Don't ask why, but cats like me

Jan 22, 2016 By Robert H. Peck, Staff Writer

OK, I guess I like them pretty well, too

I'm a cat person. From a young age, my odd smell and opposable thumbs have drawn cats to me like I was some sort of creamy, mouse-shaped magnet.

Fortunately, this partnership has worked out well for both cats and myself: I feed them, house them and give them treats; in exchange they are fuzzy and nice to hold.

As every cat lover knows, any feline's favorite place to nap is on a human face. No matter who you are and how inappropriate it is, a cat loves nothing more that to get as close to your mug as it can.

I used to see this as a rare blemish on the otherwise pristine slate of kitty psychology.

The time was that I would wake in the night with cats on my face, become upset, and throw them off. It seemed only natural.

Then grad school came. I packed up my things, gave my cats one last squeeze, and headed off to Iowa. The first few weeks went by smoothly, and I was remarkably free of homesickness.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad, I thought. Maybe my pets and I could get by without each other.

What a fool I was.

At the end of my third week here, I was attending a talk somewhere on campus. After the speaker was finished, I stayed around and spoke to a few other students, schmoozed with a professor on my way out the door, and walked down the hall.

As I rounded the corner, I came upon something that froze me in my tracks: a giant, furry, black-and-white dog.

What a dog was doing in the hallway of my university I don't know. But that didn't matter. For a moment, my mind was wholly cleared. Thoughts about classes and the night's adventures vanished from my mind. For a good three or four seconds, all I could think about was this wonderful, cuddly, slobbery thing before me and how badly I wanted to hug it.

My composure returned just as the dog's owner came into view down the hall. Embarrassed, I rushed to hold the door on his way out. Secretly, however, I know that I wasn't holding the door for him. It was totally for his pet, all the way.

Keeping animals has considerable benefits, benefits of which many students are sorely deprived. Pets comfort the sick or elderly, and they can detect storms and earthquakes; domesticated goats can even mow your lawn.

Many of us don't even realize how big a role the soft and fuzzy play in our lives until we are without them for the first time. It's little wonder that an Ohio State University study found that nearly a quarter of college students said that a pet helped them through difficult times.

When I got back to my tiny apartment after my encounter with the dog, I immediately went to my bedroom and took out a picture I brought along from home. It shows my parents on the couch. One of our cats, Lola, is trying determinedly to make her way to my dad's face. Even though I was alone on a Friday night, and far from home, seeing my cat still managed to cheer me up.

I guess what I'm saying is this: Life can be lonely, college or otherwise. But if you ever feel down in the dumps, go out and find someone walking his dog, or pay a local pet store a visit. There will be a kitten there.

Oh, and while I'm at it: for all the times that you woke me up at night with your bellies in my mouth, and for all the times that I spitefully punted you out of my bedroom, I'm sorry.

So this is for you, you stupid cats. I miss you.

Editor's note: Riverton native Robert H. Peck graduated recently from Yale University. He is a graduate student in the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa.