Cat lounging in a chair

On the Idaho dairy farm where I grew up, cats were more like co-workers than best pals. I had my chores and they had theirs, and for them, the work involved keeping the rodent populations down. It wasn’t long after I started veterinary school, though, that cats started finding their rightful place in my heart.

At our Almost Heaven Ranch, the ranks of our beloved cats were recently reduced by the loss of a very special one. Varmie was one of three kittens my wife and I rescued more than 13 years ago, and her death from feline infectious peritonitis leaves a big hole in our hearts. Her last few days were filled with lots of canned salmon, tasty tidbits and extra long scratches at the base of her tail. Saying goodbye is never easy, that's for sure.

Most Popular Pet? You Bet

Cats long ago became the most popular pet everywhere in America — except in our veterinary offices, where they still trail dogs when it comes to getting the care they need. (In the weeks to come, I'll be writing more about how that can and should change.)

Why do we love cats so much? As the saying goes, “Cats rule, dogs drool.” And that got me thinking about some of the reasons why we love cats, including five very tongue-in-cheek offerings I hope will amuse. All are offered with respect and admiration for our feline friends, of course.

You’ll Never Walk Alone — or Without Shoes

We love our cats because they give us a new perspective on the world around us. How do they do that, exactly? Well …

First up, the amazing ability of cats everywhere to hack up hairballs either on the most expensive floor coverings or right where you’ll step with a bare foot. You have to admit that’s talent, especially when you consider how the sound of a cat hacking up a hairball in the night truly makes the whole performance come together.

Next, the way cats say “I love you” is by leaving mice on our pillows. True, we veterinarians these days tend to advise keeping cats inside, where they’re more likely to find catnip mice than real ones. But that doesn’t diminish their generosity one bit: If your cat could leave a dead mouse on your pillow for you, you know he would. Because you’re just that special.

And how about the way our cats make us detail-oriented? No one who loves a cat ever leaves for work or welcomes a guest without a quick check for the fur lovingly and carefully shed over every piece of clothing and furniture in the house. Is it any surprise that one of the most used items in any veterinary hospital is a lint roller, used to grab migratory cat hair?

You Can Trust Your Cat's Judgment

When you share your life with pets, you want to make sure that anyone you’re considering as a life partner loves them as much as you do. Cats make this easy by always knowing — and heading straight for — the one person in a room full of people who doesn’t like them. Strike that person from your list of potential dates, and give thanks to your cat for saving you the hassle of a nasty breakup later.

And, finally, how about the feline flair for home design? Has any other pet inspired anything like the Cats' House in San Diego? Hidden litterboxes, hanging plants and even cat perches that climb up the wall! And if you don’t choose properly with a good cat tree in just the right spot, your cat will set you right by shredding the corner of the ill-placed couch you put there instead.

You know I’m kidding, right? Well, kind of. Because the fact is that cats are so special, so appealing and so very inspiring and loving as family members that we (for the most part) forgive, forget or ignore any challenges that come with sharing our lives with them. Because we wouldn’t have it any other way.