Meet the Girlses!
Our house is a very very very fine house
With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, now everything is easy 'cos of you.
No, "Meet the Girls" is not slang for my newly-lifted boobies! Believe it or not, The Husband-Type Man and I are new parents! New kitteh parents, that is. Please meet our babies, Amelia and Zelda Butt-Turdling!
It was a long time coming. We lost Mouse, the best cat in the world, over eight years ago. I’d had Mousie and his brother Bartholomew since I was 18, and Mouse was one of those once-in-a-lifetime animal companions. He was a big, doofusy boy, even as a kitten. Mom and I had gone to a cat protection society to get a kitten, and I’d chosen Bartholomew, a little black imp (with a name tag that read “Rex”) who had curled up proprietarily in my lap when I’d sat down amongst the various felines boinging around. But as we got up to go, we heard this pathetic squeak, and, climbing my mother’s jeans and looking anxious was a black-and-white dumpling with a black booger on his nose, as if to beg “Hey! Guys! Don’t forget me!” We ended up with two. Rex was renamed Bartholomew (never “Bart!”) and “Stanley”... well, like I explained, he squeaked, so I had to name him either “Mouse” or “Hinge.” When he got older, and bigger, it sounded like he was saying his own name, Mouse, “MrrrOWz!” when he’d yowl and meow.
Mouse and I bonded. He’d follow me from room to room, come when I called him (“MowzMowzMowz!”), and engage in a whole ritual of lovey-dovey behavior. If I made a kiss noise, he’d make a face that involved his whiskers fluttering forward, like he was trying to pucker. He’d play fetch with hair ties or plastic-wrapped hard candy, and often had his own hockey games with a hard candy on Gram’s hardwood floor, batting and scrabbling until he lost it under a chair or couch, upon which he’d come back to me and “mrrrOW” pathetically yet demandingly. He loved to be “spanked,” and I’d sling him – all 20 lbs of him – over my shoulder and thump him while he’d purr and knead the air, a look of delirious bliss on his face. He slept on my desk while I worked and in my lap while I read. If I was away for longer than a day, I’d call Mouse and talk to him on the phone, and he’d stare at the receiver happily. At night, he’d curl up on my pillow around my head to sleep, nestling into and under my hair, often with one paw on the side of my face. I had a whole litany of stupid nicknames for him: Bunny, Bunny-Poo-Head, Stinky Boy, Dumplin’, Noodle-Doodle-Head, Mowz-poo, Baby Cat.... I could poke him and roll him and blow on his face and zrbrt his big gooshy belly and no matter what, he just loved me. The more I loved him, the more he loved me, and the more he loved me, the more I’d love him.
I don’t care if it’s anthromorphizing or projecting or whatever you want to call it... Mouse and I were inseparable.
Admittedly, while he was lovable and loyal, Mouse wasn’t bright. Bartholomew had a certain pompous streetwise quality, but Mouse couldn’t hunt and kill anything unless he tripped over it by accident. He’d try to perch on the bathtub or toilet edge, and routinely slip and fall into it. Most of the times he’d try to jump on a table would involve him slipping and sliding his way across it to fall off the other side, and then sit, bristling and sulking, his kitty dignity thoroughly offended. His favorite game, to my horror, was car-tag. He’d sit in the middle of the street and stare at approaching cars, expecting them to stop for him. (I’d insisted that the boys be indoor cats, but Mom and Gram would start the “Look! They just want to go out and eat grass and get fresh air!” routine and let them out anyway.) He was hit by a car when he was about 4 years old, and the week that he was in the hospital was, at that point, one of the scariest things I’d experienced. After a week, the vet called me to tell me I had to come get Mouse, because he was so deeply unhappy without me and wouldn’t eat unless I was there with him, so I might as well bring him home so he’d heal quicker. When the doctor brought him out to me, Mouse was hanging despondently in his arms until I said “Hi, baby.” His head shot up, his eyes visibly brightened, and he did a dive-bomb move into me, purring maniacally and nuzzling. Despite being bruised and battered, Mouse spent the next two days following me from one room to the next, refusing to let me out of his sight, even when I waited until he was asleep.
