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Pet Spotlight: Betty

I Married a Cat Hater

By Diane Fanning

All my life, my home had been populated with dogs and cats. Then, I married a cat hater. In his defense, he did have an allergy. I tried to convince him that living with a cat would desensitize him, but he didn’t buy it.

The situation changed when a young orange tabby showed up on our doorstep and decided to live there. She acted hungry but all we had on hand was dog food. I offered her a handful and she gobbled it up. The next day, my cat-hating husband brought home cat food. Kitty liked that even more.

In less than a week, my spouse was sitting with her on the porch, stroking on her and making her purr. I thought he was falling for her but wasn’t sure of the depth of his attachment until he leaped from bed and ran outside in a vicious thunderstorm, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts. He scooped her up and carried her out to the garage. After giving her a bowl of water and another of food, he returned to bed.

A week later, I arrived home to discover my husband relaxing in his recliner with the cat stretched out on his chest fast asleep. She didn’t endear herself to our two Shelties, but she did intimidate them both with one swat on the nose. They were smart dogs and after that, she only had to look at them and they’d back away.

By the time Halloween rolled around, she’d been living in our house about two months. She went with me to the front door for every Trick or Treater. One little girl shouted, “Betty! It’s Betty! That’s my grandma’s kitty.” Betty ran away from the girl like an escaped felon.

We were devastated. We’d grown so attached to her. The next day, I trudged over to the neighbor’s house to arrange her return. I thought I’d face the woman’s wrath for stealing her cat. On the contrary, Betty’s absence was a relief. Betty had been foisted on my neighbor when her daughter moved from her apartment into the dorm and couldn’t bring any pets along. The orange tabby had been a source of conflict in their home because she despised the two Siamese who ruled there. Apparently, she found them more offensive than living with our two dogs. I was told if I wanted her, I could keep her.

We celebrated that night and began our life with a very entertaining cat. A life full of toy mice of all colors whose tails and ears were removed within 24 hours of arrival in the House of Betty; days of finding Betty sleeping in the oddest places including the kitchen sink and the outdoor grill; and years of lizards captured and deposited at our feet.

My husband was as protective of that cat as any father can be of a young teenage daughter. In her previous home, Betty had the independence of a pet door that allowed her to go in and out at will. In our house, she had a curfew. She had to be in by night fall, or my husband was prowling the neighborhood until he toted her back inside. They say conversions create fanatics, and my spouse is living proof: from cat-hater to devotee in record time. He’d do anything to hear her purr.

After 18 years of loving Betty, we had to say goodbye. Her loss left a void in our life that nothing will ever fill.

DIANE FANNING is the author of the Edgar Award finalist Written in Blood: A True Story of Murder and a Deadly 16-Year-Old Secret That Tore a Family Apart, as well as several other true-crime books (available from St. Martin’s) andthe Secret City mystery series. She lives in Bedford, Virginia. Visit her website at http://dianefanning.com/