On with the show


Abby found a kindred spirit in her owner-roommate John Knapp.

By John Knapp

When I first met my cat, Abby, it was raining outside. A small cat appeared at the corner of the duplex across from mine. She was crying. She was hungry. I went into the house to grab a can of tuna I had, and when I came back out she was gone. I called for her. She reappeared and came over for dinner.

She was a calico, with pretty markings and was very friendly for a stray, I thought. She let me pet her, and I left her to finish her meal. After she finished, she disappeared into the bushes around the house.

Over the next week or so, she would be around, and I would feed her, but I worried that I was feeding someone else’s cat. She seemed so tame, I figured she had to be someone’s. I took a picture of her and posted it on one of those “lost and found” pet sites. No luck. I took her to the vet, and she had an ID chip, but oddly it wasn’t registered in anyone’s name.

I had her health checked out, and made sure she had her vaccinations. Until I could be sure she wasn’t someone else’s, I let her move in to keep her close by in case someone called to claim her.

She was very wary when she first came in the door. She paced around the place, walking from room to room, inspecting the crannies. Though she was friendly, she kept a respectful distance. She was a quiet, well-behaved guest.

Like some intern, she shadowed me. It became apparent to me that I was the day’s “entertainment,” every day, all day long. I was “the show.”  I live alone, and I’m all the stimulation she was going to get. I am not unmindful that for her I was the “go to” guy; cook, cleaner, doorman, playmate…everything.

One day I became ill, and somewhat dizzy. I went to my bed, and Abby stayed with me. I was down for hours, but she stayed with me the whole time. I guess that was the day I fell in love. I love this cat. I’m not the only one who loves their cat (see the proof here).

Yes, she had to be someone’s.



Abby would rather be photographed than held. And it’s just possible she’d rather be sleeping than posing.

The next day, I gave name to the cat on the ID chip and unbeknownst to my absentee landlord, I gave her my address, too.

She is not a perfect cat. She has some quirks for sure. Used to being outside, she wants out constantly. I have known her to sit outside in very hot and very cold weather for up to six hours at a stretch. She fights coming inside, especially if she is having a stare down with another cat.

I know you’ll find this hard to believe. She is incredibly finicky about the food she eats. No, really. It’s true. It has taken the better part of two years to figure it out. The secret is whatever she wants to eat will always not be what I’ve put in front of her face. Yes, whatever she really wants to eat is her secret.

She has very dramatic bowel movements. After she “drops the heat” she will race around the house, as if the funk in her litter box is a visible monster. She’ll trip out on her newfound “enlightenment” and turn the hallway into her personal racetrack. Then she’ll leave it to me to fish out the “kitty-roca”. Some nerve.

Abby the Queen in her Carriage

Abby, the queen in her carriage.

We recently moved into an apartment which is up one level, and she can no longer go out by herself. I purchased a pet carriage for her, and we tool about the neighborhood, getting surprised looks from passersby. Or perhaps they are jealous, or maybe think I’m nuts.

Who cares? All I know is Abby likes it, and it gives her the chance to go outside, even if not actually touching the ground.

We are two fellow travelers, little candles who light each other’s way, and face the shadow play of life together. To twist a line from Game of Thrones, “It’s amazing how a very small cat can cast a very large shadow.”

We have a routine before going to bed. I slowly start pulling the shades, and turning off lights over the course of an hour or so. I wash my face, turn down the bed, thank God we made it through another day and perform the usual pre-bed oblations.

My intern will follow me, silently padding along. I may or may not notice she’s there. Usually upon almost stepping on her, I’ll sigh and say, “Oh, that’s right. I’m today’s entertainment.”

Well, then. On with the show.


Abby and John Knapp live in Vancouver, Washington. Abby is currently way into superballs, and is currently rejecting what John has offered her for dinner. Go figure.

Editor’s note: I met John through The Oregonian’s Community Writers program in 2008. He was one of a dozen Oregon and Washington residents chosen to write once a week for the newspaper’s Opinion section. I’ve been a fan ever since, impressed with his wit and intelligence, his candor and his lefty opinions.

