The trouble with sneezes

Our kitten-in-a-cat’s-body has a strangely unique character trait: she sneezes. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’m not just talking about a singular teeny cat sneeze. I’m talking about several big cat sneezes in succession that go on for what seems like minutes on end. I counted once, and found that my poor kitty sneezed 24 times in a row. I think it’s because she’s still technically a kitten, and she still feels the need to explore everything in the house, despite having lived here for about nine months. The only explanation I can give to the incessant sneezes is that in the course of her house exploration, she deems it necessary to push her nose as far into the smallest, dustiest corner of the sofa she can, thus setting off a long series of nasal explosions.

I'm not gross. I'm cute!

It sounds cute, but believe me: it’s not. Why? Because, friends, my cute little kitten has sneezes that are accompanied by some of the grossest snot I have ever seen come out of a cat’s face. It’s dark and sticky, and it goes everywhere. The other night I had the misfortune of sitting in my favorite green chair in the living room, and she was perched on the back behind my head. She makes a very good pillow. That’s when the sneezes started. And that’s when the back of my head became covered with cat snot.

I was very fortunate not to have showered yet that day.

If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: my cat is gross.

Morning cat

This is what I see first thing in the morning, every morning: a cat in my face.

I stir out of a dream, blindly grope over to the nightstand to get a drink of water, and unintentionally give Mai reason to think that I’m awake. She bounds up onto the bed and, once she realizes Hubby wants nothing to do with her, plants herself squat on my chest, peering into my face with a deliberate stare that sometimes frightens me with its intensity. Why aren’t you up yet, she asks. I’m awake, so you should be, too. That cat wants scritches, and she wants them now. I suppose it’s better than her slapping me awake. But only marginally better.

A shift in the balance of power

Hubby and I got a cat.

We already had a cat. Nothing happened to her. We just got another one.

Something happened to me two months ago that has happened with increasing frequency during recent years: my maternal instinct started kicking in. Big time. Perhaps it’s because I’m in my prime childbearing years, and I’ve long since passed the age at which my mother had me. Perhaps it’s because most of my friends have moved on from being newlyweds to being new parents. Perhaps it’s being recently wed to the Sweetest Man on the Face of the Earth and the questions have shifted from “When are you going to get married?” to “When are you going to have a baby?” All that combined with hormones that are screaming, “BABIES!!!” makes it pretty unbearable at times.

Hubby and I want to have children. Just not now. We’d like to enjoy more than a couple months or years together in wedded bliss before we have to turn our attentions to something other than ourselves. But a couple months ago, I smacked a sort-of ultimatum before him: it’s either a baby or a kitten. More

Not dead



No, gentle readers, I am very much alive. I’ve just had nothing of interest or value to post for the last thirty nine days.

Until I get myself back into regular blogging mode (which will hopefully be sometime in the relatively near future), here is a photo of my kitteh. Her name is Mai. She likes to smack my face while I’m sleeping. She’s weird.

Kittens

My friend’s neighbor’s house seems to be a cat factory.  Apparently all the stray cats in the area like to congregate under the shrubs and porches and other sheltered places on her property.  What do they do there?  They have kittens.  Lots and lots of kittens.

kittens

See that squinty little guy in the front? I call him "Popeye."

There are five in the latest litter, which I got to see this weekend.  I am told that they are only a few weeks old. Each one is just big enough to fit in my hand.  They are they softest little things; even their little claws haven’t really sharpened yet.  The tiny mews that escape their mouths are so precious that I can’t help but squeal when I hear it. The best part is that while they are just courageous enough to be curious about people, they are still too young to know that they should probably run away when one of us tries to pick one of them up.

All I know is that I must have some seriously good karma going on.  If I didn’t, my conscience would have shut itself up and not reminded me that 1) my grandparents don’t like cats, and 2) we have a very large dog that could swallow a kitten whole.  If that karma weren’t so good, I would be well on my way to becoming the crazy cat lady with hundreds of cats inside and out, to whom I would leave all my worldly possessions when I die.  It took every ounce of my moral fiber not to take one of those little squirts home with me.

