Tuesday, July 5, 2016

30 Days of Blogging, Day 5: For All the Cats I've Loved Before

This morning at 4:00 am I could hear him in his litter box, violently kicking litter around. I heard what sounded like fistfuls of litter hitting the bathroom floor. He does this on occasion in the middle of the night; I assume to punish me for being asleep and not paying attention to him. That's what I get.

I shout his name and make "TSSS!" noises to no avail. I eventually get up to go to the bathroom myself, stepping on kitty litter. I grab the tiny broom and stand-up dust pan I've started leaving next to his box and begin to sweep by night light. He starts to twirl between my legs, purring and rubbing up against them, but then he realizes I'm not on the bed and runs to claim the warm spot I've left for him. I call him a dick, but I've grown to love this dick.

I had no plans to adopt a cat back in December when my friend Lisa and I were visiting Portland for Christmas. We had heard there was a cat cafe and simply went there to check it out. I didn't want a cat. I hadn't had a cat for years, and due to that had developed a slight allergy and a strong dislike for their aloofness.

I'm on to your game. It only makes me love you more.

He was the first I noticed as we sat down with our drinks. He was running and playing with other cats, climbing the shelves as high as he could around the room. I noticed he had one eye, and for some reason it spoke to my heart. He was so spring-stepped and spry, the loss of an eye didn't slow him down. I tried to coax him to me by rubbing my fingers together and he was predictably aloof, but it didn't deter my interest. We left but returned the next day where I, completely out of character, decided to adopt him. I would have to return the following week to collect him, and after spending the week setting up everything he would need I drove down to Portland after work and returned home the same night with a very nervous kitty.

Since then it's been my goal to give Popeye a great home. He started his life as a wandering rover on the mean streets of Portland. He was found with an injured eye and taken to a shelter where they removed it, which is how he earned the name Popeye. I also want to give him a life better than the cats I grew up with.

You see: I come from a house where cats went to die.

Insert record scratch noise here.

Let me make it clear that it was not on purpose. We weren't a cat murdering cult. There were extenuating environmental circumstances that made it difficult for a cat to survive in our home.

I reminisced on these cats and thought deeply of how I loved them (most of them), even for the short time they were with me. I started writing about them and ended up writing tiny eulogies for them.

To my first cat Angel:

Composite sketch; not an exact rendering

I don't remember you very clearly. I was 4 and you were our first cat when we moved to Colorado Springs. You were white and that is why I called you Angel. Was that racist? I don't know. My parents did not get you fixed, and they also let you be an outdoor cat. One day you came home pregnant and you produced only one surviving offspring. Your offspring survived. You, to my recollection, did not survive the neighbors dog. Rest in peace, Angel.

To Angel's offspring Ginger:

Artist rendering of Ginger; note the excessive make-up that denotes female "looseness".

Ginger, my mother gave you that name. I did not. Why she gave you a stripper name we'll never know; we were a good Catholic family. Ginger, we tried hard to keep you as an indoors cat, but you were tricky. Waiting for me or my brothers to linger in the door too long to make your escape. You taught me where babies come from Ginger. Know why? Because every time you came home, you came home pregnant. The pet store at the mall counted on us to keep an inventory of kittens because you could not keep your cat legs together. Then, shortly after giving birth to your last litter, you left us. Big Michelle, my friend who lived down the street said she found you after seeing you get run over by a truck. She then made up a very dramatic story that her cocker-spaniel attacked the truck driver and killed him for running you over. I found solace in this truck drivers canine murder, even if it was a lie. From your final litter, we did keep one kitten. Rest in peace Ginger.

To Ginger's offspring, Saint Thomas:

Artist rendering of Saint Thomas; not a completely inaccurate rendering.

