One of the reasons we moved was to get a cat. Not primarily though, primarily it was for space. Our one bedroom apartment was accumulating items in my need to fill every available surface and to have a wardrobe which doors could only dream of being able to close.
Eventually my boyfriend and I moved into a house, two bedrooms, one of which now contains only my clothing and a wardrobe door which periodically closes.
A small house on a quiet street, ideal for cat ownership. Both my boyfriend, and I grew up with cats but were not raised by them. I do not feel a need to bury my droppings or inadequacy that I cannot lick my genitals, but we had cats. After a number of months of my resisting the idea, I found it to be a personal breakthrough to say ‘We should now get a cat’. My time was spent looking at pictures of rescued cats online, it felt like an interspecies dating site.
One day I saw a cat which had only one eye. My first thought was about how much comedy a one eyed cat could provide. There was also empathy for what it is like to be rejected for a physical flaw. Hoping that the second feeling was stronger than the first I showed my boyfriend.
Next thing we knew someone came to our house to make sure it was suitable for a cat. That it wasn’t filled entirely with water, or dogs, or dogs swimming around in large pools of water. All I could think of was ways to make the meeting awkward, which I never went through with, like asking what the cats top speed was or how many kills she had.
When went to collect the cat, I hoped that she’d look like her photo, grainy and out of focus. The cat was in a cage, engaged in a fight with the cat next to her, the two of them trying to reach into the other’s cage to inflict some damage. It was like some terrible prison movie. The woman handling her told us about her, that her name was Dita after the burlesque artist Dita Von Teese because she looked like she was winking. The fact is, when someone winks there is that promise that the person will open their eye again and that it has not been sewn shut by a vet. How Dita lost her eye, they didn’t know. I’d like to think it was in a knife fight.
There was an indignity that came with the name Dita, so we changed it to Toody. Toody meaning 2D because she could only see in two dimensions. And as she talked to the rescue cat lady, Toody bit at her hand.
‘She’s a bit bitey?’
‘No, no…She’s playful.’
This would later haunt me as I held my arm up to my elbow in a sink filled with disinfectant. I tearfully declared that I no longer wanted her and she would have to go back. Blood seeping from the gashes in my arm, pinking up the clouds of disinfectant. Within an hour of getting her home, the cat had flipped out for no reason and attacked me, tooth and nail. Someone reasoned it was because she’d been in captivity for so long, I reminded them that Terry Waite didn’t go around stabbing people after he was released. Then I had to remind them who Terry Waite was.
This set up my being afraid of the cat, a fact made worse by the cat’s over driven curiousity where she would follow us room to room. No door could be closed without the noise of claws on wood. We were under constant surveillance by an animal that apparently hated us.
Her two favourite things were, attacking us and eating. To distract her from the first we over did the second and she gained weight. My boyfriend thought this was normal, our uncuddable cat was getting more cuddly. It was only after a stay in a cattery (we’d gone to Paris) did she lose her excess pounds. Finally we read the cat food instructions.
We’d been giving her way too much food.
But in fairness, she should have had some self restraint.
Toody liked to wake us at the break of dawn every morning, by either pawing our faces or when that didn’t work rubbing the windows with her paws over and over because she deemed the squeaking to be irritating.
And it was.
For the first 10 weeks we were instructed to not let her out of the house in case she didn’t come back. Which to be honest, wasn’t a bad thing. I found myself annoyed and tired from being woken so early every morning and complaining that the cat was the bane of my life. Friends told me it sounded like we’d had a baby. I pointed out that I doubt I’d be allowed to freely call my baby an ‘asshole’.
Parallels between cat ownership and being a parent are unfairly drawn. No villain would gently rock a baby before whispering ‘No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die’ and I wouldn’t want a mother’s day to roll around where I open a box and it contains the body of a decapitated bird.
Once she was allowed outside however she started to change, firstly she wasn’t constantly in the house and after months I could finally go to the toilet without an audience and secondly she calmed down a bit.
If she rubbed her paws on the window I could throw her out. The fact is, Toody doesn’t really miaow, she makes small chirpy noises, when you touch her, when you feed her, when she sees you and thinks she’s going to get fed and when you pick her up to throw her outside for rubbing the windows.
These things are very cute and over time she got a little less bitey. She could sit on me, without beads of sweat forming on my brow that she would suddenly flip out and as if by magic I no longer have a face. The cat would even run to me when I whistled the tune of ‘Rabid District Attorney’ from the Michael Kupperman Snake and Bacon pilot. Yes, very specific, The cat would run in, lie on me, demanding to be petted.
One day, I sat in my room crying, things have been hard lately, various factors I would get into converging at certain times to break my resolve and reduce me to tears. It doesn’t happen a lot. I’m not writing this as the screen blurs and unblurs my sodden fingers sliding over the keys. But, I was sobbing. The cat nuzzled my hand wanting me to stroke her, not in the mood I pushed her away, hunched over, still crying. She climbed onto my shoulders, put her head against my cheek and chirped. She was genuinely concerned, or wanted me to just stop, but let’s say she was concerned. I thanked her, and as I straightened my back, her claws dug in to hold on and she scraped down my skin. Still though, I thanked her for her effort, gently petting her and saying ‘You know what, you’re going to turn me into a cat lady one of these days’.
Then she bit me, but not that hard
Things are changing.
Mrs Fuzzy Face*,
I think I beginning to like you.
[*We’re calling her that now, because we think it has less dignity that Toody.]