A Tale of Two Kitties

I am not one of those people who take in animals willy-nilly. For me, pet adoption is a huge decision, taken deeply seriously, but also made largely on gut feeling. It’s basically like marrying someone you’ve only known for an hour, with no information beyond “does well with cats” and “likes to snuggle.” (Incidentally, those are things I look for in both cats and men.)

But is the new cat going to get along with Puss? Will there be some kind of bizarre urine war? Am I really ready to double the litter box, double the hair, double the food and vet bills? (Double the snuggles! Double the play time! Double the purring!) What if the new cat ends up having some super-expensive chronic health problem? What if the new cat just doesn’t take to me? What if…

Oh, stop.

The bottom line is that Herr Puss had been showing me that he was lonely as hell now that I don’t work from home anymore. I’m gone for 12-16 hours of every day, and I feel guilty about it, but not guilty enough to resign myself to quitting everything I do so I can be home with my cat. I try to stay around the house on the weekends, but still. Puss seemed miserable, like he was looking at me saying, “you were ALWAYS here. How come you don’t want to be with me anymore?” I looked in those big blue eyes and saw a feeling that once built a 100-acre farm in mine. Maybe I was projecting, but maybe he really was feeling cast aside.

“What if I get you a buddy? Would that help? Then all 3 of us could pile in bed at night, like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Wouldn’t that be lovely? You can be Grandpa Joe!”

He’s a 12 year old perpetual only child with a ton of personality, a loud voice and sharp claws. I kind of wished I could give him a vote before I opened myself up to having everything in my house peed on in protest. Alas, all I could do is try to find another cat that won’t challenge Herr Puss’s “authoritah.”

As it turns out, Herr Puss apparently DID want a playmate. I introduced his brother, Sterling, with very little drama. There was nary a hiss, in fact. On day 3, I gave them free access to each other and, by day 7, Puss was actually giving Sterling a moment’s peace. He was so excited to have someone else around that he seriously wouldn’t leave Sterling alone. Sterling’s reaction to this was basically “WTF? I’m going to go hide behind the couch.”

So, here we are mid-way through week 2 and everybody seems to be getting along famously, with the one bone of contention being who gets to nestle in my left arm while I watch TV (Puss has put his paw down on this and has won consistently). Sterling is eating everything on Earth and badgering me for head scratching and a bite of whatever I’m eating. Puss seems monumentally better-adjusted, and I am no longer being greeted at night with the signature (and really pitiful) Siamese wail. It’s still early, but I’m willing to chalk this one up as a good life choice. The kitties are happy and mama has stopped feeling guilty all the time. Now, if I could just keep Sterling from eating me out of house and home…

Feline Confessions (Usher Not Included)

This whole thing started the same way a lot of my stories start: I have a shitty work day, call my friend to talk me down and end up going over to her house to drink wine.

The problem on that particular day began with trouble with a certain piece of software, which snowballed into “I can’t do this, and I can’t do this career for the rest of my life.” Hyperbole? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

To make a long story short and to avoid telling a story that’s not mine to tell, that night ended in the morning after we’d spent hours at the emergency vet’s office. We’d come back home one cat short.

All of this makes me feel sort of guilty.

I’ve been really busy the last few months, what with teaching classes, taking classes, hanging out with a dude and trying to keep my head above water career-wise. A lot of that has been stressful or frustrating. It has been a lot of change, most of it good…all of it stressful.

In all the madness, my relationship with my cat has suffered. He’s there yelling at me while I’m trying to work and I’m responding with “shut up!” because I’m just sick of hearing it. He spends the whole day looking out the front window and the whole night doing God knows what while I run all over town. On the nights I’m home, I’m usually busy with a human. The two of us call him Douche Cat.

The yelling.
The endless yelling of a Siamese cat will drive you crazy.

“What do you want? You have food. You have water. Your box is clean. WHAT do you want?”

“I want YOU. I want you to explain why, after 11 years, you are acting as though you have no use for me. I want you to snuggle with me like you used to. I want you to stop telling me to shut up. I want you to pet me and, if it’s not too much trouble, maybe you could bother to notice that I’ve lost weight. WHO was there through bad times, bad dates, long nights and lazy Sundays? ME, you asshole. That was me. Douche Human.”

As I sat in an emergency vet office, watching my friend say goodbye to her cat, I felt like a Douche Human. The time we get with them is so short, and I’ve spent the last 6 months treating mine like he’s a roommate I don’t like very much. No wonder he’d taken to peeing on my dirty laundry. As with children, if your pets are being horrible, it’s probably ultimately your fault.

One day, I will be the one with a cat on a towel in my lap. One day, my cat will purr while I watch milky white fluid be pushed through a syringe. One day, those big blue eyes will stare blankly back at me, and I will know that I caused it because it was the kindest thing I could do.

This morning when he heard me stir and jumped onto the bed, I didn’t move him aside and get up and make coffee. We had thirty minutes of snuggle time and then I kissed him on the head and said, “I gotta get up, babe.”

There was no endless Siamese yelling today.

Ghost of Tom (Cat) Joad

I admit it. I’m a crazy cat lady. Thus far, I have avoided receiving such a label from total strangers because I only have one cat, but my friends know the truth. If Herr Puss played well with others, I’d already have two cats. Since Herr Puss has agreed to never die (he and I have discussed this), I have agreed to not being him a sibling.

There’s a loophole in the contract I have with Herr Puss. It says nothing of harboring the odd stray in the sunroom until such time that said stray can be taken to a no-kill shelter.

Saturday morning, I thought I was going to have to make use of the loophole. I was at the Drake Inn, a motel that is “sketchy” at best, yet still has “where the stars stay!” on its neon sign. No, I was not picking up some work as a freelance crackwhore. I was there acting as a costumer for a film for the 48 Hour Film Fest. No word on what the hell the director was thinking putting me in charge of costuming, but at least the movie had a hooker in it, making my clothes unexpectedly useful.

Hanging around the Drake was a scrawny, fur-matted, hard-ridden orange tabby cat who came running up to me while I was standing outside. I have mad cat mojo. I’m little, I speak fluent cat, and probably reek of “spoiled Siamese.” The cat came up to me, letting me scratch it behind its ears, then rolling over onto its back for belly rubs. Bony and threadbare, the cat still looked up at me with big gold eyes, wanting to be loved.

It always seems so unfair to me, how some cats get taken in and spoiled rotten and others are left to consider drinking out of a swimming pool just to get something to drink. I know, the same comparison applies to humans. Most Americans are spoiled rotten, and there are kids in Africa being forced to participate in genocide at age 10. That sucks, but that wasn’t what was right in front of me on Saturday. On Saturday, I was planning to take that orange cat home, put him in my sunroom, and take him to Happy Tails for a good meal and a mat-removing shave. I can’t fix Africa, but I DO have a bag of cat food in my house.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything with me that would be suitable for boxing up a cat who, while totally down for petting, wasn’t particularly interested in being picked up. I had to leave him/her there, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still thinking about it. I’m still wondering if my odds would be better if I returned to the Drake armed with food and a proper carrier. After coming home and sleeping off all of the hours I’d spent awake at the Drake, I woke up with a ghost of failure flying around my house. Granted, that ghost was in good company; I have failure ghosts all OVER my house these days. Failure at my day job, failure at painting rooms in my house, failure with men, failure at working out, failure at weeding the lawn…

But still, the “Failure at Saving a Cat” ghost is gnawing at me. It stared at me with big, gold eyes, and I left it there. It’s one too many failure ghosts. Start your stopwatches. I’m guessing I’ll be back there before the week is over. If they find my body at a sketchy motel, you guys know why I was there.