But honestly, though – how lucky am I to be able to resist a face like this?

kitten

The things we do for love

Every once in a while we’re forced to do something that, while completely necessary, just breaks our hearts.  I was faced with that moment on Wednesday.  I had to give away Bonnie Cat.

I found Bonnie at one of the pet shelters that had set up shop in the entrance of PetSmart. We had only gone in to look at the fish, but the cute little kittens were calling me.

“Megan!” they cried, “Megan, come pick us up! We’re adorable!  We’re fuzzy!  We fit in your pocket!  Resistance is futile!”

Poor Mike did his best to drag me away, but it was all in vain.  He sighed heavily as the shelter workers sat me down and placed in my lap a warm ball of fluff that immediately began vibrating with the loudest purr I had ever heard.  Within two minutes, it was asleep, curled up with its head pressed into my stomach. Without thinking, I heard myself ask the worker to explain to me all the particulars of the adoption process.

There were three main reasons for wanting to get a cat, and they all have to do with the particular stage of life at which I currently find myself.

  1. Babies.  At almost thirty years old, my biological clock has been ticking ever louder these days, but my brain, knowing full well that I can barely afford to feed myself, convinced me that I don’t yet have the resources to raise a child.  As Mike has said, babies can’t eat love.  They need food.  Hence the pet to coddle and smother with affection and temporarily satisfy the maternal instinct.
  2. Long distance relationships.  Mike was afforded an incredible opportunity to study in a graduate program in the field he wanted.  I had never seen him so excited about anything, so naturally, I was thrilled for him.  The only problem was that the program was at a school far, far away, thus causing us to attempt the dreaded long distance relationship.
    While I am a relatively solitary person, I am still human and get lonely when left by myself for long stretches.  Hence the fuzzy pet to fend of the loneliness, because the fish and hamster weren’t cutting the mustard.
  3. Dogs.  To be honest, I’m more of a dog person.  I grew up with dogs.  I know how dogs’ minds work.  Cats, to this very day, are still a relative mystery.  Granted, I’ve gotten to know one dog-like cat very well, and now consider myself more “bi” when it comes to animals, but I’m still a dog person at heart.
    Knowing what I know about dogs, though, I know that I don’t have the physical capability to take care of a dog right now.  Dogs need to go out for walks.  Dogs need to go out to poo.  Dogs can’t be left alone for an entire day.  My work schedule right now just won’t let me handle a dog.  Hence the more independent cat.

BonnieDespite all these compelling arguments, there was one strong reason not to get a cat: poor Mike is allergic.  I’m not talking mild, occasionally itchy eyes, here.  I’m talking full blown wheezing despite twice-daily doses of Benadryl.  Since we’re being married in a couple months, I didn’t think it would be fair to ask him to take allergy pills every day for the next twenty or so years.

However, eventually my soft spot for cute animals won over my sense of logic and I brought Bonnie home.  The following nine months were a blast, but tinged with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to keep her.

I was really fortunate to find someone to take Bonnie when the time came.  I was terrified that I would have to return her to the shelter, never knowing if anyone had adopted her.  Her new people are a young woman about my age and her husband.  We work together, and a friendship has been slowly blooming between us for the past couple months.  She is a very sweet person, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to take in my cat.

Although I knew from the moment I signed the adoption papers that I would have to give her up before the end of summer, nothing could have prepared me for the gut-wrenching evening I spent packing her and her belongings and taking her to her new home.  I bawled while washing out her food dishes and packing them in a box, while reaching under the couch to find her toy mice, and even while dumping the contents of her litter box.  Every few minutes or so I would scoop up Bonnie in my arms, squeezing her until she tried to wriggle free from my clutches.  I think she knew something was going on, but how do you explain something like this to a creature that doesn’t understand English?  There was no way to explain to her that I was giving her up because I loved her and because she needed to be with someone who could take care of her.

When I got to Bonnie’s new home I managed to straighten myself out long enough to create the illusion that I wasn’t as bothered as I really was.  I expected to start crying again when I turned out of the apartment complex, but instead found myself in almost a state of shock.  I haven’t cried over her since that night until now, as I type these words.

