose me to be her human servant. And that fills my heart with joy and peace.
It was a surprise to realize I am not apathetic to pets.
I let fear and worry about responsibility color my decisions and convince me cats weren’t that great.
KitCat reminded me that my capacity to love and serve others will only grow out of necessity. I would not have willingly sought out this responsibility but when it landed on me, the burden was lighter than expected and completely worth it.
We all make excuses and rationalize our reasons for not doing the hard things like volunteering to help, building relationships with new people, giving generously or being selfless. Stop letting those excuses and start asking, who needs me?

Editor’s note: Insight is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau. Jackie Mundt is a Pratt County farmer and rancher.