Sunday, October 15, 2006

Cats in my belfry

Author's Note: The following column appeared in the Collin County Opinions section of the Dallas Morning News, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006.

For those who don’t know me, I hold a certain disdain for ... cats. It goes back a few ... decades, but needless to say, el gato y moi do not get along.
When I was a freshman in college and housed in a three-man, dormitory room no bigger than most bathrooms, one of the fellas brought his cat to complete a foursome. Having been a dog person all my life (lively wire-hair terriers at that), I knew nothing of the attitudes and needs of felines. Cats had only served as objects to chase for Frisky and Fuzzy, my two canine pals.
But I soon discovered, to my chagrin, that cats were uppity, aloof and, in this particular case, liked to use MY body for a scratching pole. In the middle of the night. While I tried to sleep. In places that cannot be fully described in a family newspaper. (But since this is cyrbersapce, it scratched the crap out of my ... BALLS!)
Needless to say, it hurt … a lot! And the discharge within a room the size of a refrigerator box just reeked to high heaven. The others didn’t seem to mind but it drove me crazy to the point of hatching elaborate plots of demise against this cat. Such scarring of one’s psyche can carry over for years and it did.
So what had God wrought? He has brought a cat into my home – a young black female that my wife, Jodie, actually “adopted” after discovering it hiding under our outside storage shed (apparently chasing away the field rabbits, and having decided to be sensible and get out of the Texas heat).
Eventually she gained enough trust to eat out of Jodie’s hand and got brave enough to enter the garage when the door opened. Here’s the mistake I made: I said if the cat was going to perch among the boxes, like some living statue, (gulp!) “it might as well come into the house.”
I know! I have only myself to blame. I knew it was a cat (or snake) when I let it in. And on the day we decided to let Miss Kitty enter the house, Jodie found one of those signals from God in the front bushes. There was a cat collar in the half-dead rose bush, which had not been there the day before.
“Someone is trying to tell us something,” she said. “It’s fate.”
“I have a different four-letter word in mind,” I groused.
The cat purrs all the time and seems quite fond of large male tummies and spongy male legs. She refuses to play with any of the toys we emptied out of Petsmart. It just wants to rub against things – reams of computer paper, leather couches, my forearm. Catnip temporarily sends the cat into an orbit around Pluto, but this kitty seems fairly immune to long-lasting side effects.
Here’s my problem ... IT’S A FREAKING CAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A dog I can handle; it’s just stupid enough to eat, bark (especially when it rains), bathroom itself and sleep most of the time (at least our blind 16-year-old Jack Russell resembles that remark). Cats are awfully finicky and are way too independent and act like ... CATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In my older age, I don’t want to continue to act like an ogre. I can do the Otis Redding thing and try a little tenderness, but I don’t know a cat from a hole in the ground I used to think they belonged in. How do I get her to stop this kneading thing? She can’t be that “kneady!” What does a cat like to do other than sharpen its nails on your upholstery and/or body parts?
Why can’t a cat be more like a ... dog? Then again, I am asking why God has done this to me.
So I seek information and wise, sage advice from family and friends on how to treat and act with a cat. Perhaps I could pen a follow-up article, sharing the good, the bad and the uglier comments (well, not THAT ugly!).
But this much is for sure. I need help! PLEASE! Before something gross happens.
Like she sleeps in my lap at night. Or licks me. Or cuddles.
And I grow fond of having her around. And I start singing “Cat Scratch Fever” all the time. Or I memorize the words to “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”
Oh, the horror.

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