taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Friday, March 25, 2005

I used to think I liked cats, but I know now that they're nothing but trouble. My first cat, Pasha, was a smoke persian given to me on my 16th birthday in an attempt by my parents to make up for all the pets who ended up "living on a farm in the country." Pasha was constantly irritated--maybe by his flat nose, or maybe he was just born that way--and he used to poop in my Doc Martens when he was feeling disaffected, which was usually. I'll never forget the night I came home, drunk from vodka cranberries at Buddy's, to find Pasha yowling and dragging his ass across my mother's oriental rug. I hauled him into the bathroom where I discovered he was trying, usuccessfully, to pass a hairball. I tried to clean him up, while trying not to barf, until my mother stormed in in her nightgown and knee-high boots (she claimed we had a flea problem) and screamed "WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT CAT AND HAVE YOU BEEN DRINKING LITTLE MISS?" We ended up at the Pet E.R. til four in the morning while the vet pulled shit out of Pasha's butt-fur. I didn't get grounded, though, which was a plus.

When I left home at 18, my mother thought I was too irresponsible to take Pasha, whose grooming bills alone ran into the thousands of dollars, so I stupidly went out and found myself another cat. Max stole my heart in an East Baltimore rowhouse, where this peroxide blonde was running a shady, off-the-books "recuse" organization. I paid an exorbitant amount of money for the little hairball, only to find out that the woman had been allowing him to lick camphor or Borax or something. Not only was my initial vet bill more than my rent, the damn cat ended up being feebleminded (or, as I liked to say, "special".) He spent his entire first year nursing on a teddy bear I'd brought from home, accompanied by horrible slurping noises.

But I stuck by Max, even though he developed suicidal tendencies early on. His first serious attempt happened at my third-floor walkup on Charles Street, a two-room apartment where the carpet smelled like pee and my kitchen overlooked an air shaft. Max jumped out the front window because my idiot boyfriend had left the screen out so he could smoke ganj while I was at work. I was heartbroken; Max was missing, and he might be hurt, and whatever would I do?

I'd made friends with the local winos, so I enlisted their help in looking for Max and posting fliers around the neighborhood. Our efforts paid off three days later, when my downstairs neighbor--a blowsy hairdresser who was way into hip-hop--reported that Max had been in her apartment all along, but wouldn't emerge from under the bed. Turned out he had a smashed leg from his three-story fall, and the vet had to put six pins in his leg. $1000 later, Max was back to normal, except for the fact that he limped and held his paw up at an odd, somewhat gay angle all the time. Oh yeah, and he was even more feebleminded, and had taken to pooping in my suitcase.

But Max wasn't about to stop trying to commit hari-kari; no, just because he'd failed once didn't mean he would fail again. A few years later, when I got married (not to the idiot who left the screen out, thank god), I brought Max with me, much to my husband's dismay. And Max's dismay, frankly; the cat never did like men. We lived in a ramshackle old house in Hamilton, and Max, being feebleminded, took it into his head to go on walkabout. We found him a couple of days later, with nothing wrong with him but that very same leg he'd broken in the fall all smashed up again.

When we took him to the vet, they were amazed. "We don't know WHAT could have bent those steel pins!" the marveled, while examining his X-rays. "But it's going to be very expensive to patch him up." Again I ponied up the cash, and this time he got a whole new leg made entirely of steel, which he would wave at us stiffly as if to say "Please! Please! Stop with the interventions!"

My husband had had enough of the damn cat at this pointn and my friend Katrina had developed an odd affection for the little beast. One night, when Katrina was over patting him and cooing, Nick siezed on the opportunity and said, "Hey! Why don't you take him home?" And Katrina said, "I could NEVER take Max away from Claire!" And I replied, "Well, sure you could!" (Trying not to sound too eager.) "Only promise that if you ever can't have him, you'll just send him back to me, and I'll take him back."

