As a kid we grew up with dogs. I still miss my German Shepherd, I grieve for her much like you would a grandmother. She was ever present, loving, smart, and loyal. Many years have passed and I swore off pets based on my busy life. I said I had no time to provide the love and daily routine that a pet would require. My loss really, but it's what I believed for a long time.

Five years ago we moved from the city to a rural area. We found ourselves surrounded by fields, crops, livestock, and a broad expanse of sky. It was at this time we were adopted by three abandoned kittens. Sweet faced, furry white babies who needed a home and saw somehow that we must have needed them too.

Like all pets, my cats have never been judgemental. They don't presume to know how you will be or how you should be.  They accept everything about you and love you all the same. For this reason I suppose, I learned to love them the same way. No judgement about how they should be or how they should respond.

Some people complain that cats are distant, but I don't agree. They won't bound up to you at the door when you come home. Instead, an hour later, they may decide the only place they want to be, no, must be, is curled up in your lap. They won't pant, drop open their mouth, wag their tail, and have sparkling eyes when you give them a favorite treat. What they may do however is walk directly up to you and place a paw on your cheek, meet your eye directly, or perhaps touch noses, and then waltz off to enjoy their reward.  Their faces give away few clues and even their body language is very muted, but they can communicate their joy, appreciation, and love clearly for those who will listen.

Some people will try to compare dogs and cats, it seems unfair to me. It's like comparing horses and birds. Should horses be viewed negatively because they can't sing like a bird or fly? No, horses offer their own unique gifts. There is little that compares to the beauty of a horse running across a pasture on a spring morning.

The same is true with cats, they have many gifts to give as a pet, and you only have to live with them to know this. For those who are unsure, unfamiliar with cats I suppose something more concrete is in order however. A list perhaps of some of the reasons cats make wonderful pets.

1. Cats will put you in awe.

The grace, the flexibility, the pure speed will amaze you. Kittens can be an awesome force of nature. I've been "attacked" by a kitten flying at 5 feet in the air, a side swipe, just to startle me. Mid air somersaults, vertical jumps, and more that no human athlete could begin to duplicate. I've had no other pet that I can spend so much time just watching and marveling at their prowess.

2. Cats love an adventure.

 Sure everyone talks about how their dog loves to tag along on a walk or hike, will go swimming with you, and will even hop aboard a moped for a ride. But don't be so quick to assume cats aren't up for some shared recreation. Our cats love a walk through the country.  They hear the sound of shoes being strapped on or a coat being removed from the closet. It's a walk!! Rush to the door! Take off running in front of everyone. Later, they may lag behind or take a detour to climb a tree on a long walk, but if you go out of sight for a second, deep projecting meows will assure you stay within reach. And, if not, they will wait right where you left them until you return. Even if it's hours later. Stay, didn't have to be taught to these cats.

3. Cats just love to hang with you.

A game with a feather or string is great. But in reality, cats just love to hang. They may not always want physical contact, but they will follow you wherever you go, lay down across the room, and hang. If you leave, they will rouse themselves, follow you to another room, lay across the room, and hang some more.

4. They give great massages.

I'm not kidding, it's not just a kneading thing. One of our cats weighs 12-13 lbs. It's not unusual in the evening when we lay down in bed, for him to hop up on the bed and begin a 10 minute massage. Walking from ankles to the top of the back, your entire body will be relaxed, and it will all be done for free.

5. Cats have a great sense of humor.

 I know, everyone says cats are grumpy sourpusses. No sense of humor. Wrong. Cats aren't slapstick. In addition, cats particularly like it when they make the joke. Being very quiet when they move, our biggest cat always loudly announces his arrival into a room so as not to startle anyone. MRRRROW!  His smaller brother however, loves the expression when he has startled you as much as possible. As I sit at my desk working, suddenly he will pounce on the desk with as much noise and bravado as possible, just to make me jump. He looks at me, sashays across the desk and leaves, very satisfied with himself.

I've been working in the yard, bent over to plant some flowers. He will appear and sail onto my back, just standing there as he knows I can't move at that point. When it's dark and my poor human eyes don't allow me to see anything, he will come dashing from out of nowhere from the side of me, turning at a 90 degree angle directly in front of me and proceeding away at lightning speed. Never seeing him, I can almost hear him cackling as he races away. 

On the other hand, I can say that they can take a bit of ribbing themselves. Laughing at a miscalculated jump that has to be aborted or a frantic leap in response to a shadow, doesn't seem to really faze them. Their confidence affords them the ability to ignore minor gaffes.

6. Cats don't leave poop all over your yard.

Our outdoor cats  spend half their time outside, but I've never seen their poop. Seriously. They hide it, bury it. It doesn't exist.  If only teenagers could be taught this same technique of "leave no trace" they would be more fun to live with too.

7. Cats accept that you have a life outside of them.

Cats entertain themselves pretty well. Of course sleeping 16 hours a day helps, but especially when they are able to be outdoors as our country cats are, they really don't require us at all. Our cats don't chew up the furniture if we leave the house, they don't whine, and they don't pee on the floor when we return.

8. Cats are quiet.

Cats have a variety of sounds and meows that they make, many of them unbelievably endearing, but overall they don't raise a racket. The neighbors have never complained, we've never had to tell them to shut up, and there are no sleepless nights.

Without a pet door, dogs are left to stand baying or howling at the door to be let in, but cats are more subtle. Ours will boldly approach the door, and with their padded paws, begin to softly knock. If this clear indication of needing inside is ignored, they begin to posture creatively, searching for the pose that will make them as cute as possible to win their way inside. They are direct and sometimes insistent, but never loud and demanding. 

9. Cats aren't like dogs, but this also means they won't exhibit the undesirable dog behaviors.

Cats don't drool. Yes, cats tend to keep themselves pretty clean, but better than that, they don't get you dirty. That whole thing about not flinging themselves on you when you come home is part of this. They won't upset grandma if she comes to visit by jumping up on her. They won't begin thrusting themselves on your leg in sexual frustration either. They don't require extensive training to potty where you want. Sit them in a litter box and most of them know to go there for the rest of their life. They won't threaten every passerby and lawsuits related to their bad behavior are pretty much unheard of.

10. Cats have discriminating tastes

Many dogs give free love. Everyone gets love once the barking is over. Cats not so much. Many hide from strangers. Others just walk away unconcerned.  They save their love for you. It's really kind of flattering, almost makes you feel special. There are of course some who are feline prostitutes, who will roll at anyone's feet, but in my experience they are the exception unless you really work to socialize them differently.

Cats offer more than this but for those who are skeptical about them, it's a good start. I would never suggest dogs, birds, and other pets aren't equally wonderful, but cats are so often typecast as the lazy, conniving, self-absorbed sourpuss, that some clarification seemed necessary.