UCB Parents Jokes & Quotes:
When Children Turn Into Cats
by Adair Lara

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ADAIR LARA -- When Children Turn Into Cats
       Thursday, March 28, 1996
       copyright 1999 San Francisco Chronicle
URL: www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1996/03/28/DD54240.DTL

                 I JUST REALIZED THAT while children are dogs,
                 loyal and affectionate, teenagers are cats.

                 It's so easy to be the owner of a dog. You feed it,
                 train it, boss it around and it puts its head on your
                 knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt
                 painting. It follows you around, chews the dust
                 covers off the Great Literature series if you stay too
                 long at the party and bounds inside with enthusiasm
                 when you call it in from the yard.

                 Then, one day around age 13, your adoring little
                 puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell it to
                 come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who
                 died and made you emperor.

                 Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears.
                 You won't see it again until it gets hungry, when it
                 pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough
                 to turn its nose up at whatever you're serving. When
                 you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old
                 affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then
                 gives you a blank stare, as if trying to remember
                 where it has seen you before.

                 It sometimes conks out right after breakfast. It might
                 steel itself to the communication necessary to get the
                 back door opened or the car keys handed to it, but
                 even that amount of dependence is disagreeable to
                 it now.

                 Stunned, more than a little hurt, you have two
                 choices. The first -- and the one chosen by many
                 parents -- is that you can continue to behave like a
                 dog owner. After all, your heart still swells when
                 you look at your dog, you still want its company,
                 and naturally when you tell it to stop digging up the
                 rose bushes, you still expect it to obey you, pronto.

                 IT PAYS NO attention now, of course, being a cat.
                 So you toss it onto the back porch, telling it it can
                 stay there and think about things, mister, and it
                 glares at you, not deigning to reply. It wants you to
                 recognize that it has a new nature now, and it must
                 feel independent or it will die.

                 You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think
                 something must be desperately wrong with it. It
                 seems so anti-social, so distant, so sort of
                 depressed. It won't go on family outings.

                 Since you're the one who raised it, taught it to fetch
                 and stay and sit on command, naturally you assume
                 that whatever is wrong with it is something you did,
                 or left undone. Flooded with guilt and fear, you
                 redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.

                 Only now, you're dealing with a cat, so everything
                 that worked before now produces exactly the
                 opposite of the desired result. Call it, and it runs
                 away. Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter. The
                 more you go toward it, wringing your hands, the
                 more it moves away.

                 Your second choice is to do the necessary reading,
                 and learn to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of
                 food near the door, and let it come to you. If you
                 must issue commands, find out what it wants to do,
                 and command it to do it.

                 BUT REMEMBER THAT a cat needs affection,
                 too, and your help. Sit still, and it will come,seeking
                 that warm, comforting lap it has not entirely
                 forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.

                 Realize that all dog owners go through this, and few
                 find it easy. My glance used to travel from my cat
                 Mike looking regal and aloof on the fence to a
                 foolish German shepherd on the sidewalk across the
                 street, jumping for joy simply because he was
                 getting to go outside. Now I miss the little boy who
                 insisted I watch ``Full House'' with him, and who
                 has now sealed him into a bedroom with a stereo
                 and TV. The little girl who wrote me mash notes
                 and is now peeling rubber in the driveway.

                 The only consolation is that if you do it right, let
                 them go, be cool as a cat yourself, one day they will
                 walk into the kitchen and give you a big kiss and
                 say, you've been on your feet all day, let me get
                 those dishes for you -- and you'll realize they're
                 dogs again.

                copyright 1999 San Francisco Chronicle

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