Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Diary of a Crazy Cat Lady

Pet ownership is not at all what I remember it to be.

But this may have something to do with the fact that the only indoor cat we ever had growing up used my father's head as a litter box early some mornings (and so the era of "indoor cats" was substantially short-lived).

Most of our cats lives were short-lived, for that matter. We lived in a rural area replete with racoons, possums, coyotes and even foxes (not to mention, the usual dangers posed by man: speeding cars, drunken hunters, etc). I hate to say it, but I don't recall a single cat living past three years of age. And even that may be stretching it.

Our dogs usually got a little better treatment. We did have one get shot by a hog farmer (I was only seven or eight at the time and was TERRIBLY traumatized by that). After that, we started to tie them up, a procedure which inflicted an entirely new degree of horror on a girl with an almost unhealthy degree of empathy for animals. Shortly thereafter, we got our first "strictly indoors" pooch... a cocker spaniel who enjoyed life well into her teens.

But somewhere in-between, I witnessed all varieties of pet tragedies; one cat, for example, died defending her kittens from a predator (a tom cat or a possum — hard to tell for sure). I spent that summer bottle-feeding her litter, only to lose the runt (who was also blind) early on to an end I'd rather not mention; and still another to a local boy my mother gave two of the kittens to one day while I was at softball practice (they still needed to be bottle feed at that point — something he was not prepared to do). I cannot even begin to express how angry I was with my mother when I returned home to discover the missing kittens... and how nauseous I felt when he brought one of the kittens back several days later... she was emaciated and sickly, and weighed less than half what she had when she was in my care. It took great attention to get her back into shape.

[Which I did, only to later have her get run over when my parents refused to let me bring her indoors.]

I was maybe nine at the time. And the incident was just enough to transform my empathy for animals into an almost disheartening sense of despair for life in general. Suffice it to say, that was not a good summer.

Aside from incidents such as that, pet ownership was generally "easy." You fed and watered them, and you snuck them inside when your folks weren't looking. But predators were always a stressful concern.

So when Maude came to live with me, I thought having an indoor cat would be a veritable peace of cake. Aside from the inevitable concerns associated with big city landlords, there are no predators in my apartment to speak of. I keep the place clean, so there's unlikely to be a bottle of poison enticing her on the floor, and I'm careful to only leave out "safe" toys when I'm not at home.

But I've since determined that I may very well be cursed when it comes to pet ownership. Though Maude is alive, healthy and well to this day... she's in such a state despite herself.

Regular readers likely recall the ponytail holder incident that cost me just over a grand. And while I don't want to jinx myself by admitting that nothing so awful has transpired since then, we haven't been without close calls.

Here's a snapshot of Maude's day-to-day:

