Cat Years

As heard on the Good Stuff with Jim Thompson

I just realized that while children are dogs – loyal and affectionate –
teenagers are cats. It’s so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it,
boss it around. It puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you
were a Rembrandt painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call. Then, around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a big old CAT.
When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died
and made you emperor. Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears.
You won’t see it again until it gets hungry – then it pauses on its sprint
through the kitchen long enough to turn its nose up at whatever you’re
serving. When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old affectionate
gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare, as if trying
to remember where it has seen you before.
You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be
desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of
depressed. It won’t go on family outings. Since you’re the one who raised it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit
on command, you assume that you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave. Only now you’re dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now,
produces the opposite of the desired result. Call it, and it runs away.
Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter. The more you go toward it,
wringing your hands, the more it moves away. Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you can learn to behave
like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door, and let it come to you.
But remember that a cat needs your help and your affection too. Sit
still, and it will come, seeking that warm and comforting lap it has not
entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it. One day, your grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big
kiss and say, “You’ve been on your feet all day; let me get those dishes for
you.” Then you’ll realize that your cat is a dog again.