I’ve learned a few things from this experience.

  1. Cats are definitely cooler than I used to think.  With the exception of a couple I’ve met, they’re quite affectionate and friendly, and not nearly as jerky as I make them out to be.
  2. Cats are funny.  Have you ever seen a cat chase its tail?  Or play in an empty cardboard box?  Hours of free entertainment right there.
  3. Cats are also very strange.  They nap in the sink and bathtub, prefer ancient erasers to expensive catnip toys, and will run like mad back and forth from one end of the room to the other without reason.
  4. A cat’s purr will be amplified quite loudly if that cat sticks its face in an empty flower vase.
  5. Owning a cat has given me the confidence that I am capable of taking care of another living thing.  The prospect of having children someday doesn’t seem as daunting as it did a year ago.
  6. I now know for certain that I would never be able to give up a child for adoption.

The Cat & The Mouse

I would like to preface this post with the following statement: I do not keep a particularly messy house.  Sure, I go through spells of leaving my clean laundry unfolded in the laundry basket, or leaving books and magazines spread over the kitchen table.  On occasion, I will leave a dirty dish either in the kitchen sink or on the counter for a night before putting it in the dishwasher.  While I live in a state of relative chaotic disarray, I certainly do not live in squalor.

Now that I’ve said that, I can get on with it.

Bonnie Cat has a number of little toy mice that I have bought for her since we became flatmates.  Most of them have been batted under the furniture.  I imagine that when I move, I will find a happy little nest of toy mice that have settled in the most unreachable corners underneath the couch.

Once in a rare while, when left to her own devices (read: I don’t feel like fishing a toy out from under a bookcase for her) Bonnie will somehow manage to reach one of her toys and dribble it soccer-style across the apartment.  Inevitably, though, she will swat at it a little too hard, knocking it once again under something and out of her reach.  ‘Tis the circle of life.

Imagine my surprise this evening when one of Bonnie’s toy mice jumped up and ran away from her!

You guessed it, gang: it was a real, honest-to-goodness mouse scurrying along the baseboard, desperately trying to escape the curious cat that trailed close behind.

My first thought was that Bonnie was going to try to eat it.  My second thought was not of the potential disease that my sweet kitty might ingest, but of the blood and guts and fur and bones I might have to clean up.  No sir-ee, Bob, you can bet your bottom I was not about to let that sort of carnage happen in a place where I often walk barefoot.  So, I did the first thing that came to mind.

Springing into action, I grabbed a glass from which I had just been drinking. At the last second, I realized that the glass was still quite full, so I deftly dumped it into a houseplant.  In the most athletic display I have seen from myself since before I reached double digits, I found myself leaping over the coffee table, skidding in my socks across the hardwood floor and dance around the excited cat at my feet.  Somehow, during all of this, I managed to place the glass over the mouse, trapping it beneath an apple juice-soaked dome of safety.

I really needn’t have worried so much about Bonnie.  It quickly became apparent that she had no intention of eating the mouse, but of playing with it: batting it, swatting it, tossing it in the air and generally terrorizing it.  The poor thing cowered under the glass, visibly trembling with abject horror.

mouse

Unlike my mother, I am not afraid of mice.  I just don’t like them running willy-nilly throughout my home.  That’s why I keep my rodent pets in secure cages.

This little mouse, now that it was safely harbored under the glass, was actually quite cute. The thought did cross my mind that I might have a new pet, but the idea of disease and pestilence quickly made me reconsider.

Sliding a magazine under the glass, I airlifted the tiny intruder to the front door.  I figured the relative wilderness that separated my apartment complex’s property from the manicured lawns of the neighborhood behind us would be a nice place for the mouse to find a new home.  I gently placed the magazine on the ground and, stepping back, lifted the glass.

Do you know what that little bugger did?  It made a bee-line right back towards my building!  Son of a bitch…

Only when I returned to my living room and sat down at the piano did I find myself laughing.  While Bonnie strutted proudly about the apartment, I realized that I have a new appreciation for the piece I’m teaching one of my students: Aaron Copland’s The Cat and The Mouse.  I think everyone who plays it must be required to witness a live chase.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: