Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pet Peeves - This is no cat fancy!

Meet our family cat Levi - the bane of my existence! (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line I’ve grown to pretty much disdain our family cat.

It might have something to do with the fact that I’m the only one who actually feeds the damn thing. My kids are so neglectful, I often wonder how long the cat would survive if I did nothing to keep it alive. A week? Two weeks? A month?

There could be tumbleweed blowing around in his water dish and they wouldn’t bat an eye. The cat literally could be sitting half-dead, skeletal-like, with an empty food dish dangling from his mouth and they’d just step over him on their way to the television set.

When I bring this up with the kids, they tell me, “Dad, we give Levi (that’s his actual name) love - that’s way more important than food.”

“Great.” I tell them. “Make sure you put that in his eulogy after he drops dead from starvation!”

Of course, if they can’t bother themselves with something as simple as pouring water into a dish or putting food in a bowl, you can only imagine the amount of neglect they show to his litter box. Yup, that’s right, I’m the lucky one who gets stuck cleaning up not only his litter box, but also the floor next to the litter box where he routinely dumps about 85% of his turds, saving the other 15% to slide down the side of the box in a lovely brown trail of impossible to clean nastiness.

On top of his crap (which I normally let harden into hockey puck status before taking his pooper scooper and flicking it into an open plastic bag with a wrist shot Bobby Orr would be proud of) he also leaves a weekly average of at least three or four piles of cat puke all over the house. (Although in the cat’s defense – he does manage to avoid all carpeted surfaces, aiming for the hardwood floors in the hallway, or the cement floor in the basement instead.)

Even with all the messes, I might be inclined to still sort of like the cat (he was extremely cute as a kitten, after all) if not for all of his annoying “cat” habits. For example, he has this way of driving me nuts with his incessant meowing. I suppose it’s not his fault - it’s not like he can talk and tell me what’s on his mind, but when I’ve fed him, changed his litter, and cleaned up his vomit, why the hell can’t he just leave me alone so I can eat my breakfast in peace?

I’ve come to realize that he’s a very finicky bastard, even by cat standards. He won’t eat anything in his food dish that’s more than 15-minutes old; it has to be fresh out of the bag or he won’t touch it. Have you seen the price of cat food? He obviously doesn’t know he's middle-class.

He also has this uncanny knack of clawing everything in the house that once was made of beautifully stained hardwood until it’s his own personal pile of kindling. Something in that cat’s brain either doesn’t compute, or just doesn’t give a shit when it comes to learning because I could literally shoot him in the head with a blow dart when he’s scratching the hell out of one of our doorframes, and 10-minutes later he’ll be doing it again!

My love for yogurt is gone as well, thanks to the cat. I used to love yogurt. It was the perfect snack for me when I was trying to eat better. But now if the cat hears either the sound of a spoon coming out of the silverware drawer or the lid being pulled off a cup of yogurt, he’ll appear from out of nowhere in a millisecond, and constantly meow until you let him lick the inside of the container when you’re finished. If I don’t give it to him, the kids get all over my case, but those dimwits let him have half the container. That’s all fine and good for them; they don’t have to clean up kitty diarrhea three hours later!

Another one of his finest qualities is his amazing ability to get under my feet at the most inopportune times - like when I’m bringing a load of laundry up the basement steps. It’s no problem for him - he’s got nine lives. If I trip over his fat ass and send him flying down a flight of steps onto the concrete floor, he still has eight more to spare. I, on the other hand, have but one, and the thought of me lying in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the steps with my head bleeding profusely into a fresh load of whites, isn’t necessarily a good one.

But the worst part about that damn cat is that he actually likes me, and I wished he didn’t. If I go to work out, he’s there to annoy me. When I come home from work, he’s at the front door wanting attention. If I take off my shoes or my slippers, he lies on top of them and puts his paws inside the heels. He never gives me any space. Never. I can’t even begin to tell you how uncomfortable it is to feel his stupid, little cat eyes boring through the back of my head while he sits and stares at me from the foot of the bed when I’m trying to get intimate with my wife. YEECCH!!!

I feel like I’m turning into my dad. He’s hated cats for as long as I can remember. My only memory of him even touching a cat was when he was carrying one of them through the house by the scruff of their neck muttering, “Stay out of the Goddamned house!” before jettisoning the poor cat out the back door.

But I never used to be like this. I actually liked cats when I was a kid. We had tons of cats when I was growing up – most were the outdoor variety, thanks to my dad, and some weren’t around long enough to even earn a name, but some were so beloved that not only were they given a name, but we’d sneak them inside the house past my dad where soon they’d became a vital part of our family. Cats like Cupid, Moose, Cisco, Uncle Smokey, Winifred, Fourfeet, and Fandango. I remember them all fondly, even though most of them met some horrifying fate.

Fandango’s death, in particular, was a fairly gruesome one, but it didn’t stop my mother from using it as a learning tool. Apparently, when I was real little I used to play a little too close to the street for my mother’s comfort, so when poor Fandango came out on the losing end of a game of chicken with a Ford Maverick, she jumped at the chance to teach me a lesson by scooping the poor cat’s mangled corpse off the road with a snow shovel, and shoving it in my 5-year-old face.

“SEE –THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PLAY TOO CLOSE TO THE ROAD!!” She screamed, as one of Fandango’s eyeballs rolled out of his crushed skull and off the end of the shovel.