  • Maude regularly sneaks into my shoe closet, and my clothes closet, when I'm selecting the day's wardrobe. She does this quickly, and unnoticed, which has resulted in her being shut in the door once, and repeatedly locked inside for 5-10 minutes at a time (luckily, she loves being in there, and I always look around for her after a sustained period of silence)
  • Ever since the ponytail incident, she refuses to drink water from a bowl. She now only drinks from the faucet or — if I don't leave that on for her — a water fountain made especially for weird cats like her
  • As a result of this quirk, she's taken to jumping up on my kitchen counter to catch water dripping from the faucet. Clean freak that I am, this grosses me out and has resulted in a substantial increase in the amount of time I spend cleaning the kitchen
  • One night I woke up to this awful screeching sound. I ran into my living room, only to discover one of Maude's toys in the water fountain; it had soaked up ALL OF THE WATER, and so the engine was in the process of burning out. (She throws her toys in the air, sometimes for great distances... I imagine she was attempting to disembowel her stuffed polar bear when the incident occurred)
  • Because of some unusual post-op behavior, we suspected Maude had a touch of taxoplasmosis, and so I spent the last month giving her an antibiotic, twice a day (turns out she probably was NOT a carrier, but with my sister being pregnant, I didn't want to risk it). Ever given a cat a pill? Not fun at all.
  • While I keep the number of "treats" to a minimum, since they're mostly for adult cats, I was giving her the occasional treat as a thank you for swallowing the pill. One morning I didn't do this, and Maude contested by disappearing for over 30 minutes. I searched my closest and under the bed before leaving (I ALWAYS make sure I know where she is before I leave), only to later find her just sitting in her covered litter box. She refused to come out until I opened the bag of treats.
  • Last week I returned home only to discover three piles of vomit on three different rugs. I immediately panicked, wondering if she'd discovered a stray ponytail holder again. She seemed OK... but then vomited again an hour or so later (again, on three separate rugs). I made an appointment with the vet, but then cancelled after she successfully ate (and digested) food.... much to my relief.
  • I discovered a possible cause for her upset stomach a day or two later when my stereo delivered deplorable reception. There were little bite marks up and down the wire antennae, and she'd even succeeded in gnawing all the way through one part of it (not to mention the speaker wires — only one works now). I must've forgotten to spray these wires with Bitter Yuck, because I doused all other cords with the stuff several weeks ago (when she first showed an interest in electrical things)
  • This week I awoke to the sound of her playing noisily in the hallway; I decided I was thirsty anyway, so I got up and went into the kitchen... only to see a beloved post card (previously on my fridge) sitting on my dining room floor, the corners of it chewed away. The magnet that had been holding it there was in the hallway upside down... it had a few teeth marks in it, but apparently didn't meet with her tastes and so was otherwise unscathed.
  • When I mop, Maude does one of two things: sticks her head into the mop bucket and displays a level of curiosity that borders on "Hey, I wonder if I should try that water!" OR she runs across the freshly mopped floor, slides... and then licks the cleaning agent from the pads of her feet. Maude now hates it when I clean, as I have to lock in various rooms as I mop elsewhere... I'm not sure, but I suspect Murphy's Cleaning Oil isn't good for kittens.
  • She weighs less than five pounds, and yet takes up half the bed. She gets right up next to me, and I'm terrified of rolling over her. So I remain in the same position, pushed to the side, before she gets up after her "cat nap," starts making a ton of noise playing with things that aren't toys... and gets kicked out of the room (at which point she entertains herself for awhile, but then comes back to my bedroom door and paws at it — no claws out, luckily — until I let her back in).
I could go on, but this post has already overstayed its welcome. Essentially, I'm starting to see an entirely new world of dangers in my comfy little apartment, and I'm terrified Maude is going to succumb to an untimely end I had previously assigned only to outdoor cats.

For this reason, I now check my floors multiple times (for ponytail holders and such) before I leave for work or go to bed; I sometimes walk back into my apartment after locking up because "I can't remember" if I shut the closet door; and I regularly rearrange furniture to minimize the number of exposed electrical cords.

In short: I've become quite OCD, compliments of Maude.

And to those of you out there who encouraged me to get a cat — to those friends, family and co-workers who said indoor cats were "easy" to take care of, and too smart to cause any real trouble —

I'm holding you all responsible for this. Your bill is in the mail.


Anonymous said...

Not me. I never said anything about pets.

Maude needs some DEEP psychological help. A Kitty Pshrink. And probably kitty psychotropics.

Good luck.

XOXO said...

People tell me my dog is high maintainence. Sheesh!

Your indoor warty dog was so special. I specifically enjoyed it when she would get on the phone to tell us your mom needed to use said phone.

Oh yeah, your check is in the mail...

disgruntled world citizen said...

For the record I don't recall ever saying "cats are easy..."

Woody has some quirks, too.... mainly he desn't seem like poopin in his box. But I won't get onto that....

LeA said...

Honestly? To me? This sounds like normal kitten behavior.

Pumpkin chewed cords (teething). If you happen to find a tiny tooth, it's normal, but highly unlikely.

They grow up to three sets of whiskers. Expect to find some of those as well.

My cats talk to the walls. They are weird. They climb on everything. EVERYTHING. They get into everything.

Goes with the saying, curiosity killed the cat.

Just saying, don't worry about it. That's just how cats are.


thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

XOXO - Making fun of someone's dead dog? Very uncool. And those "skin anomalies" didn't appear until she was well into her geriatric years.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

DWC - Was that your cat pictured alongside the Onion headline a couple years back? You'd love it... "Independant-minded cat [expletive] outside box."

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Lea - Does that mean Pumpkin no longer chews cords? That could be VERY good news for my household. I miss playing CD's.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

I should add that I like Maude well enough. It's kind of nice to have a non-gilled organism eagerly awaiting my return home every day (she stands in front of the door and chirps, actually making it diffiult to even get inside).

I just can't believe how stressful it is to keep her alive.