How a dog guy became a cat person

Eeyore the kitten on Allen's shoulder
Allen Burkhart had no idea he had an affinity for felines until he met a kitten named Eeyore.
By Nicole Hamilton

Eeyore the kitten was returned to Best Friends in Northwest Arkansas after a family found that he had more energy than they could handle. But don’t be sad. Instead, consider it serendipity. Had he not come back to Best Friends, Eeyore might not have met Allen Burkhart. And had Allen not met Eeyore, he wouldn’t have known that backpacks for cats exist or how fun it is to peruse the aisles of Walmart with your cat right there with you.

Allen and his wife, Kerrie, decided on a whim one day to visit Best Friends after hearing all the good things their son had to say about his experience adopting a kitten. That’s what got them thinking that they might like to adopt a kitten, too. Ever since their dog Sierra passed away, their cat Murphy hadn’t quite been the same.

A kitten, they figured, might cheer him up, and when Allen saw Eeyore playing in the cat room, he started to think the tabby kitten just might be the one to lift his spirits. Then he picked Eeyore up, held him to his chest, heard him purr, and was sure of it.

A kitten’s oak tree

After they brought him home, Allen and Kerrie saw that he had an affinity for jumping and climbing. Now, nothing is off-limits for a climb, not even Allen himself. “I’m Eeyore’s oak tree,” he says. “He can climb on me anytime he wants.” Allen has even modified his wardrobe, wearing baggy jeans and long-sleeved shirts to make the climbing more comfortable on him and easier for Eeyore.

Allen lets Eeyore groom him and has gotten his routine down. When he sits down, Eeyore will climb up into his lap and scratch his mustache. Then he’ll gently bite it before giving it a few licks.

“Wherever I’m going to go, he’s going to go,” says Allen. “He follows me into the bathroom, and I can’t cook anything without him being next to me in the kitchen.”

[Cat Daddies: Eight men and their feline friends]

As for Murphy and Eeyore’s friendship, Allen says it’s getting stronger every day. Murphy, all 25 pounds of him, is still getting used to sharing his home with an energetic kitten who’s up for fun at all hours of the day (and night). “He’ll be sleeping and, bang, Eeyore will jump on him,” says Allen. Together, Murphy and Eeyore will try to play with Maxwell, the family’s beagle-dachshund mix, although Maxwell doesn’t oblige. He prefers living life at a slower speed.

On most days, you can find Murphy and Eeyore out on the catio that Allen built for him back when he found Murphy as a kitten, living alone in the wooded neighborhood area where he and Kerrie live. It would have been dangerous for Murphy to roam the outdoors where they live — they once discovered a bobcat sitting on their front porch.

The catio lets Murphy — and now Eeyore — take in the outdoors safely. Murphy likes to sit and watch the birds. Eeyore prefers climbing like a tiny feline athlete up the screened windows.

Cat hits the aisles with adopter

Recently, Allen bought a bubble backpack for Eeyore. Now, he takes Eeyore with him anywhere he can. “Everyone down at the farmers market has a dog,” says Allen. “I figured I’d walk around with my cat instead.” At Walmart, curious shoppers often walk up to him, wanting to see Eeyore and learn more about the backpack.

A father to 12 children, Allen helps Eeyore unwind and get ready for bed after a long day of playing just like he did for his kids — by taking him for a ride in the car. He’s also researching the best strollers for cats, so he and Kerrie can take Murphy and Eeyore out for walks.

[Adventure cat discovers the world on hiking trails]

Allen benefits from more time outdoors, too. He has issues in both of his hips, as well as a permanently injured foot. “I needed something that made me walk more,” he says. That something was someone named Eeyore.

Even though Allen has taken to reading books about feline behavior and spends time online learning everything he can about kittens, he still considers himself a “dog guy.” “Murphy was Kerrie’s cat. I raised and trained bullmastiffs. I just wasn’t a cat person,” he says, before Kerrie chimes in.

“He is now,” she says.

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