The cats remain because I am loyal to them. They expect it, and besides, you don’t want to know what happens if you betray a cat.
It helps that they are among the most intelligent of the menagerie that seems to follow me around. They earn the loyalty shown them by plotting their way out of situations that confuse the rest of the crew. They out-plot me often, and I respect them for that. Although they often appear to repay our loyalty in kind, a better description would be that they expect to be worshipped without any fuss or bother, and they need to go where that will happen. So over these many years my menagerie has always been led by cats, and has always been with me.
The current leader is Apple, a lioness. (The leading cat is always a female, regardless of size.) She’s been with us long enough that many members cannot remember a time when she was not the unquestioned leader. I can, but then I am older than my menagerie, after all.
Even the birds respect Apple’s opinions, but that doesn’t stop them from arguing. Some argue for fun, some to pass the time, and some are more clever and use subterfuge and cunning to only make a scene when it won’t matter. But even the great Raven does not play tricks on Apple. He may be a semi-mythical fast talking embodiment of tricksters everywhere, but she is a cat. He knows his boundaries.
The menagerie first began to form around me about the time that I realized that I was free to ignore the ravages of time. At first, I thought I just had a knack for dealing with animals. Then I realized that I understood many of them, that they seemed to be speaking to me in languages I knew. Then one of the house cats shyly confided her true age to me, and I knew that I would never be truly alone in my journey.
I wasn’t a magician then. I hadn’t yet seen a need to provide a public justification for having lots of animals around the place. After finding the Doctor Dolittle stories in print, I have often wondered if I was at least partly their inspiration. But my menagerie was well established by then, and I was rather set in my ways.
Through the wisdom of the cats, I’ve become rather wealthy. The menagerie can’t hold title to real property (or sign contracts, or vote) even in these enlightened times, so I hold all their assets. That does include large building we live in, rehearse in, and lease to a few other select tenants, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.
So I am absolutely loyal to the cats.