It wasn’t exactly a fond memory, but I must admit, I did stay away from the road after that.

Cupid arrived at our house shortly after Fandango’s "educational" death. She was easily the prettiest cat we ever owned - a beautiful calico with long hair and green eyes. She also was the meanest bitch of a cat in the entire town of Berlin Heights. Many a dog bore the scar of her claws on their nose, and there wasn’t a tomcat in town she didn’t f#*k up a time or two if they got too close to her when she wasn’t in heat. Still, somehow she managed to birth several litters of kittens in her lifetime, so I guess she couldn’t have been all that bad.

Two of those kittens were Crisco and Cisco. Both were from the same litter and both were snow white carbon copies of one another, only Crisco had long hair, and Cisco had short hair. Unfortunately, Cisco didn’t last long, about a year I guess before he met his untimely demise thanks to the errant riding-mower skills of our elderly and somewhat blind neighbor, Colonel Hine. Crisco, however, lived for nearly 20-years before he died, growing to be so gargantuan (23-pounds) that we actually renamed him Moose.

Moose was always my favorite cat - a big, white, pillowy fella who loved to play with my long blonde hair when I was a kid, especially when it was wet. He was a gentle giant whose only weakness was the taste of fresh baby rabbits. This presented a bit of a dilemma for my siblings and me because we loved Moose a lot, so we hated the fact that he forced us to play goalie on him with a broomstick whenever he would to pluck a freshly born bunny from its nest by our neighbor’s barn and bring it back to our house where he would devour it under our back porch.

Moose - Nice cat? or bunny killer? (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

We were the rabbit’s only hope - his last line of defense. If we could swat Moose upside the head with the broom and make him drop the bunny before he got under the latticework of the porch, we often could save it and return it to its nest. If not, there was nothing we could do except plug our ears to try and drown out the bunny’s high-pitched squealing until Moose delivered the fatal blow and settled in for some rabbit stew.

Uncle Smokey was charcoal gray and actually was Moose’s uncle. He went from being one of the coolest looking cats you ever saw, all fluffy and smooth, to one of the mangiest - and in only a few years! My mom always thought he had some rare feline disease. Whatever the case; he had one serious case of cat B.O. (if that’s even possible). It got to the point where we couldn’t let the poor guy anywhere near the house after a while. I’m sure he didn’t understand it, but he really stunk. We even toyed with the idea of painting a white stripe down his back to see if a family of skunks might take him in. But it was no use; scrawny, smelly, and unwanted, Uncle Smokey disappeared one day in the spring of 1976, only to be found later that summer in the woods behind our house decomposing on the rocks in Old Woman’s Creek.

Winifred was a carbon copy of Cupid, only years younger and much smaller. Her claim to fame was nearly slashing out my brother Lance’s throat one day in a typical fit of cat personality change that made Sybil look fairly balanced. One second she was purring contently as he cradled her in his arms, and the next second, without any warning, she went totally loco and Velcroed herself to his neck with her razor-sharp claws.

Lance never touched Winifred again, but he did write a song about her, changing her name a little and singing to the tune of “Wild Thing.” It went something like this:

“Wine-freeddum, dum, dum-dum, dum, dum … You make my neck bleed!!

Fourfeet was around about the same time as Winifred. Oddly enough, it also was the same time the movie “Dances With Wolves” was popular, so we spent the better part of that year either naming, or renaming everything we saw, Native American style. For example, my brother took to calling me “Head Like Egg” and I started calling him “Breath Like Shit.”

I’m not really sure if Fourfeet was male or female - we never really bothered to check because we were to preoccupied wondering how in the hell it wound up with two extra paws on its front feet. Fourfeet didn’t last long, but I don’t think he (or she) met some horrible end. Come to think of it, neither did Winifred. Maybe the two of them ran off together, I’m not really sure. I just know I came home from college one day and both were gone. From that point on they were known only as “Odd Tracks in Snow” and “Claws Like Razor.”

Maybe I liked all those cats when I was a kid because I never had to anything more than just love them and have fun with them (And boy did we have fun. I’ll never forget the day my brothers and I decided to float a fresh batch of kittens off our sun porch with my G.I. Joe parachute. My mother just about had a coronary when little meowing kittens began floating down past the kitchen window while she was doing the dishes. But we knew what we were doing - they all landed softly, perfectly unharmed in the flowerbed by the side of the house). But my dad didn’t have to take care of them either, so I’m not really sure why he hated cats so much.

Who knows, maybe when he was a kid he liked cats too and he just grew to dislike them as he got older. Maybe it’s just in my heredity to do the same, or maybe I just can’t handle getting too close to a pet that I know will soon go the way of Uncle Smokey (God, I hope not) or Fandango.

Whatever the reason, I can honestly say that none of it makes me feel any better about the prospect of cleaning a fresh load of cat shit off the basement floor tomorrow morning.

1 comment:

  1. This post made me laugh out loud several times!! The 'Dances With Wolves' names brought back a memory of a name I had for my darling brother that was not as profane but just as effective in reference to his hygine at the time!!

    I think the cat knows that deep down you love that cat... I don't think that you would have chosen expletives if it doesn't frustrate you that he is aware of your affection for it...

    ... a lot of football players come form Berlin, Ohio... can't think of who right off... but it is very familiar sounding to me...