Freaking Out Squares

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Will You Shut the Fuck Up About the Damn Cats Already?

Oh, ALL right. After this one, no more posts about cats for at least a week unless there's some dire emergency. But damn it, they're just so cute!

This morning, as I was heading to the corner deli for my morning provisions (cigs, coffee, soy milk, the Times, I saw two stray kitties being attended to by a very sweet woman about my dad's age. I've seen the little buggers before when I take the long route to the deli. They're tabbies, with long snouts and scrawny stray bodies. The fellow (lady?) who greeted us this morning looked to be part Maine coon, with a big, bushy tail that looked like someone or something had taken a bite out of--and who knows, perhaps someone/thing had. After I helped the very sweet woman feed the little beasts, we chatted about our own felines and she told me that down her way, on the south side of Broadway, there were quite a number of "cat colonies" to which she attended. Astoria does seem to be quite the feline hotspot, kind of like the Coliseum in Rome. We have our own little kitty hangout in the backyard, presided over by none other than Feline Bill, of course. In fact, every spring, Feline Bill rassles up the new kittens, cleans them up, domesticates them, and then unloads them on willing friends. Many, many times I've been tempted to spirit one of the little babies up to my pad, but I have an uneasy feeling that would set off all kinds of trauma for Hissy and Fitz, who would either hide in the closet or take a chunk out of the interloper's neck. At some point, though, in the distant future, if I'm ever in the market for another pet, I'm going to have to get a little female kitten and name her Maggie. I'm a theatre geek--it's in the contract, just as it's in the contract that on the extremely off-chance I ever get a dog, I'll have to name him Benjamin Barker, which, if you aren't a theatre geek or Sondheim nut, is Sweeney Todd's real name. When I was nine years old, my mom and I had a cat named Felicia, whom she never bothered to get spayed, which led to Felicia sneaking out of the house and getting knocked up. (You Catholic girls start much too late...) Anyway, the litter emerged on Beethoven's birthday, much to the delight of my bass-playing mother, and we ended up naming the surviving kittens Toby, Lovett, and Ben after various characters in the aforementioned musical. Toby's new owners renamed him Rusty, and my mom changed Lovett to Cecile on the grounds that it sounded too much like Lovey, and no cat of hers, blah blah blah. As for the runt who died, poor thing, well, my mother threw it in the trash. "What else was I supposed to do with it?" my mother said when I asked her why she didn't, um, bury it in the yard or something. "That ground's frozen as a hard as a rock!" Yes, but isn't there some city ordinance against throwing a cat in the trash? Oh, well, that was Vikki for you, all the sentiment of steel.

That was twenty years ago, and I assume all the cats in that litter are dead now. When my mother herself died, my dad and I took Cecile, while Ben went to live with our vet's housekeeper. Cecile was a case, man. She and Ben were left alone in my mom's house for two months after her fruitless surgery and before my equally sentimental grandfather figured he'd better find these little bastards new homes. (I can't exactly hold that against him--his only daughter was dying of colon cancer at thirty-nine, and he was trying to clean out our house and settle her estate and come to terms with the horror of it all.) Cecile never did get over being left alone in that house for so long, but the upshot of the situation was she became a true people cat. She loved her humans to the point of obsession, following us around the house and meowing a strangely bitchy little "r-a-a-a-h!" when she felt we weren't paying enough attention to her. My mother had had all the cats from that litter declawed, and so Cecile and my dad used to engage in "boxing matches" together. And how, you may ask? It was pretty simple, really--my dad would lie on his side on the floor, waving his hand back and forth between Cecile's front paws, and Cecile would bat at it. Nothing so exciting as the film clips of the boxing cats that "The Daily Show" likes to screen when they haven't anything better to do, but charming nonetheless. We called her "the goat cat" because when my dad lay down on the sofa to watch TV, Cecile would lean up against him like a little mountain goat. My dad and I used to laugh that she had nipple anxiety like the dog in Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Are we the only people who remember that scene? Because I swear, whenever I mention nipple anxiety and that film in the same sentence, people just look at me like, the fuck you talkin' 'bout, Willis?