Mouse was deeply weird, too. He loved cantaloupe, and would chase you from the front door to the kitchen, yowling, if you brought one home in a grocery bag. If I gave him any, he’d scarf it until he horked it all back up again. He also loved clean cat litter, and, as a daily ritual, he’d get into his freshly-cleaned-out litter box and roll and scrabble in the fresh sand. For all that, he wasn’t very good at actually USING the box... he could do his business, but seemed to be at a loss for how to cover it up, and would end up scratching the carpet half-way across the room instead of covering a poo. And God forbid I didn’t clean the box EVERY day, because then he’d pull out books on the bottom shelf next to the catbox and scootch them in. You know, just to prove a point. He’d bust his fat body through screen doors and windows (even a few stories high) to get outside and roam around, scaring the crap out of me more than once. And there were certain people he loved, certain people he tolerated, and certain people he hated. When I was dating Boy Wonder, Mouse would sit and stare at him intently, then deliberately jump up on the couch between us, settle on my lap, then put one paw on Boy Wonder’s leg and push. When I first started seeing THTM, he chalked up a couple points when he picked me up for our first official date and, seeing Mouse sacked out on my bed, exclaimed “Oh, you have a cat!” and immediately went over to let Bunny Poo-Head sniff his hand. Some months later, when I was going to college in Claremont and T-not-yet-HTM came over, not knowing I was home, I heard him open the front door and start cooing and talking to Mouse, and Mouse immediately galumphed over to greet him. When me and THTM shacked up, Mouse happily snuggled into bed with both of us, purring and kneading both of our heads at night. The three of us were a family.
But I was his Person. Period.
His illness and death was shattering.
For a long time after, I could barely even look at other cats without feeling that sharp press of tears in the back of my throat. Even the pet food aisle, the smell of it, in the grocery store upset me for several years. When we moved into The Mansion, O Nancy My Nancy’s Semi-Cute Husband announced “You know what this house needs? A cat!” Maybe, but I wasn’t ready yet. I took the long way around a shopping plaza to avoid pet stores, and changed the channel on the TV if it was a particularly cute and heartwarming cat food commercial. I stayed out of the Pets threads on websites. I still dreamed about Mouse, almost every few weeks, could hear him padding down the hallway, feel him jump on the bed and make his way up to my pillow where he’d settle down heavily and purr and drool and knead. Even years after, I’d sometimes wake up with my hand petting the spot where he’d be.
Only in the last couple years have I been fully comfortable petting and snuggling friends’ cats. Bittersweet, I remembered how much I love a snuggly, purring kitty. I tried to stop thinking that loving a cat, loving anyone, was going to bring pain and loss and guilt. The therapy helped.
When we moved into La Casita, the seller mentioned in passing that he hoped we liked cats, because the neighbor was a “Crazy Cat Lady.” I had initial stereotypical visions of a weirdo with cat carcasses in the freezer and two dozen slinky, skuzzy skulking creatures milling about at any given time. Not at all. Rather, she works at one of the big movie studios, and the lot is rife with feral cats. Erica carefully traps the cats that she can and takes them to be spayed or neutered, then re-releases them if they’re too wild to be integrated into her own cat society at home. She brings home unweaned babies and bottle-feeds them and finds homes for them. She pays vet bills for the cat that was tangled up in a bunch of wire and had to have a leg amputated, or for the kittens hidden in an abandoned truck engine. She administers shots, cooks and purees organic cat food, and clips nails. And she has 14 cats at home. All of them are (if sometimes skittish) clean, healthy, tagged and licensed and, of course, spayed or neutered. Early in the morning, Contessa or Charlie will wander around the dew-covered grass in the yard. Paolo, all black-and-tan splotchy comes over to drink out of the fountain regularly around 4, and we’ve dubbed that “kitty cocktail hour”; he sometimes brings Chai, a big Morris-looking cat, with him. When I designed the garden in the back yard, I included boarders of catmint, and, lying in bed before the sun is fully up, I can often see a couple of the kitties roaming through the greenery, and will find little wet kitty paw-prints across the patio after. From the neighboring upstairs window at night, a few indoor felines will lounge on one of those carpet-covered cat climbs, basking in the fresh air and staring down into our back rooms, checkin’ it all out. When we first moved in Erica was careful to keep the kitties in her yard, but when she saw how much we enjoyed having them around, she’s not tried to keep them confined to her side of the fence. Contessa would get brave and hang out in the back yard most of the afternoon. Charlie would let me pet him, and often came to greet me at the car door when I pulled into our adjacent driveway. Cats are awesome.
About a year ago, I sort of started thinking about what it would be like to get a kitten. Maybe after the remodel on La Casita was done. Maybe we’d think about it. Maybe, post-counseling, I should try to get past the fears of loss and- Well, maybe.
Around the same time, I discovered those silly websites with cats. My Cat Hates You. I Can Has Cheezburger? Cute Overload. Soon, I just dived in head-first, and The Daily Kitten became my porn. THTM and I developed a stupid inside joke that involved me asking him for a kitten at odd times. I’d write “A Kitten” on the grocery list, or if he said “Do you want a kiss?” I’d respond “Yes, AND a kitten!” or would ask him as part of the morning routine for hot cocoa and a kitten. By the time we moved back home, we’d decided that, after the summer and my surgery and our big Tenth Anniversary Party and all that end-of-remodeling-and-landscaping chaos was over, we’d look into getting a kitten.
We mentioned it to Erica, of course. I mean, she’s got a constant parade of needy kitties coming through her home, and one of her friends works at a local cat protection society. When the time came, she’d know where we could find a feline companion.
Except it happened sooner than we expected.