This is Toddy. He’s a plump, slightly scruffy alley cat who began hanging around behind my favorite coffee shop. The owner took him to the vet and got him neutered, and then one cold day invited Toddy in to warm his toes by the fire. Cats know a good thing when they see it. Warm fire, milk everywhere. Toddy never left.
There’s something very charming about Toddy, even though he’s not the most handsome cat I’ve ever seen. He has some black spots on his ears that might be frostbite. His eyes get a little crusty. His belly sways from side to side as he moves.
Not every cat has the personality to be a good coffee shop cat, but Toddy is exemplary. He offers to greet each person but isn’t offended if they ignore him and move right by. He escorts guests to their table but never entwines himself around their legs as they try to walk. He waits until you ask before he leaps up beside you. The first few times he meets you, he only puts his front paws in your lap. He leans and rubs and purrs as you give him a good head scratch. Just when you’re wondering if you need to rearrange yourself and invite him to stay, he hops down and saunters over to his favorite chair by the fire for a bath and nap. Upon deeper acquaintance, he will climb onto your lap with all four feet for his head scratch and belly rub. He eyes the crumbles of bacon and pillow of cream cheese left on your plate but he never asks to try them. He stays just long enough to make you feel special because a cat has noticed you and blessed you with his presence, then he heads off for his chair.
When the barista comes through the room and finds Toddy standing on me as I sip coffee around him, her face registers horror.
“Is he bothering you? I’ll take him away right now!”
I imagine plenty of people don’t want to have a cat with their coffee, but those are people I can’t quite understand.
“No, this is fine,” I tell her. “This is great.”
I do wonder about the customers with allergies. I think that people who don’t like cats are kind of like kids who don’t like books: they haven’t met the right one yet. Toddy might be just the cat to convert them. But I do recognize that cat allergies are a real, and sometimes even dangerous, thing. To be deprived of the company of cats because of an oversensitive immune system seems like a great life tragedy to me, but somehow all of the people I’ve ever known who are allergic to cats soldier on and even thrive.