Thursday, April 23, 2009

From Pussyfooter To Pussy Lover (In Six Short Years)

After declaring my intention to uphold the bond of marriage, for richer (then) or poorer (now), I implicitly pledged to accept the pair of cats that cohabitated with my fiancée. For better or for worse, I was now the stepfather to Bailey, an obese yet cautious tabby with an imposing fear of vacuum cleaners and a gluttonous coveting of Iams pellets, and Geppetto, a mild mannered ragdoll, content to let his tubby friend box him out of enjoyable meals at the communal kibble bowl.

Hailing from an aerodynamic family, genetics would practically forbid my offspring from sprouting inordinate amounts of chest or back hair; the kind coveted in the cocaine-fueled frenzy of the erroneous disco era, though despised in modern times. Yet, in a bruising twist of irony, the adoption of two bushy felines with a penchant toward gifting their fur on every pillow, cushion, and untended piece of clothing, quashed any aspirations for nearly hairless heirs. Thrust prematurely into fatherhood, albeit an experience devoid of Little League games or ballet classes, I was tasked with keeping my hirsute adoptees well fed, somewhat exercised, and reasonably contented with the cleanliness of their litter box. Whether any of this was, or is, appreciated will never be known to the humans in this cape-style abode. Although often cute or cuddly, cats can also be spiteful ingrates, regardless of the hours logged clumsily shoveling their feces into a bag, before having said bag tear apart horrifically.

Admittedly, however, I’m a cat person at heart, forced to paraphrase Robert DeNiro’s laudatory acclaim of the feline species (from ‘Meet The Parents’) whenever challenged by dog lovers. My ego and self-confidence, while not stratospheric, require neither the constant reassurance nor blind acceptance offered by canines. If anything, the prospect of having some jovial lummox lick my face subsequent to a detailed cleansing of its own anus (or the similar anatomy of a neighborhood stray) is nauseatingly repellent, and certainly not a way to impress one’s best friend. Perhaps it’s my own independent streak which relates to the fickle, almost shifty nature of the cat; that mutual understanding amongst capable and thinking animals whereby attention can be granted in doses, or by a few tosses of the catnip stuffed mouse, before each party happily reverts to its prior activity. Or perhaps it’s because I feel no obligation to reinforce my masculinity through ownership of a large dog. Some men buy Hummers to compensate for their lacking attributes, some collect muscular canines to display like trophies. But whatever your bias, one should never underestimate the abilities of a feline with regards to defecation. And it always boils down to defecation. Namely, the thing can shit by itself. It doesn’t whine for your help. Man’s best acquaintance.

As married life progressed, so did the relationship with my two frisky buddies. Bailey, as the alpha male, was prone to terrorize his friend with headlocks and other amusing wrestling pins, ripping out chunks of Geppetto’s fur while dodging rapid-fire defensive kicks to the head. This amusing game of dominance, akin to the same hilarity one might enjoy from a two-midget tussle, extended no further than harmless badgering. In fact, Bailey was a shivering coward when dealing with humans, making those blustery actions all the more laughable. Both furtive and stubborn, it was impossible to keep that cat under the sheets at bedtime – try as I might each evening – without the fear of God flattening his ears in alarm. It was equally hopeless to remove his 18 pound frame from atop my head every morning. His bed, his terms, his dander on my pillow. But forever the cute ball of fuzz with the lawnmower-like purr, he could be affectionate and trusting, curious yet adorably nervous; inclined to bang his head into furniture, leap rabbit-like down stairs, avoid his chin-strapped fez at all costs, and cuddle for hours, paws stretched softly across your lap.

Shockingly, Bailey was diagnosed with lung cancer last summer after a sudden onset of breathing difficulties. Although his lungs were promptly drained, so was our optimism quickly bled, as this procedure would not offer the hope of recovery. It only served to postpone the inevitable. Prone to further respiratory attacks of greater magnitude and frequency, there existed concern that these would occur while my wife and I were at work, leaving him alone, frightened, and at serious risk.

We didn't use Bailey's carrier on the final veterinary visit. It was a Monday night. Fearful during passage across the street, he clung hard to my shoulder as the rush of traffic meshed with the laughter at a nearby café. Once inside, his nerves calmed, and familiar strokes to chin and head offered a hollow semblance of normalcy. Nonetheless, it was incredibly distressing to consider the innocence of a pet, especially one wholly unaware that these are his last moments, that he is very sick, and that there is no alternative. Perhaps if he'd exhibited more signs of suffering, more pain, more shortness of breath or even introversion, the decision would have been made easier. But then again, it is never easy. He was very calm when he went to sleep, held by those whom he trusted and adored.

