I’m a Cat (and Dog) Person


I’m a Cat (and Dog) Person

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

Coming back home these days, is an exercise in mathematical exactness. I walk up to my door, and the arithmetic begins. As soon as it opens, I have to divide my affection equally between my two pets, so as to not trigger a hissy fit. To a lot of my friends, this scenario is nine parts adorable and one part absurd. “But how can a dog and cat coexist in harmony under one roof?” they often ask. If I’m being totally honest, they don’t: Their coexistence isn’t harmonious by a long shot. Yet, our combined affection is multiplied.

My dog, Zippy, has been with us since 2008, and is a senior dog at this point. She loves her leisure time and enjoys cuddles more than cardio. So when my mom decided to adopt and then hand over a sprightly kitten to me two years ago, it was an overwhelming experience for ol’ Zipps. The very sight of the kitten seemed to bring out the aggressive Zippy from days of yore where she’d gained a notorious reputation of terrorising watchmen and delivery boys alike. Her atavistic transformation reminded me of Shekhar/Tiger’s from Hum. Even as she snarled at this tiny feline, I could tell from the look on her face that it wasn’t so much rage as feeling threatened by the idea of having to share the affection she’d only enjoyed herself all these years. In a way, Zippy was suffering from the doggie version of first-child syndrome.

But there was little time to cope. My mother had already christened the little guy, “Needy”. “Zippy, Needy, and Jackie! What a fun household,” she chirped. (What can I say about my mom’s obsession with absurd two-syllable names?) “I’m sure Zippy will warm up to the cat just fine. Just look at his cute little nosey-wosey and scruffy little belly-welly.” It was official: My mom had turned my house into a little zoo.

After two years of living with both Needy and Zippy, I’ve realised the sound logic behind the reason why people choose to be either cat or dog people: Keeping the two separate is simply better for human peace of mind. Like in the initial few weeks, Zippy began to mark her territory by “accidentally” sitting on Needy’s toys. This obviously irked the little feline who responded with scratching her long, cocker-spaniel ears, which is also about the time I noticed that this meme-worthy kitten with the cute little nosey-wosey was actually one wily tomcat. Needy extracted his revenge by eating out of Zippy’s food bowl. Never before had I seen a cat scarf down so much Royal Canin and never would Zippy dare to sit on Needy’s toys again.

“I suspect getting me a cat is my mom’s elaborate ploy to reduce my chances of premarital sex.”

Living with a cat and a dog is like being the referee at a tennis match. Actually, scratch that, it’s like being the tennis ball, that gets lobbed furiously across the net.

In the confusion of this glass menagerie, it dawned on me that getting me to adopt a cat was my mom’s ploy to drastically reduce my chances of premarital sex. I know how it works out for other people with cats and dogs — their stock on Tinder explodes. I, on the other hand, have been cockblocked numerous times by my furry siblings, who choose to wreak havoc in my living room at the precise moment something momentous is about to happen in my bedroom. Having to leave in the middle of getting hot and heavy is bad enough. But then separating them by the scruff of their necks and coming back with animal fur all over me is enough to kill any decent woman’s libido. “Let’s just catch up from where we left off?” I offer eagerly. “Yeah, no, you know, I was thinking, let’s just watch Stranger Things?” is the answer.

Over time, living with each other began rubbing off on Zippy and Needy. This is especially true for Needy who has picked up the peculiar, canine habit of running to the door when the bell rings and unlike any other cat, wagging his tail at the sight of people he likes. This was much to Zippy’s chagrin since greetings and running to the door were solely her domains. She would race, unsuccessfully, with Needy to the door, ending up furious at being beaten to the punch. It was worst for cynophobic delivery boys: Not only were the poor sods goaded into petting an unusually friendly cat, they were then taken by surprise by a livid dog rushing towards them. I’ve had to dole out many a fat tip to make up for their behaviour. On the bright side, Zippy is surprisingly more active than most dogs her age.

Yet, an uneasy peace now abides in our house.

Over the last couple of months, things have changed; somewhere between the feline vs canine battle, the two have silently and begrudgingly made peace with each other. Little white flags like Needy scooting over on the couch to give his canine counterpart some space to laze; more collaborative activities like Zippy nudging open doors that her cat companion has trouble opening. I’m lying. They’ve actually united over something they hate: birds. All I need to do in order to get them to stop horsing around is to start cawing loudly. This leads both of them on a combined witch-hunt for this non-existent crow. Unbeknownst to me, my neighbours once witnessed this frenzied cawing ritual. Elevator rides with them haven’t been the same since. 

I’ve made peace with the fact that my cat and dog will never fully get along. There will always be subtle undertones of envy in a room, especially if I am in it. And of course, on certain days I want to scream bloody murder.

But then again, it’s all worth it when I see those two wagging tails waiting for me at the door after a 12-hour work day. All the careful arithmetic in the world is worth it.