Sunday, June 29, 2014

I’m Bitter about the Cats

I used to have cats.  Now the Bride does.

I try not to be bitter about the cats.  But it’s difficult.

Bride of the Bloviator (BOTB) never had a cat in her life until she met me.  My silver tabby Travis charmed her immediately.  When I went over to her apartment one day to ask her to marry me and move with me to Texas I took Travis with me to assist me in my suit.   I'm pretty sure he clinched the deal for me.

Travis, a.k.a. "Mr. Cool," 1981
BOTB meets Dora, 1986

We’d been in Texas for about three months when I brought Dora the Siamese home.  This was when I was first introduced to the concept of cats choosing a person.  Dora chose.  I was not it.  Dora was constantly at BOTB’s side.  But when I would pick her up, she’d squirm like my hands were conducting electricity, and demand to get down.  I didn’t think too much of it at first.  Not every cat can be my personal best friend, I reasoned. 
But little did I know that I was seeing a snapshot of my cat future for the next 30 years.  In that amount of time, we’ve had many cats, having lost a few to disease or mishap.  Not one of them has had squat to do with me.  They know who their “momma” is and it ain’t me.  
My buddy Cruford, 1972

It’s been tough on me.  I’m a cat person, but the last time I was a cat’s person was in the 70’s.  When I was growing up, my family had a Siamese male named Oh-Ho who adopted me.  I thought his name was a little goofy, and renamed him Cruford.  In retrospect, I can’t say it was much of an improvement, but he seemed to like it.  Cruford was always at my side.  We were best buds.  He followed me everywhere.  That was the last close feline friend I’d ever have.  Travis didn’t really count.  He was a leftover from my first marriage.  While some cats choose a person, some pointedly refuse to make a choice, regarding all people with equal aloofness.  Travis fell into that category.  He was polite enough to everyone, but no one held a special place in his heart.
Ellis, where he can usually be found
Ellis, a smoky gray tabby whom we like to think of as a Russian Blue but who really has the pedigree of a dust bunny, came to us in 2009.  Perhaps BOTB will write someday  about the baby shower our neighbors held for him.  He’d been born in a woodpile.  We rescued him as a kitten from a local cat shelter. 

When we got him home, Ellis spent about a day loving up both of us.  After that, he was strictly a momma’s boy.  Today, has zippedy to do with me.  If I were to croak and Ellis were to find himself shut up with me in the house, he might approach close enough to eat my toes, but it would be nothing personal.  He just doesn’t come around me, and if I step in his direction, he scurries off.  By contrast, he’s all over BOTB at any hour of the day or night.  What really hurts is that when he’s standing on her chest giving her head-butts, he looks over at me to see if I’m watching.  And so does she.  The two of them enjoy my solitude and isolation, and take perverse, cruel pleasure from it.

Mina arrives at the Manse de Carr, 2012
I brought Mina the Siamese home as a companion for Ellis two years ago, having purchased her from a local breeder.  After a vet check two days later, we learned that she had tested positive for the feline leukemia virus.  The vet wanted to put her down.  But there was just no way to do that—Mina was already part of the family.  Instead, we got rid of the vet.  Two years later, Mina’s doing fine.  We don’t know how long she has, but she has today.

Now, like Ellis, Mina follows BOTB around like a dog, and both cats sprawl all over her at night.  Wherever BOTB goes, there the two cats are.  When BOTB is in the house, neither cat would take an interest in me if I were to slather myself in fish oil.  Ellis exhibits the same disdain for my company when BOTB is not at home, too.  He’d rather be alone than be around me.  That hurts.  For about the first year, Mina treated me the same way.

"What?  What'd we do?"
Since companionship was out of the question, I had to find other ways to enjoy the cats.  During the first  year, the main entertainment value I extracted from them was to take photographs of their misbehavior and send them to BOTB.  In particular, there is one room in the house that BOTB considers absolutely sacred, a spare bedroom known as “The Girl Room.”  Cats are not supposed to go in there, and she gently shoos them out whenever she catches them.  But she doesn’t like for me to yell at her cats, so I don’t.  What I do is that when I catch them on the girl bed where they’re not supposed to be, I snap a photo and send it to BOTB at her office by email, usually without a message or subject line.  This drives her absolutely nuts.  But of course what she doesn’t do is to write back or call and tell me to chase them out of there, because she’s afraid I might use the wrong tone of voice or something.  After all, we can’t have mean old Daddy hurting the little darlings’ tender feelings.  BOTB spoils those cats completely rotten.