Geppetto, as the surviving king of the roost, has since become an invariable chatterbox of meows. Sometimes gratingly bothersome in the vein of an unconducted alleycat symphony, sometimes adorably cute as only the shrewdest of kitties can muster, I’ve grown to realize that his needs extend well beyond a full bowl of food and a tidy litter box. Our relationship has thus matured from one of mutual tolerance with a dollop of suspicion, to one of companionship. He just wants to be loved, and not forgotten.

And to rip the hell out of my dining room carpet.

28 comments:

Chris said...

Being a dog person myself, I can't say that I relate to much of this. I enjoyed the writing, as always, and out of this entire piece, I especially like the line "man's best acquaintance." You have a great "cat lover's" t-shirt or mug idea right there.

High praise, I know.

Suldog said...

Sorry to hear about your loss of Bailey. Never an easy thing to do, but you know it was needed, so...

I've always been a cat person, myself. Nothing against dogs, per se, but for all of the reasons you give. Since MY WIFE is allergic to dander, I haven't had one for many years. As I always tell her, though, I consider it a decent trade.

MVD said...

Chris - If I ever get my head out of my ass and welcome structure back into this chaotic nightmare of unemployment, I might consider that idea. It's entrepreneurial, and a more legitimate way to earn the mortgage payments as opposed to, say, setting up a lemonade stand or organizing a one-man car wash on my street.

Ron said...

Ok...I just want you to know that I got so choked up towards the end of this post, that I actually got teary-eyed. I can so relate to that experience, bud. I lost both of my cats within a year.

I FREAKIN' LOVE CATS! I was always raised with dogs (which I love and respect too), but for me personally, I like having a cat as a someone to share my space with, and for all the reasons you shared. I love their independence and their no need for any reasurrance. I love their defiance, and their please-don't-touch-me-right-now-attitude, but perhaps that's because I'm the same way. And have you ever notice how cats can adapted to the size of a home or an apartment? If you move from a large space into a smaller space, they gradually become small. And if you go from a small space into a larger space, they gradually become LARGE.

Wonderful post, MVD!

MVD said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ron.

I completely relate to your spatial argument. Bailey began his life in a shoebox-sized studio, moved through a few larger apartments, a nice condo, and finally a bi-level house. By the end, I was considering some kind of mini-treadmill to place in front of his supper dish.

Perhaps we should've moved into a utility closet.

Theresa said...

Sorry for the loss of Bailey. But you handled the inevitable with strength and dignity. Of which I'm sure Bailey appreciated. I also want to thank you for your words of acceptance for your wife's pets. I threw into my fiance's life, Newton, a small rat terrier. Who sleeps under the covers and occassionally pees on my fiances Yankees sweatshirt. My fiance reads your blogs religiously so I'm sure he'll read this one. So thanks...

Jen said...

I had to put down one of our cats that we got in London and who made subsequent moves to CA and MN with us. It is such a difficult decision but one that has to be made. These beings, not human but purveyors of daily love and affection at times as important as the people kind, should never be underestimated for their impact on us. Particularly for us non-breeders, the pets fill a very real void. Presently with 3 dogs, a cat and 2 horses, I hate to think of the day when I have to make that terrible decision times six. Feel grateful you're wife only stuck you with two cats.

MVD said...

Hi Theresa - Perhaps you should switch your fiancé's sweatshirts from New York to Boston. I'd feel more comfortable knowing that Red Sox attire was being routinely urinated upon.

MVD said...

Actually, Jen, she also stuck me with a revolving door of betta fish. The betta and I get along just fine, however. And when it's time to yank the porcelain handle, we can usually do it without shedding a tear.

Tina said...

So sorry to hear about Bailey. I love cats. We had to let our cat "David Caruso" go recently as well.

MVD said...

Thanks, Tina. You must realize that I chuckled upon hearing your cat's name, only because it spawned visions of America's favorite astoundingly egotistical actor.

Our betta fish is named “Eric Roberts,” in deference to the over-emoting genius of late night C-movies (and brother to Julia).

blunt delivery said...

cats are where its at man. people hate cats cus they've never had one. i had 4 main ones growing up, but about 24 at one time, when they all got horny. i don't have any at this point in my life, because i'm throroughly enjoying my furr-free condo.

Out-Numbered said...

Dude. That was depressing. Sorry about your pussy.

MVD said...

Hey BD - I've never had the luxury of tending with 24 horny pussies (ours were always neutered). Sounds more like a sorority house on Ecstasy than a treasured childhood memory.

blunt delivery said...

i mean, we lived on a farm.. so what else could we expect. they were free to roam and snoop around in random "barns." yea, it got kind of ridiculous there for awhile. they were making themselves at home in far to many barns. sluts.

MVD said...

Replace "farm" with "college,"
"they" with "freshmen girls"
and "barns" with "frat houses."

The analogy proven.

Matt Shea said...

