There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who walk into a room and say, “There you are!” and those who say, “Here I am!” — Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby)
Leaving aside people, I’d like to apply this distinction to cats. Dogs, in my experience, are a revolving door of both, but I could be wrong, not having lived with any long enough to fully appreciate unique canine personalities.
Cats I know well, having shared space with them most of my life. Currently three: Dewey, 8, and sisters Lily and Zoe, 5.
Lily leaps into the “Here I am!” category. Walk into a room and she comes running and yowling. For such a slim and non-Siamese cat, she has a loud and deep voice. If anyone appears at the door, she’s right in front of them in a flash. “Hi, pet me! Aren’t I beautiful?” If I talk to one of the other cats, she also comes running, even if in a deep sleep in a far corner.
Like a jealous kid, she can’t stand it if she’s not the center of attention. Her worst habit is wanting this attention whenever I’m on the phone. She makes such a ruckus I can’t hear the person on the other end. This is not too bad if it’s friends or family, but with business conference calls, it’s embarrassing. I’ve tried shutting her out of my office, but she soon escalates into a full-blown tantrum, throwing herself at the door. I try to remain calm and professional, hoping the corporate stiffs are not picturing me in a zoo in my pajamas with wild hair.
Lily is my only lap cat. “Here I am, now that you have your morning coffee and writing journal so well arranged on this comfy couch.” She is also the most agile, able to leap and land in high places.
Just as Lily is slim and loud, her sister Zoe is compact and quiet. If a stranger comes to the door, she retreats into the “There you are and I don’t want to be here” category. Eventually she’ll walk halfway back and watch warily. If it’s me, she’ll approach slowly. Unlike Lily, she doesn’t like her head rubbed, prefers to be brushed or patted on the rump. She has a soft purr and meow. But of all my cats, she is the one who prefers my company during the day. “There you are!” Working at your computer? I’ll help you by walking across your keyboard. Wrapping presents or addressing envelopes? Perfect resting spot. In the mornings, she is the quietest, snuggling into the back of my knees until I actually stretch and say good morning.
It took me awhile to realize that she is the sneakiest of my cats and that she exacts revenge on the other two. Every morning, she and Dewey get into a wrestling and howling match for about five minutes. Then Zoe saunters up to Lily who hisses. Mostly the cats get along and I assumed that it was Dewey and Lily who were being more aggressive. But no! After watching more carefully, I realized that Zoe pounces on Dewey every morning, wrestles him to the ground, then chases Lily into a corner and bats her on the head. So, she has her way of saying “Here I am!”
Dewey the oldest is the shiest. He was a terrified kitten when I adopted him from the Humane Society, found at the age of five weeks alone on a sidewalk. He shook when I lifted him out of his cage and then spent three days under my couch when I brought him home. His stance was definitely, “There you are and I want nothing to do with you.” Almost as far as a feral cat, but fortunately not entirely.
Gradually he learned to trust and “There you are” became his reassurance. He transformed into one of the sweetest and most loving cats I’ve ever known. He is the first one I see in the morning, sitting by my head, watching. As soon as I open my eyes, he kneads his way across my stomach. This brings Lily leaping to the top of the bed.
Dewey is the only one who sticks his head into what I’m eating. He loves eggs and turkey bacon. He is an affectionate big brother to his sisters. Licks them both on the head, often taking the lead with Zoe and responding to Lily’s “Here I am, lick it.”
Like Zoe, he runs from most people he doesn’t know. Unlike Zoe, he doesn’t sneak back, but hides under my bed covers until strangers leave, a big lump in the middle.
When my son and his wife visit with their dog, Ruby – “Here I am! Here I am!” – all three cats scramble under the covers. “There you are, you little alien. Here we are not. Go away.”