My friend assured me that even if her cat was a little standoffish at first, she'd come around the longer I served as her faithful cat-sitter.
After a week of caretaking, Leo the cat still flashed her teeth at me.
She didn't hiss or meow. She didn't lash out. She merely pointed out, “These fangs could send you to the hospital, and when you get out, you'll have to come back and clean my litter box.”
I celebrated this holiday season by opening presents, spending time with my family and watching other people's cats.
I'm pretty sure the only reason my friends asked me to cat-sit was because I was the only one available who wouldn't burn their houses down. This is why I was asked instead of my husband, who would have also sneaked beer out of their fridges.
Our family owns two dogs, so I'm not used to the demeanor of cats.
Every time I walk in the door at home, my dogs jump and wag their tails. It's like they can't even handle how much they've missed me for the past nine hours.
So when I walked into my friends' homes to feed their cats, I expected to be welcomed as the food-bearer who would pet them kindly in the absence of their owners.
A trio of cats at one home ran to the door to greet me each time I visited. They immediately stopped caring once I poured food into their bowls.
One cat in particular didn't like me. He sauntered to his bowl, turned to face me, stared and walked away in disgust. He might have rolled his eyes. Only later did I realize I had accidentally given him the wrong food.
I had disappointed an animal that coughs up its own hair. Spending time with other people's cats is an exercise in humility.
Cats live in about one in three U.S. households, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
I conservatively estimate about half of all cats hate me, therefore 1 in 6 households have cats that would rather claw my eyes out than curl up in my lap.
That means I'm not welcome in about 19 million homes nationwide, according to U.S. Census figure.
(I hope my elementary school math teachers appreciate that I used the skills they taught me to calculate the number of places I cannot go because of angry cats. Your dedication to teaching has paid off.)
But I expect at least some of those 19 million households will ask me to cat-sit while they're out of town. I'll happily agree, but I'm positive the cats will disapprove.
Go to blog.newsok.com/red-dirt-ruckus to read an interview about coaxing cats into liking you with Catherine English, superintendent for Animal Welfare for Oklahoma City.