I’m a feline evangelist. I was a little late to the party, but now that I’m here, I think everyone should love cats as I do. Since I’ve welcomed cats into my life, I’m at a complete loss as to how I survived prior to kitties. Truly, my life was not nearly as full as it is now, thanks to cats.

For those of you who scoff and state that you’re “dog people,” guess what? Turns out you can be dog and cat people. It’s not a zero-sum game. My husband, who will deny this until his dying day (don’t even bother to ask him), has become a cat person too. It’s contagious. They’re just so soft and funny and purr-y.

We had three cats until last year when we lost Tablet. It was just Dave and Ethel with their dog siblings. I love Dave and Ethel and they’re full of personality, but they’re typical cats — they will love you if and when they want to. I consider this to be a cat’s charm and curse. They’re not needy like our Australian shepherds, but they also don’t snuggle.

I decided over Christmas break that I wanted a cat that snuggled. One that wanted my attention and affection and didn’t act like my teenager when I tried to hug or kiss him — leaning away and trying to escape. I announced my intention to test drive cats a couple weeks ago. My niece and I decided to interview possible candidates one Saturday at the Dog and Cat Shelter.

We waltzed into the cat room and sat down. I wanted a lovey cat — a cat who wanted to be with me, a cat that didn’t look as if he was suffering when I held him.

The first cat to walk over and plop into our laps was probably going to be our new cat. And then one did. His name was Lane and he was big and white with orange blotches, an Elvis lip and some divots out of his ears. He was a character and a love machine. Lane wanted nothing more than to lie in our laps and purr. Petting was optional. Lane (soon to be re-named Claude) Albrecht was coming home with us.

Home for about 15 minutes, Lane walking around the house as if he already owned it, my phone rang. It was Julie, the shelter director and a friend of mine. She sounded both stunned and apologetic. When she posted the picture of us with Lane on Facebook, her niece immediately called her — Mallary was sure that Lane was her beloved missing cat, Ralph. Julie asked if Mallary could call, and I immediately invited her to come over and see Lane/potentially-Ralph for herself.

Already becoming attached to him, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I kind of hoped he wasn’t Ralph.

Mallary came over and told us her story. She used to live west of town, and two years ago, Ralph disappeared. She posted fliers everywhere with his photo and checked the shelter constantly but nothing. Then a neighbor called and said that they’d found her cat and buried him. She was devastated and even wrote his obituary on her Facebook page. He was her constant companion and then he was gone. Or was he?

She brought out pictures of Ralph. No question. The orange blotches matched right up. Lane was Mallary’s much-loved Ralph. We tearfully wished the reunited pair well and then looked at each other. We were back down to two cats, none of which was lovey. I was ready to give it up until the next week, but Regan wasn’t. She wanted to go back to the shelter and try again.

Always the sucker, we loaded back up for another round of interviews. This time, though, we needed advice. The second-place contestant, a fantastic guy with funny white patches on his face, was affectionate but hated dogs. He was out. The staff looked around at all the candidates knowing our qualifications — lovey, tolerates dogs and gets along with other cats. The staff and Julie immediately went to Growler, a black cat with incredible seafoam green eyes. She had been at the shelter for six months because black cats are rarely adopted, but she was a big favorite with the staff.

Growler immediately settled onto my shoulder and commenced to purring. She walked around the office and didn’t give the staff dog a second look. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Growler, now renamed Shirley, was headed to casa Albrecht.

Now we’re back to our original numbers, and although Dave and Ethel are underwhelmed and Zoe and Bob are perplexed, Shirley is settling right in. Right into my lap.