I have a cat on my lap.
This is a common saying in my household.
If the phone rings, whoever says I have a cat on my lap, is off the hook, so to speak. If the dishes are festering in the sink, whoever declares I have a cat on my lap is automatically freed from the job. If we’re all slumped in the sofa and the tv needs to be turned up, I have a cat on my lap is our version of a Not it! declaration. Someone else will have to stand and walk the three feet to retrieve the remote. I have no idea when it started, but, to us, I have a cat on my lap means more than you might think.
I have a cat on my lap means someone is demanding my attention.
I guess it began with our first cat. (Yes, by “first cat” I’m hinting that there are more to come. Several more.) We found him in Florida, just weeks after we were married. He was homeless, a rescue, just like the rest that would follow. A feisty black kitten, with a white spot on his nose and a tail chopped off by who-knows-what, he was fiercely loyal and especially attached to my husband. When O. came home from work, the skinny little guy would proudly prance around the house at O’s heels, crooked stub-tail held high.
And he would claim a human lap as soon as it was available. For fourteen years he dominated the household. Occasionally frightening visitors by popping out from under furniture to scratch their heels, he was a fearless nine-pound king among bi-pedal giants.
I have a cat on my lap means I can’t get up at the moment.
We rescued his furry grey sister a year later, while living in Texas. And despite her fear of everything larger than herself, she still found her way onto our laps. She became the mother of the bunch (yes, I did say bunch, yes, there are more cats to come), scolding any cat who broke the house rules, tattling to us with her squeaky, breathy meow, until we found the problem and cleaned it up or reprimanded the offending feline sibling.
She took her time, when claiming a lap. Timidly, cautiously, she would inch from an ottoman to a calf. It could take twenty minutes or more before she eventually reached the lap, gingerly testing each step as if she were on an icy lake in May.
I have a cat on my lap means I’m unavoidably detained.
A couple of years later we rescued our third cat, our ambassador. I first met him when I took his older brother and sister to the vet. I immediately fell for the friendly white guy who roamed the front counter, greeting everyone who entered. He’s a big one, snow white and deaf as a doornail, with a loud rumbling meow that demands to be heard.
This amiable oaf loves people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. He spent hours, years, huddled amid a gaggle of kids holding wild nerf dart wars, purring away as our sons and their friends fought to furiously defend General Dexie-Wexie-Pants (yup, that’s what they called him). And he loved sampling the laps of every new visitor, purring and murmuring little hellos, warming legs and shedding an obnoxious amount of white fur.
I have a cat on my lap means that whatever chore or job is begging to be done, it’ll have to wait.
Yes, there were more cats. I know, the words crazy cat lady might come to your mind right about now. We only had a couple more cats, for about a year, who we rescued and relocated to a nice home in North Carolina. Still, I’m not saying you’re wrong about me. My family would definitely say, even on a good day, that I qualify as crazy. Sometimes I wonder if they just don’t understand me. After all, they’re all boys, my husband, my sons, and male cats (past and present) to boot. But I did have my little grey girl to keep me company.
Our meek little grey mama cat did grow bolder in her elderly years, eventually braving the laps of grandparents during their bi-annual visits. Whenever she graced a visitor’s lap, we felt compelled to let them know how honored they should feel, because she trusted them with her warmth and safety. By the time she reached the wise old age of eighteen, we paused and held our breath a little when she approached our laps. We quietly coaxed and gently stroked the fur covering her bony frame.
She finally left us two weeks ago. That was a difficult day. The last kisses and snuggles, the soft good-bye, followed by choked-up words and puffy eyes. But loads of good memories remain.
I have a cat on my lap means that some things are more important.
And then there was one. Our gregarious, unassuming, giant white feline ambassador. I wonder if he’s lonely now, with no more four-legged buddies around. And so I keep my lap open and ready.
I have a cat on my lap means that some things are more important than lists and chores and to-dos. It reminds me to keep my priorities in check.
The friendly white fuzz ball is now seventeen years old, but he’s still pretty healthy. I hope he’s with us for a few more years. When he’s gone, I don’t know if we’ll replace him with a cat, or a bird, or a gold fish. We’ll see.
Cat or no cat, though, I hope I’ll continue to say those words for many years to come. When our son calls from college half-way across the country, when my husband skypes from a military assignment even farther away, when our younger son wants me to read his latest fan fiction adventure story, maybe the dishes will be staring me down, maybe a buzz will signal that laundry needs my attention, maybe something will come up, but I have a cat on my lap. Sort of. That stuff can wait.