Cats are people too

Mike KnaakColumn, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Usually, when one starts a new job, it takes a few weeks to bond with new co-workers.

As the days pass, connections are made because of the work’s shared mission and purpose. Learning about the hobbies and interests of new colleagues helps as does getting used to their personalities, quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Getting acquainted is even easier in a small office and that is the case with me. There are four people in the Newsleader office and we work together as a somewhat informal team.

I’ve struggled, however, to connect with a four-legged member of our team.

The Cat.

As a child, we didn’t have pets, except a German shepherd that outgrew our smallish city lot and ended up finding a home on a farm with more room to roam.

As an adult, our two daughters never expressed much interest in sharing their space with a cat or dog. That was a good thing, because my spouse is extremely allergic to animal fur. After a few minutes in a room with a dog or cat, her eyes swell and turn red and she has trouble breathing.

No cats or dogs for us.

Many of my friends and colleagues are pet lovers. They cherish their dogs as hunting partners and their cats as companions.

Researchers have found pets promote human well-being. Advocates for pets in the workplace contend they boost morale and lower anxiety.

The clear-thinking folks in corporate human resources departments quickly kill the notion for an office pet. Who’s going to pay for the food? What if someone gets bitten? And how about those vet bills?

There’s none of that corporate nonsense in our office. The Cat lives here full time.

I’m usually first to arrive in the morning and as I approach the door, I can hear The Cat. When I open the door, she scoots outside for a moment and then returns.

When I sit down and start up my laptop, The Cat marches back and forth across my desk, including the keyboard, demanding attention. Finding none, she takes off and perches on the ledge looking out the front window for a new friend to arrive.

The Cat makes cat noises as she waits for Rachel Mohs. When Rachel enters, The Cat races to greet her. The Cat likes Rachel better than me because she likes The Cat better. Rachel will pick up The Cat, pet her and talk to her.

We don’t have many cat toys in the office. The Cat improvises. We do have a credit card machine. The Cat has found if she pushes the right buttons, the card reader makes noise. When The Cat pushes one special button, the reader shoots out a strip of paper for her to play with.

I spoiled The Cat’s fun by placing a plastic tray over the reader and weighing it down with a small block of granite.

We have other potential toys. An empty paper box presents a challenge for The Cat. With no thumbs on her paws, removing the top takes some work. But she manages and soon she is settled inside the box.

I’ve told my photojournalism students to be careful attributing human emotions to animals when writing photo captions, because, I asserted, animals don’t have emotions.

I’ve teasingly argued the same point with my friend, former colleague and animal lover Kate Kompas. Kate, by the way, shares her home with three cats.

I’m starting to think Kate may be right. The Cat can be frisky, smug, annoyed, inquisitive and persistent. Some of the same qualities as humans.

Oh, and The Cat has a name. Kit Kat.

photo by Mike Knaak
The office cat with its newest toy.

Author: Mike Knaak

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