Tomorrow: Angie Chuang, Why some immigrants ♥ Trump


17 thoughts on “On with the show

  1. What a beautiful girl you’ve made a home for. I’ve always been more of a cat person – their quirks and independence make me laugh while they can still be so loyal, especially when you’re ill. Thank you for introducing us!

    • Yes, you definitely seem like a cat person, but you also seem like you could be a dog person. I love them both, but love the self-sufficiency of a cat. Thanks, Nike!

  2. This is written so graphically, I feel I know Abby already! You have a David Sedaris kind of writing style – I think there’s a book in you somewhere. I was never a cat person or even a dog person – thought I almost went to vet school (I’ve sometimes regretted that I didn’t)., but my children have adopted cats at various times. That’s when I discovered that they are old wise spirits who have come in their cat bodies to interact with us and impart their wisdom. I don’t subscribe to the theory that for cats people are just staff. I agree with Nike that they can be most loyal.
    I swear this is true: A cat did a Reiki healing for me a couple of years ago. When I had gone to this woman’s house for a healing, her cat, who never does anything like that usually, sat on my stomach the entire time..And I eventually the healing worked.
    Beautifully written! Thank you.

    • You should have been a vet, Lakshmi. I think that’s what you were born to do. I’ve never heard of a cat doing that, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Abby surprises me everyday. She is my zen guide. She has a really loud motor. P-r-r-r-r-r-r. Thanks, Lakshmi!

  3. You had me at cats, John! I was born into a home with cats (my mom was a breeder and CFA judge for many decades) and I have always had cats. I say they are assholes and I will always have at least three. I am glad you found a friend in Abby … now we just need to get you the “crazy cat guy” starter kit to bring your numbers up. You do know it is kitten season, right? 😉

    • Yes, when they reject the 20th kind of cat food you’ve bought them, they qualify as assholes for sure! I’ve thought about getting another. I would love for her to have company. Thanks, Lynn!

  4. John – as usual, you were very entertaining and I’m pleased that you have a steady and attentive companion. On the other side of cat-dom, my wife’s current cat decided, after over 15 years of mutual aloofness and much to my wife’s delight, that my lap is now it’s preferred evening resting place. I yearn for a dog to make the world right again…

    • Abby was abused before she came to me. I found that out later. It took her a long time to sit on my lap. It was a big day for us. Even bigger when she slept on my chest the first time when we were going to sleep. If they trust you enough to sit on your lap, it means something. Thanks, Al!

  5. Love the read! Ditto on loving their quirks and independent spirit. The bedtime routine really reminds me of our tuxedo kitty Orca. You can set your watch by when she wakes up Alana, lays on the bathmat and waits for us to shower, etc etc.

    • God, I just love that name for your cat. It’s hard to come up with really good ones. My brother named his cat “Velcro”. I thought that was the best name! Thanks for commenting!

  6. John, George and I have always owned cats and you are spot on (no pun intended, calico kitty) with your descriptions. Your writing, once again, has me laughing to the point that I have tears running down my cheeks. Thanks for brightening my day!

  7. I love it! I always thought I was a “dog person”, and I was skeptical of cats because they don’t seem as loyal or playful. Then we got a kitty and my mind changed immediately. My phone is full of pictures, and half of my Instagram is kitty pictures. I love how mysterious and quirky she is, and how she seems to know when I need a cuddle. Even when she drives me nuts it’s hilarious and I can’t even be mad. Great read- and great tip on the kitty carriage.

    • Thanks, y’all. Cats are the best! I just got back from my daily walk with Abby and she is busy bapping the superballs around.

  8. Such a wonderfully written piece, John. Will I be thrown out of the VOA crowd if I admit that I don’t understand the whole pet thing? My daughters just love love love our dog and cat, but I just tolerate them really. I better stop there or George will not invite me next year…!

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