Saint Thomas, you were with us the longest. It appears your mother shacked up with a Russian Blue cat, because you were just that. Handsome and small for your breed, you were my cat. Born when I was 6, shortly after the birth of my little brother, you tolerated my Elmira-vice-grip as I would pick you up and drag you around, occasionally dressing you up in my doll's clothes. I think the best description of you would be tolerant. You even tolerated two dogs, and another cat. You loved being outside, to your detriment, because you got in a fight with a skunk and your ears were left with Swiss-cheese like holes. You were the neighborhood tom-cat, constantly chasing the ladies. We eventually had to end your love-streak because you were spraying our neighbors windows. That was gross, St. Thomas. You were with us the longest, for 8 whole years. When you turned eight the doctor said he had to remove your teeth because they were rotten. Shortly after, we learned you had contracted feline leukemia, and I found you one Saturday morning on a pile of laundry. Rigor Mortis had long set in and your mouth was stretched open as if you had died screaming. It was horrifying. My poor Tom-Cat. You were buried beneath my mother's roses, where I assume you still rest. Rest in peace St. Thomas.

To Miss Kitty:

Close enough.

I literally can't remember where you came from, but you were tiny and adorable when you came to us when I was 13. Always wanting to cuddle, you slept on my head every night. We only had you for a year, and you contracted St. Thomas' feline leukemia. My father took you to the vet to see what could be done while we ran errands to Costco. I found out standing in the middle of Costco that my dad told the vets to go ahead and put you down since nothing could be done. I never got to say goodbye, and I cried next to giant boxes of cereal. Rest in peace Miss Kitty.

To Sox and Tiberius:

I'm not even trying anymore...

After the drama and death of back to back cat deaths, my father declared no more cats. Then we acquired a mouse problem, and dad said we could adopt two cats from the vet. Sox, you looked like Sox the White House cat. Even at 14 I was an adamant liberal. Tiberius, my brother named you after James Tiberius Kirk. Sox, you bailed on us and went to live with another family. Fuck you, Sox. Tiberius stuck around with us for a long time. Much like Miss Kitty you slept on my head every night, and you were fat and lazy which made you look just like Garfield. One night I let you out, and you never came home. My dad assumed it was coyotes, since at this point we lived in the country. I became embittered and built a callous around my heart from the loss of yet another cat, but it doesn't make your loss any less tragic. Rest in peace Tiberius.

To Ivy:

Theirs was not a poetic encounter.

I never wanted you. My mother found you. You were a white Persian that was among a litter of full grown Persian cats left on the step of the town vet. You purred so loudly that you would wake me from a dead sleep. You never used the cat box and peed and pooped exclusively under my bed.  I think you sensed I didn't like you, even though I was always cordial. One night after coming home from a high school play rehearsal I spied you in the neighbors yard under a street light. Quite unexpectedly large owl swooped down and took you away. Your screams echo in my memory. The following day on a walk with my mother we found only inner remains and tufts of white fluffy hair all over. You didn't deserve to go like that. Rest in peace Ivy.

To Hugo:

He was a dapper fellow.

You were given to me by my brother, because he couldn't afford to keep you. You were named Hugo, after Hugo Boss, because the pattern in your fur looked like a suit...I guess? I didn't see it. Like my last two cats you slept on my head, played with my feet under the covers, and were generally a sweet and an cuddly cat who tolerated my need for squeezes and snuggling. Your fur became matted so we took you to the groomer to get shaved. This was in 1999. I took a picture of you and sent it to my friend and titled it "Shaved Pussy". It was the first shaved pussy photo I ever sent. Whether it was the last remains to be seen. One day you never came home, I assume due to coyote, owl, or shame. Rest in peace Hugo.

Eight cats, all who lived far too short lives. I dedicate this to them and I make the following promise: I will keep Popeye indoors at all times, especially since I live on the 6th floor and have not yet informed my apartment manager that I have a cat (please don't tell on me). I will keep him healthy. I will play with him. I will not put doll clothes on him. I will ensure his safety from all coyotes, owls, skunks, and embarrassing photos.

Baby's first selfie.

Most importantly, I will love him.

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