A feline rules my house and heart.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
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Cute Kitten Laying on White Blanket
Credit: Getty Images

It's not that I don’t like dogs. I actually adore them—but I’m completely intrigued by cats. Maybe it’s their lazy air of disdain, an attitude of, “I’m sorry—were you expecting me to look interested?” Cats are unabashedly committed to their own comfort. Just imagine what you might dare to do if you were one: an unapologetic yawn in the face of a dull conversation, uninhibited personal grooming in public places, a flagrant turning up of the nose when presented with distasteful cuisine, nine-hour naps. Why on earth do they think they can get away with such behavior? Because they always have.

All that aside, here’s the defining difference between cats and dogs: Dogs are loyal; cats are shrewd. And they never signed on for that unconditional love thing. If they aren’t happy at your house, they’ll go to another one and charm the socks off the residents, who have no idea what they’re in for. That’s how I met Cheeto, the orange boy who rules my house, yard, and home office.

In his defense, Cheeto had fallen on hard times not once but twice before he was even past the toddler stage. Eventually, I learned that he was a stray, rescued by someone who then wasn’t able to keep him indoors anymore. He took to wandering the neighborhood and (because I have been officially diagnosed with Pushover Syndrome) made a beeline to my house. 

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First I tried shooing him out of my yard. I already had an elder cat who was not looking for a roomie. He looked healthy, so I figured he had a home. He kept coming back. I kept shooing. Then one day, when he was about to obey my shoo and run away, he just stopped in his tracks, turned around, sat down on my back porch, and looked up at me with an expression that clearly said, “I’m a good cat; why don’t you love me?” Game. Set. Match. Vet bill.

Cheeto eventually reached a shaky détente with the elder Hank, who has sadly crossed over now. With my sweet Hank gone, it’s a comfort to have the Orange One shedding all over the velvet chair in my office, bringing captured rodents in through the pet door (because live cat toys are ever so much fun), and eating up the shredded taco cheese. He weighs close to 15 pounds and walks like a Bengal tiger on the hunt, yet he still has the same I’m-just-a-sweet-little-kitty meow, the same wide-eyed, please-love-me gaze that I fell for at the beginning.

I love my Cheeto, but who are we kidding? I know he practices the “adore me” look in the mirror, right after he claws the sofa and naps on the bath towels. And I’m fine with that.