That was the beginning of a joint custody agreement that's lasted seven years. I took Max back when Katrina was living in the dorms in grad school, and when she went to New York to organize disgruntled adjuncts at the New School. But he's been in DC with her now for over a year, pooping on her roommate's bed and huddling uncertainly in her backyard, and I have to say I'm glad.

I'm twice as glad because my husband decided at some point that it would be good to adopt the creature known only as "Thatfuckingcat"--a wiry little girl tabby whose sole purpose in life seems to be loudly mousing and purposefully waking up the baby. Amanda had originally named the cat Helpy, but soon enough the cat demonstrated that she was supremely unhelpful. She sits in our chairs, and claws up the furniture, and meows loudly to be let in. Before she was fixed, she was a mating machine, her cries of desire heard throughout the neighborhood til 3am. She's obsessed with the baby and spends all her free time trying to get in the crib. Mattie the Nanny has even created a tagline for the cat: "Helpy: The Not Helpful Cat."

But now even that monkier has been discarded and she's just "Thatfuckingcat." All one word, delivered with as much vitriol as possible.

So, you know what, I'm done with cats. I know I've got a solid twenty more years with Thatfuckingcat, and maybe a few visitation months with Max, til the poor simple thing passes on, but from now on I'm gonna be all about dogs. Cats are too sensitive and, frankly, mean-spirited for my taste.

Think about this: if you were their size, and they were your size, what do you think would happen? Yup. They'd bat you around and toy with your broken body til they were bored. This is the mentality we're dealing with here. No more cats for me.


At 5:33 PM, Blogger sweetney said...

i dunno, claire -- i'd like to suggest perhaps that you've had a run of bad cat luck. dogs are work. dogs are needy. i dunno what we were thinking, but the other night jamie agreed that we didn't have our head on straight when we got THE MONSTER, and also that this is a lesson that right now we can't take on anything that adds more stress involving the expenditure of major time or energy. so i said, oh, you mean like A BABY?! and he nodded. and i felt reprieved.

i would, however, take a dog over a baby at this point. if you get overwhelmed, you can tie a dog up outside.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger chang said...

You got those craazy fucking cats. Those're the worst. See, you gotta get rid of those ones pretty straight off. Send 'em too the MSPCA or someplace where they'll either take care of them or "take care of 'em."

Personally, I have always haad a distrust of dogs, probably due to my brother getting seriously bitten by one as a kid and then my getting nipped by one later, though not seriously. It took my brother's getting a dog recently to get me mostly over the dog thing. I like this one, as he looks like an intelligent highland cow.

In the end, here is a horribly provocative generalization: Dogs are needy kiss asses. Cats are generally independent, though not without their needs.

Or to put it like this:

Dogs are like children.

Cats are like adults.


At 8:26 AM, Blogger XLT said...

After having a completely insane (but lovable) cat during my college years, when Mex passed away in 1996, I was determined to remain cat free.

Until my wife showed up. Then Mollie came around. Rescued by Heather's boss's brother from a park in Catonsville. I was skeptical at first about having another cat. This would be *her* cat, not mine. I was determined to not bond with this cat. I would be steadfast about by decision.

Until she came home asleep in a fleece jacket. Won over in forty seconds flat -- a new record. I have to admit, from the start, she was different than my insane tabby. She was black cat insane. You could see the gears turning inside her walnut-sized brain. If Mex was the axeweilding psychopath, Mollie was Dr. Lechter. Fine. That was that. One cat, no more.

Until we rescued Lola. From a drunk teenager. On Harford Road. For two bucks. She was the cutest kitten I've ever seen. Seriously. Like a fluffy bunny/bear/wolf/kitty. Such a sweetheart. She's out special needs cat; on Paxil for about two years so far. It's working out fine. We're a happy two cat household. We've got all the tiny creatures we can handle.

Until the triplets arrive.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Sniper Of Yamhill said...

Loved your story about the feline company that you have kept over the years, I had a good laught at it.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Lady Disaster said...

animals are okay as long as you don't have to take care of them.


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