03/27/2012 04:57 pm ET Updated May 27, 2012

A Cat Living a Dog's Life

I never meant to adopt two cats instead of one, much less to fall in love with a cat that thinks he's a dog. But sometimes life surprises you. Or, in cat terms, sometimes life is a ball of yarn that unwinds into unexpected pleasures.

It all began when I gave into my son Aidan's request for a kitten. Aidan had a tall order: His kitten had to be gray, white-pawed, and female. After weeks of driving around New England, we finally found a shelter with the perfect gray kitten, snowdrop paws and all.

As we waited for the paperwork at the animal shelter, I glanced into a cage across the aisle. There, all by himself, lounged a cat as long as my arm, butterscotch gold and with a kinked tail. On impulse, I scooped him into my arms.

"Put him back," I scolded my own impulsive self. The last thing I needed was another cat, much less two more. We already had two dogs and a gerbil.

On the other hand, I thrive on animal chaos. I grew up on a gerbil farm -- at the height of his career, my gerbil czar of a father had 9,000 of these endearing rodents housed in three Sears prefab buildings behind our house -- and my mother raised horses. Just for fun, we also had pygmy goats, sheep, geese, chickens, barn cats and house cats, a furious parrot, at least three dogs at a time, and peacocks that could scare the life out of you because their cries sounded like somebody being murdered in the back yard. In many ways, I get along better with animals than with most people.

At the animal shelter, the big yellow tomcat was as languid in my arms as he'd been in the cage, purring like a motorboat as he nuzzled my neck. He didn't care that he'd been abandoned. Life at this moment was a good thing and he was going to make the most of it.

Just like that, I was in love. Aidan and I walked out of the shelter with two cats instead of one.

It soon became clear that my new cat, Mini Wheat, was no ordinary feline. He is a CatDog like that hybrid cartoon animal on Nickelodeon, the one with a cat's head on one end of his body and a dog's on the other. If I walk our dogs on leashes, this CatDog struts between them as if he's on a leash, too. When I call the dogs to come inside, Mini Wheat comes running, tail wagging. If I toss a toy, he fetches it for me, purring. Our clever Cairn terrier wisely snubs Mini Wheat for his doggish antics, but our Pekingese lovingly accepts this CatDog into the pack.

As I write this, MiniWheat is curled in my lap, catlike. But I know that he's waiting expectantly for three o'clock, when it's time for our afternoon walk: me with a Cairn, a Pekingese, and one enthusiastic CatDog, who shows me how to think and live outside the box.