Mike, I too have felt the loss of a feline friend. While he wasn't named David Caruso (I fear Tina's cat simply passed away out of embarrassment at his onscreen namesake's jaundiced performances, which are mailed in with all the elegance of punches thrown through pillow cases - there's only so far that the title, 'Guy who made make-up artists learn to do make-up for red heads' will get you) and he never wore a fez (although I wear a fez occasionally. And now that i think of it, I've been known to eat cat food also), he was still very much a part of our family. Jack did carry extra props by managing to survive being wrapped by a carpet python when he was about six weeks old - that may sound like an Australian cliche but it does actually happen from time to time - so when the grey fluff bucket actually smoked his last hairs in front of the heater it was a sad day indeed. Even if he was a little shit.

Just call me Frankie for now said...

I read you, but I don't get you. Does that make sense? It shouldn't, not where I come from.

MVD said...

Hey Matt - Nothing says "balls of steel" or "In three days, I will destroy Earth with a powerful laser" quite like a fez, especially when coupled with a cape and/or monocle.

On a cat, of course, it merely looks ridiculous.

Ang said...

Sorry about the cat, we've all been there. I think you need to get Geppetto a kitten and give him a chance to bitch-slap around the smaller beast, plus you'd get 16 more years of fur everywhere and more scooping!

Totally on the same page of liking cats more than dogs. Overall, cats are more dignified than their canine competitors.
#1 They crap in a box and it stays there...dogs will eat thier own poo and then lick your face. Let's not forget all the work related to walking them and letting them outside. I cringe when I see some poor soul walking their dog happily holding some plastic bag of poo swinging off the leash.
#2 Dogs are rude sniffers and assault people with thier noses.

MVD said...

Greetings Ang - As a #3 to your list: certain dogs will hump incessantly, for as long as the amused (or unamused) owners permit. Anyone with a teenage kid knows how that works, unless one resides in a country without university campuses (or reasonably accommodating back seats).

Regina said...

And I thought my Betta fish's name was silly (Hello Kitty), I am sure you can guess who named the fish. Unfortunatly "she" didn't live that long and my poor daughter cried hard.

I grew up with cats and my favorite "ran away" -so my parents tell me. I know exactly how you feel about them. As you know we have a dog who doesn't shed (I cannot stand shedding=no cats!) He is a great little dog and doesn't eat his own poo, doesn't lick his @$$ , loves to cuddle and hump my little guy. My son just laughs and yells at Toby to stop. He likes to play outside with the kids and chase the ball. I get to bathe my little Havanese and he smells pretty with no hairballs! It is very easy for me to open the back door and say "GO" and poo outside NOT inside your house. PLUS did you know that it is very dangerous for women to clean the litter box? My dad never let any of us girls do it.
Toby is a very nice little dog and doesn't invade others (just my son's).

MVD AND K- We were very sad when we heard the news about Bailey. My kids always loved looking and playing with the both of them - that is if they found them.

MVD said...

Hi Regina - I've definitely heard about the female/litter connection, although believed it only applied to the barefoot and pregnant. In any case, being a stay-at-home-trainwreck these days, I'm the one on box cleaning duty.

LilithDeviant said...

You've gone and made a mess of my make up. Thanks, pal.

When I first was married, my husband hated cats, while I loved the little suckers. When I finally convinced him to allow me to get a cat (read: brought a cat home and told him the decision was final) he graciously accepted the new member of our family (read: he was outnumbered).

Exactly two years later, it was he who shed more tears as we had to put our dear kitty down. She'd contracted a liver disease that would have meant life with a feeding tube jutting out of her neck, or slowly starving to death. As the feeding tube concept was guaranteed to diminish her quality of life to zero, we made the painful decision to let her go to sleep forever.

Those kitties are old souls, I believe. At the risk of sounding a bit melodramatic...they know things. Although in many ways they are ignorant, I think they also have capacity for love and compassion beyond what we can comprehend.

That was 4 years ago. I still miss him. We've never gotten another cat.

Thanks for the memories, butthead!

Just kidding. It was a lovely story, and endears me to you ever more.

LilithDeviant said...

I realize that I refer to the kitty as both he and she in the above post. Let me assure you this was a typo, and not indicative of a make believe kitty designed to evoke emotion and deceive your sensitive nature. The kitty was a he. His name was Caesar, and he liked to eat grapes, but first he'd peel off the skins. True story.

I have no idea why I referred to him as a she in the second paragraph of my too long comment. Perhaps I should away to my beddiebye.

In any case, I felt some sort of wackadoodle need to correct my mistake, lest I tarnish the memory of poor old Caesar. He was a manly cat, and gone too soon.

MVD said...

Hey Lilith - Thanks for chiming in with your story. Normally, this site doesn't induce tears (and certainly doesn't smear mascara as a general rule), but then again, predictability is a death knell. Every once in a while, it's healthy to veer away from the tried-and-true formula and explore different territory.

Very sorry to hear about (your male cat) Caesar.

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