Working from home, I have found that my days are filled with an incredible amount of pressure from my coworkers. They position themselves close by my desk and rarely take their eyes off me. And when I get up to use the bathroom or go down to the kitchen, they follow close behind.

If you’re a pet owner, I’m sure you’ve already deduced that my stalkers are four-legged and that they’ve got nothing better to do. Watching me is their hobby. Heck, for the cat I think she sees it as a full-time job. She’s the one that sits and stares at me while I use the bathroom and while it’s unnerving, I go along with it but draw the line when she tries to walk around my legs while I’m sitting there. That’s just weird.

I don’t know how I’ve come to be a multiple-pet owner, when I’ve often found it challenging keeping my own four children alive, much less these helpless creatures yet here I am, surrounded by fur.

The dog, Rudy, was supposed to be the answer to my kids’ prayers and my fourth child but someone must have forgotten to tell my uterus because a year later, I had a baby and the kids had all but forgotten they had a dog. While he was still living here, my ex ended up doing a lot of the more thankless doggie jobs like walking the guy and waste management, but when he moved out, it pretty much fell to me to care for this mush of a Golden Retriever.

Enter Little Miss Kitty, aka Cruella the Cat, aka Judith.

The girls found her curled up in one of the many discarded Amazon boxes piled out in our garage about a week before Christmas two years ago. A big snowstorm was just getting started and as they ran through the garage with friends to shuffle through the snow, they spotted the half-frozen cat and went right into hysterical teen girl mode.

“Mom, you HAVE to let us bring her in,” they moaned. “She’s GOING TO DIE,” they wailed.

And all I could think was, “I’m a single mom with four kids and a dog and do not need a half-dead cat in my kitchen.”

Twenty-four hours and one trip to Petco later, the slightly alive, completely emaciated cat (she looked like she had ended up in our garage by way of the Congo) was the proud owner of a water dish that said “Spoiled” and a Snuggie.

I will spare you the gory details of her recovery but it involved a lot of hissing and diarrhea as she blossomed from the four-pound, fully-grown cat that we had found to the over 10-pound chubster we live with today.

Cruella also quickly got a sense of the hierarchy that existed in our house and immediately tried to assert herself at the top of the proverbial dog pile. She began to systematically urinate on everybody’s bed but in an effort to topple the family’s Alpha, she pooped right on my side of my king-sized bed. She was especially relentless in her domination of Rudy and routinely peed on his dog bed and would position herself on the arm of the sofa or atop an ottoman and stare down imperiously at him for long stretches.

She was successful in pulling herself up from the bottom to one rung above Rudy and so she at least has one other creature to lord over and she gives him a little nip every once in a while to remind him who’s boss. And for his part, I’m not even sure Rudy realizes he’s being played.

Part of my shtick is telling folks that I dream of the day when I only have to keep myself alive. When I don’t have to worry about feeding anyone and can embrace the stillness of living alone once the kids move out.

But then I look down at Rudy’s big, hairy mass stuffed under my desk at my feet while I work and hear Miss Kitty breathing as she’s perched on the edge of my bed, directly behind my chair, and think it might get lonely without them.

And unlike kids or a husband, they’re content with a belly rub and a fresh bowl of water. And they can’t talk.

This essay was originally posted on Patch on January 25, 2012

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