Friday, January 13, 2017

Because Cats

I recently read a column from my favorite funny guy Gene Weingarten about those fuzzy, cuddly, sharp little fluff balls otherwise known as cats. It's called "Here's what happened before God let cats loose upon the world" and the basic message is this: Cats are assholes. Now you might think that I, as one of the many cat ladies around the world, would take offense to Weingarten's characterization of cats as a species, but I don't. In fact, I agree. Cats are assholes, but I love them anyway. With human assholes, I at least generally understand them. I don't agree with what they say or do - they're assholes after all - but I can at least make sense of their actions. Cats? Not so much.

I've had cats and dogs as pets all my life (I've buried an embarrassing number of hamsters and fish as well), but my first real furbaby that I adopted as an adult was a stray cat I took in during college, Duck. She was a scrawny little Oreo colored thing, and I quickly turned her into a dry food addicted thirteen pound behemoth. I'd like to say that when I first took Duck in (when she was probably about a year old) that she was a perfect little cuddle ball who mewed and quietly lapped up milk and slept with me and charmed me with her little kitten love. But that would be a lie. She was always kind of a jerk. My friend Lauren can attest to this. We lived together for two years when I had Duck. In addition to destroying my pet deposit by pulling the carpet off of the stairs just because she could, she annoyed the both of us in a myriad of ways.

Any night I wasn't around, or if I went out of town, Duck would let Lauren fall asleep and then somewhere between midnight and 2 AM, just as Lauren was dancing off in la-la land with Channign Tatum, Duck would start to cry. She always made sure to do it in the stairwell, where the acoustics were best. What did she want? Nothing. She just wanted to sing Lauren her favorite version of "I Know You're Asleep, But This Is the Song of My People."

Another of Duck's favorite past times was hiding on the stairs and stalking your ankles. She would wait for Lauren to walk by and then reach out and swipe at her bare ankles. You might say, "Well she's a cat, she's just playing." No, Duck wanted blood. She never once swiped at a pant leg. She only swiped at you when your ankle was bare, for maximum blood. 

A lot of cats enjoy waking you up a few hours before their feeding time. Duck did this of course, but she was also very picky about how she ate. It wasn't enough to just put the food in her dish and walk away. You had to watch her eat. If I fed her and went back to bed, she'd cry until I got up because she wanted me to stare at her while she ate. Why? Who the hell knows? She's a cat. She also loved people food - sort of. Regardless of what was on my plate, Duck was convinced she needed to eat it, and I was constantly fending off her flying leaps at my dinner plate. However, when she finally got whatever it was, she'd stick her nose up in disdain without so much as licking it. (Unless it was a french fry; she loved french fries.)

All cats, as a rule, hate baths. Did this stop me from trying to give Duck a bath? Of course not. One day, I trapped her in the shower stall and aimed the water at her because she'd gotten especially filthy in the yard. Wouldn't you know where I found her five minutes after her bath was over? Taking a dirt bath in the middle of the road in front of the house.

On another occasion, I was sitting on the couch and talking on the phone. Duck sat next to me, cuddling against my leg and purring. I wasn't paying her enough attention, apparently, so how does she tell me? She latches on with all four sets of claws and bites me.

So basically, as Weingarten says, Duck used violence to show me a number of things. Claws and biting both meant, "Pet me", "I've had enough, stop petting me", "I love you", "I'm hungry", "This food is displeasing for no apparent reason", "It's time to wake up", "You're late", and "Hi. I missed you. Well, kind of."

You could argue that Duck was just a bad cat who liked drawing blood, and that mostly the rest of the cat species is a nice, cuddly group. But I've had a lot of pets and several cats, and that just ain't the truth. 

The cat I had growing up, Bootsy, once bit my grandmother because she was sitting in Bootsy's favorite chair. My sister's cat, Olive, just bit my other grandmother over Christmas, for no discernible reason. 

And although my two current furbabies, Catsiopoeia (Catsy) and Soma, are not violent, they continue to prove how frustratingly asshole-ish cats can be. 

Catsy has taught herself how my alarm clock works. She sets it off at 2 AM as a reminder that breakfast is only three hours away. If I'm late going to bed, she starts knocking things over, beginning with whatever is the most fragile. She's fond of knocking the remotes off the end table because she knows the battery compartment will break open and I'll spend the next 20 minutes under the couch trying to find the batteries. If knocking stuff over doesn't work, her last resort is to jump into my lap and act cuddly and affectionate. Just when my guard is down, she turns around and farts in my face. Really.

Soma is more direct. Not laying in the position she prefers? She bites your elbows. If that doesn't work, she bites your nose. If that doesn't work, she sits in the middle of the room and cries until you move. If you don't move, she doesn't stop crying. This will go on for as long as you feel like being stubborn, sometimes all night. When you finally do move and she curls up in your lap, she puts her claws out to secure her position, whether that be in the fabric of your clothes or your skin.

Since Soma and Catsy are still fairly young, they enjoy playing a lot. I've bought them a plethora of different toys; baubles, crinklies, catnip, battery powered mice, and squeakies. Their favorite toys? Q-tips, ice cubes, and twisty ties. Also, the rubber ends on all those door stoppers around the house? Missing. Every single one of them. It's the only "toy" they fight over. 

Cats are incredibly intelligent, every bit as intelligent as dogs. However, cats have no desire to please you, so there is no training them or teaching them or changing them. They want what the want when they want it and it is your duty as their human to see that they get what they want when they want it. Walked across your keyboard and deleted that ten page term paper? Should have been paying attention to me. Knocked over grandma's ashes and used them as kitty litter? I told you my litter box was dirty. What do you think all that crying at 3 a.m. was about? Turned off your alarm and you overslept? Should've fed me at four a.m. This is what happens when you don't listen. 

But all of these things are also the reason I love cats. They're confident creatures. They're never afraid of me. When I get too full of myself, they bring me down to earth by reminding me that I still have to clean the litter box by peeing on the bed. Cats don't need you; they never did and they never will. Who else is this world is so confident in who they are? No human, surely. Even Daisy Fuentes is self-conscious about her big ears. Cats are demanding, more demanding than any other pet you'll ever have, and never once in their lives are they apologetic. They're secure in who they are and you can either accept them for who they are...or not. It makes no difference to them. That's what makes them assholes, albeit cute little furry, fuzzy assholes with itty bitty pink noses and itty bitty kitty feet. 

I'd love to hear some of your kitty stories in the comments below!