Cecile lived to the ripe old age of 17, finally succumbing to a stomach tumor the day after Easter, 2003. I still miss "talking" to her on the phone--she purred so loudly my dad could hold the phone up to her neck and I could listen to her. And I still miss our big Buddha cat, Faron, a champion purr-er himself, who departed this life the same year as my mom, attempting to protect his humans from a pack of stray dogs that roamed the neighborhood (and which, I believe, was also responsible for the disappearance of our guinea pigs, Ginger and Mocha, who my mother saw fit to leave on the stoop, presumably so they could absorb fresh summer air. Mother, wherever you are, what the fuck were you thinking?). Faron was the mellowest cat ever--he was, after all, a stray from my parents' Vermont days in the early 1970s--and he used to put up with all kinds of crazy shit, like my dressing him in doll bonnets when I was a kid. When he wanted my mom to feed him, he'd walk across the piano until she put the meat on the floor. Our friend Deb lived upstairs from us, with her parents across the street, and one day Deb's mom called to let her know that Faron was sitting in the middle of the street with his tongue hanging out. "Is he sick?" she asked Deb. "Should I call Vikki? Is he going to get run over?" Deb just laughed and explained that was just Faron, nothing to worry about. And until he got into a tussle with the dogs who claimed his ninth life at 17, there really wasn't. He was just a stoner, protected by some cosmic force field.

I think Sally is the one I miss the most, though. Sally was the little white cat my dad got from a co-worker who lived on a farm after my mom split and took Faron and his "sister", Daisy. She was easily the sweetest, most well-behaved cat I've ever known, completely free of the bad behavior of Cecile and Faron, who chewed old newspapers and picked on the stereo speakers, respectively. With all due respect, I can't say Sally was especially interesting or social, but maybe that's why I have such a soft spot for her. Poor little gaffer developed diabetes late in her life and stopped cleaning herself, so my dad and I would have to bathe her. She hated it, but she was so good. And I will always cherish the memory of her wrestling with our then-new cat, Hades, a stray I unloaded on my dad when I was in college, with her front legs wrapped around Hades's neck. Who knew such a sweet little baby had such balls, so to speak?

As a foxhole agnostic, I'm leery about the concept of the afterlife, although I do like the Native American perspective of meeting your beloved pets after the final curtain is rung down. The only problem I have with that is, if my mother is there, who gets to play with Faron? I mean, I have nightmares about this woman surfacing from the dead and screaming at me that she knows all the "slander" I've been spreading about her (FYI, it's all true, so shut up, Vikki), so what's going to happen when I bite the big one? Maybe Faron will be able to share us. He always did like his humans. Maybe he'll even help us reconcile, but I doubt it.

Okay, let's wrap up Cat Week here at KT with some links to feline rescue organizations. And remember to do as Bob Barker tells you and spay and neuter your pet. (Not to mention spaying and neutering Bob Barker.)

New York
Grateful Paw Cat Adoption Center
Animal Welfare Adoption Network

Stray Cat Alliance (in Harrisburg, no less!)

Cats Are Purr-r-r-sons Too
Tree House Animal Foundation

Northern California
Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County

Southern California
Los Angeles ASPCA
People and Cats Together

And, if all else fails, check in with me and I'll let you know what/who Feline Bill and I can rustle up from the backyard.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

cat pictures please add for zoie

8:10 PM

Blogger Karla said...

Hey, Zoie,

I'll try to add some cat pictures ASAP. In the meantime, I highly recommend immersing yourself in such time-consuming activities as building a log cabin in the Adirondacks or establishing an independent republic, because not only am I not tech-savvy, my scanner won't accept regular old Kodak snapshots. So posting pics is going to take some serious finagling, long story short. But thanks for the suggestion!

12:18 PM

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