Why do cats rouse such strong sentiments? There are even words for the opposite ends of the spectrum they occupy: ailurophilia, a love of cats, and ailurophobia, an excessive fear of cats.

And while dogs have earned the same distinction, cynophilia and cynophobia don’t really fall trippingly from the tongue. In fact, we’d never heard those words until we looked them up, believing they must exist, as they do.

And then there’s our favorite: Dogs have owners; cats have staff.

If you’re an ailurophobe—and you can usually tell who they are because cats head straight for them when they enter a room—the following won’t interest you. But if you are about to discover the pleasures of living with a cat (or cats), or even if you’ve lived with them for a long time, here are some tips for making a cat’s home (and don’t think for a minute that it’s your home, ’cause it ain’t!) a wonderful one.

If you’re just embarking on becoming an opener and closer of doors, and we’re NOT kidding, make sure you have the following supplies before you bring your feline friend home:

· Food and water bowls (cats do not really care whose bowl they eat and drink from, only that there is always food and water).

· Canned and/or dry food—and don’t fall for the expensive untruth that cats who eat only dry food do not have tooth issues. Those little white pointed bits of dedicated bone can cost a lot—let’s repeat that: a lot—to fix, so pay attention to the dental suggestion below. And oh, by the way, lots of luck brushing your cat’s teeth. It is unlikely to be an experience that goes well.

· A litter box and scooper—and there are millions and millions (well, hundreds at least) of different kinds. There are litter boxes with tops and without; in a virtual rainbow and beyond of colors; self-cleaning (right; that means you yourself do the cleaning) and not; fashioned after many of the great buildings of the world (our favorite is a purple Taj Mahal that no cat of our acquaintance would be caught dead in); and so forth and so on.

· Kitty litter—and how we wish we had room and time enough to discuss kitty litter! But there it is. We don’t. So just let us say that cats have definite preferences, as you will discover if you use clumping when your feline loathes it—and you will know when that happens: You can tell by the smell. And the things about cat urine is that it holds the secret of eternal life. You’ll never get it out, so you may as well throw it out. And do be careful where you leave your shoes. Cats love to replace strong smells with their own brand and often do just that.

· A hard plastic carrier, a must when you bring your new best friend home or ferry her or him to the vet for shots and, as mentioned above, very expensive DPs (dental procedures).

· Nail clippers, the best way to eliminate your cat’s ability to redecorate your furniture with fetching little claw marks, to say nothing of the scratches on your own loving, though perhaps not all the time, arms.

· Feline toothbrush and toothpaste. Ha! we say, and Ha! again. Lots of luck.

· Brush or comb, depending on the length and type of coat. And some cats love to be brushed or combed even more than they like to eat. True!

· A variety of toys—make that a large variety. And the wonderful thing about cats, which can also be very expensive if you are trying to win their affection with toys, is that they are often happiest playing with the cardboard tube from inside a roll of paper towels, or a half-dead mouse, or your car keys or some invisible invader in pursuit of which (did we say that right!) cats show no mercy and no more care for the masses of carefully arranged papers on your desk or the Ming vase on your mantelpiece than the man in the moon. In fact, we suspect the man in the moon is more concerned about your belongings than your cat is, even though cats usually consider your belongings rightfully their own.

At a new home:

· Go slow. Recently arrived cats may need a week or two to take the measure of their new kingdom and get to know the staff.

· Give your feline friend a safe place to hide while she gets her bearings, though more often she will find her own, usually much to your surprise. Cats love to observe their new families from a small, dark space, like under your desk where you are—were—accustomed to put your feet, or one high above the action, like said mantelpiece bearing priceless bits of Ming or Meissen or maybe just a candlestick your grandmother handpainted in a lovely pattern of pink—whoops! Get used to it.

· The new She/He Who Must Be Obeyed will most likely come to you in excellent health, but make sure you take her to a caring veterinarian for a wellness exam within a week after adoption. It will be only the first of many visits, some of which may involve very expensive DPs (op. cit.).

· Make sure your new boss gets the same food he was getting at the shelter, as changing the food could upset his little tummy, which is about as much fun as finding that your shoes have been re-scented. If you do want to change his diet from standard canned to lobster and paté, start out slowly. Mix the old food with the new and gradually decrease the amount of old. That’s what the experts say, anyway, but some of us know that cats will eat anything as long as it is served on a silver platter by a waiter (you) with a napkin draped over her or his arm.

· Make sure the litter box in a quiet, low-traffic area—and, if you’re not obsessive-compulsive about keeping it, or them, clean, far from your olfactory zone.

· Yes, as noted about, some cats like to scratch. Suffice it to say that we don’t know a single one who doesn’t, so make sure you have some cat scratchers placed around the house at regular intervals. They will help your cat keep her bearings as she looks for new pieces of furniture to destroy.

· Cat-proof your home before you bring your new cat home. Ha! we say again. Ha ha!

· Make a comfortable perch on a sunny window sill. If you’re handy, or think you are, make one yourself. If you’re not, and not afraid to admit it, you can find wonderful perches with sheepskin pads in almost any cat-alogue. (We couldn’t resist.) And unlike many of the things you may think cats would like to do, such as using a scratching post, they do love to sit in the warm sun and look out of the window to see how the world is getting on when they’re not out there to direct operations.

All kidding aside, cats are among the most wonderful and amazing things in life. In your life. Cats will never bore you. They may make you tear your hair out and threaten ultimate mayhem but they will always be interesting. And there is nothing in the world quite like the little signs your cat will give, despite her seeming aloofness and smug satisfaction at knowing herself the center of her world and hers, that she loves you back.

All the cats at our shelter are wonderful. Peaches is a young lady who came to the shelter in January in an advancing state of pregnancy. A search for a foster family found Linda and her son Carson, who took Peaches home and cared for her and the four kittens she produced a couple of months later. All her kittens have been adopted, but our gorgeous Peaches is still waiting for her forever home, and this laid-back little sweetie really deserves one.

Ms. Muffet was a stray, though we would really prefer to call her unclaimed, and now CRARL is her temporary home until she finds one of her own. She is as cute and funny as a button, and she loves to explore the outdoor cat pens, take a cat nap in the window or just hang out.

On our wish list: paper towels, paper plates, towels, bleach, dry cat food and canned food for dogs and cats. Thank you for thinking of us!

Stop in and see us and all our cunning creatures at 146 Camden St. in Rockport. We’re open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, and our website at crarl.org is never closed! And thank you, as always, for your caring and support.