Mina sacks out underneath my desk
About ten months ago, there was an unexpected new development.  Mina began to spend some time with  me.  It started after I awarded myself a writing sabbatical and began working at home.  Nothing happened at all during the first two months.  But then Mina started coming up to my office to see what I was doing.  She wouldn’t stay—she’d just come in, putter around, watch me for a moment typing away on my first novel, perhaps say “mee hee” in her high-pitched little voice, and then leave.  On the third or fourth visit, she curled up under a cubbyhole in my desk and slept for half an hour before leaving.  And that was the extent of it, until about two weeks later, when one day she jumped up into my lap unannounced.  She didn’t stay long, but the visit was unprecedented. 

My secret liaison with Mina
That night I told this to BOTB, but she didn’t believe me.  I decided that it if were to happen again, I’d be ready with a camera.  After about a week, Mina visited again.  But she didn’t jump into my lap as she had before.  This time, she sneaked in, took up a position behind my chair, stood up on her hind legs, reached up with her right paw, and gave me two taps on the shoulder.  On the top of my shoulder.  It startled the hell out of me; this is not how you expect a cat to interact with you, and for a moment it felt like someone was standing behind me.  But I managed not to jump too violently.  “Mee hee,” she said when she saw that she’d gotten my attention, and then she asked to get up in my lap.  This time, she stayed for quite a while—enough for my legs to cramp, in fact.  I fully documented the occasion and sent the evidence immediately to BOTB by email.

That night, I asked her whether she’d gotten the pix.  She had, and she was not happy about it.  “You’re Mina’s person,” she said bitterly.  Now, this was so not true.  Nothing had changed about Mina’s behavior when BOTB is in the house.  When BOTB is home, Mina pretends she doesn’t know me.  But Mina began spending more and more time with me during the day.  Knowing that this makes BOTB jealous, for about a month I tortured her with daily pictures of Mina in my lap.  I also sent her one of Mina sitting with me in the downstairs man chair during my lunch break. 

Mina visits with me in the man chair (the downstairs recliner).
You would think that BOTB would be generous about allowing me the part-time affection of one of our two cats.  But no.  Recently Mina has taken to jumping up in my lap downstairs in BOTB’s presence for very brief visits (we’re talking 10 seconds or so).  You should see the dirty looks BOTB throws both of us.  Every time Mina does it, BOTB again declares that I obviously am Mina’s person, which then requires me to deny it and explain why it’s not true, lay out all the ways in which Mina shows her so much more affection than she shows me, and so on.  We’ve had to have this conversation at least a dozen times.  On each occasion, the logic of my argument seems to mollify BOTB for the evening, but then we have to have it again a few days later.

The latest thing in our cat rivalry is the lion.  Mina has a little stuffed toy lion that I brought her when she was a kitten.  When Mina is feeling affectionate toward BOTB, which is often, she’ll bring her the lion, and drop it either at BOTB’s feet or someplace within reach.  This is insufferably cute.  BOTB will then pick up the lion, pet it, coo over it, thank Mina profusely, tell her how much she loves it, and so on, while Mina looks at her wearing a self-satisfied expression.  The lion is a very big deal.

The lion by my office chair
One day Mina brought me the lion.  I snapped a photo of the lion lying on the carpet by my desk, and I have to say I really enjoyed emailing BOTB that picture.  She pretended it didn’t bother her.  But she barely spoke to me for a whole week afterwards.  Nor was that the last time I’d get the lion, although it never happened when BOTB was home.

Given the years I’ve spent in the cat doghouse, this felt good for quite a while.  But recently I began to worry where all this was going.  So during one of our visits, Mina and I had a discussion.  I told her I was concerned, but didn’t want to break it off.  She said she didn’t want to, either, but that she couldn't leave BOTB.  We agreed to tone it down a bit, but Mina promised me she’d continue to come see me fairly regularly when BOTB isn’t around.  However, the frequency of her visits has started to decline, and it’s more than just a slight tone-down.  Mina didn’t come to see me at all last week, and visited me only once the week before that.  And I haven’t seen the lion in six weeks.

Ah, well.  I knew what I was getting into when we started.  These things seldom turn out well, and I guess this one will be no different.  Sigh.  But better to have loved a cat and lost, and all that.

Maybe I’ll get a dog.  They love everybody, and they don't make me sneeze.


Find out more about the Bride of the Bloviator and see some of her musings here. 

And if you like snarky humor, please check out my novel, Messages, which applies the treatment to the news industry.

©2014 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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