Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monologue: A Heart to Heart with My Cats

            Cats,  I feel like we’ve grown a little estranged.   Lately you seem – well -- emotionally distant. When you first moved in, we were so close.  I’d come up the stairs to find you curled up on the furniture across the room.  You might raise your head, to see what all the noise was about.  You might even look over and blink.  Very, very slowly.  Later, we’d all sit together in the TV room.  I’d sit on one couch, and you’d sit nearby on another couch.  Or sometimes, an armrest.
            But now, it might be time for us to talk.  Maybe you have some things you need to get off your chest.  Actually, I have a few things to cover myself.  Just a few little household issues.  And I’m happy to get the ball rolling on that, cats, because I’d really like to get back to our domestic status quo.  Of mutual love, respect, and virtually parallel co-existence.

            So first off, let’s talk survival.  I know cats are not, technically speaking, a fully domesticated species.  A lot of modern household conveniences don’t make sense to you. 
But you should know: that power cord is not a snake.   Those other two power cords – not to mention that lamp cord you chewed on -- also weren’t snakes.  If they had been snakes, you definitely would’ve killed them.  You tore right through the skin-like insulation, and ripped out their internal wires.  So way to go on that.  But just to reiterate: those weren’t actually snakes. 
           Here’s a list of some other household items that are also not snakes: ribbons on birthday gifts, tomato stems in the fruit bowl, my legs under the comforter, necklaces, Barbie hair, untied shoelaces, and ball point pens.   None of those things are, in fact, alive.  They do move when I’m trying to use them.  They also move when you bat them with your paw.  That’s called action/reaction.  (Don’t ask).   I only mention it because I’d like you to stop systematically destroying the things I need for my everyday life.  And also because, remember that time one of you swallowed that elastic headband?  Well, I’m not trying to point any fingers.  But it cost a lot of money to remove it from your stomach, and keep it from getting stuck in your intestines.  You almost died.  We had to nurse you back to health for days.  You’re welcome, by the way.
            Let me ask you this: Do you have a problem with house plants?  I guess it’s a moot point, since we don’t have any.  We used to.  Before.  I tried to put them up high, out of your reach.  But you just couldn’t leave them alone.  After you started puking frothy vomit all over my dining room, I gave up.   Funny story: If you go through a list of plants that are toxic to felines, you’ll see that cats are basically allergic to the entire natural world.  I’m not sure what went wrong with your selective natural instincts there.  I’m also not sure how cats got to be a cult animal in ancient Egypt.  Especially since that country has several different varieties of extremely poisonous lilies.  But then again, the Egyptians built the pyramids.  If they could engineer a feat like that, I suppose they could figure out how to keep a few of the pharaoh’s ceaselessly puking cats alive.
           I’m going to let you in on another little secret.  I live here.   As the main human resident of this house, I may periodically do things you dislike.  Like turn the corner into another room, where you were sitting by yourself.  Or put on a hat, and subtly change my normal appearance.  Or come into the house -- at any time of day -- with a crinkly plastic bag full of groceries.  If I forget to warn you about the groceries beforehand, I’m sorry.  Totally my bad.
            I realize these behaviors sometimes startle you.  I’ve gathered from your crouched posture that UPS boxes seem particularly menacing.  Of course they do.  They’re large and brown, they’re eerily silent, and they float through the air like a perfectly square owl with no wings.   It makes slightly less sense to me why – once you’ve conquered your initial fright – you insist on walking over and sitting right beneath me, in the exact spot where I’m about to put the box down.   In those situations, I’d really prefer if you just kept a safe distance and watched from your perch on my favorite chair.  Feel free to shed while you wait.  Thanks for your cooperation. 
            I have a couple of minor observations on the outdoors.  You can’t catch a fly through a double paned window.  You might be able to catch moving spots of light on the leather bar stools.  But that will be momentary, and the scratches on the chairs will never go away.  Also – and I hate to be the messenger here – you can’t catch a chipmunk through a screen door.  You’ll just tear holes in the screen with your claws.   To be fair, I’m not sure the chipmunks have figured that out either.  But they have smaller brains than you do.  For a chipmunk, a good day in nature’s lunchroom is when he can gather some acorns, store them in his cheeks, and get back to his underground tunnel before he’s nabbed by a hawk or a badger.
            When you stand there watching them – perfectly frozen, like you’re about to pounce from inside the screen – it’s sometimes hard to believe you actually share genetic material with lions.  I mean, I sense that you’d rather be outside.  You stalk, and hunt. You have ears that are specially attuned to high frequency noises.   But trust me when I tell you, those hawks would go after you first.  You wouldn’t survive one minute in the jungle.   You’re house cats.  The groceries freak you out, and you’re afraid of the upright vacuum.  Own that. 
            On a similar point, that front door is never going to open by itself.  No matter how long you sit there waiting.   It takes a person with opposable thumbs – or even just hands -- to turn the handle and push it.  I recognize your customary lack of interest in almost everything I do.  It bores you most days just to shoot a sideways glance in my direction.  But try to hear what I’m saying about the front door.  Because the one time you did dash outside, you only prowled about five feet into the driveway and then took cover under the car.  All it took was an open can of tuna to lure you back in.   Was that adventure really worth all the time waiting at the door?  You could have been meditating.
            I know you’re not willing to carry your load around here.  You’re not like other house pets, who feel an odd and inexplicable allegiance to the people who feed, groom, and shelter them.  But how about you just try to help me, help you  You may be familiar with the phrase “it’s not all about you.”  Well, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but it’s literally not all about you.   Sometimes I just have to go to the bathroom.  And I want to go alone.  And I don’t want someone rubbing up on my leg while I’m trying to do that.  It doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten to feed you.  I just haven’t done it yet.  
            Also, the kitchen faucet is obviously awesome.   Sometimes it’s very quiet.  Other times, water comes out of it.   You find this fascinating because you are hard wired to hunt for fresh sources of water, despite the fact that I’ve filled up your water bowl every day of your life.  When I go on vacation, I pay someone to fill it up.   Well, nature trumps nurture.  I get that.  But when I’m standing at the sink doing the dishes, it would help me if you didn’t jump up, walk on that narrow strip of counter in front of the sink, and stick your ass right in my face.   Just a thought.  
            On that note, stepping into the litter box to take a shit – while I’m squatting there cleaning up your old shit -- isn’t cool.   I don’t even expect that kind of behavior from my kids, and they’ve thrown up on me several times.  Once right on my face.  But they also enjoy spending more than seven minutes a day with me.  Their affection for me isn’t limited to climbing up on my chest, head butting me until I scratch their ears, and then biting me when I don’t scratch in the right spot.  Seriously, cats.  It’s that kind of needy psycho behavior that drives some people into the arms of canines.  If that happens, you have only yourselves to blame.
            The rest of the things on my list are just common sense, "fully-domesticated species" kinds of stuff.  Like, you know how you get grossed out when you step on something sticky or gummy or wet?  That’s how I feel when you lick each other’s assholes while I’m eating my lunch.  I know you have rough sandpaper tongues.  And no way to hold toilet paper.  But if you really have to perform that Caligula-style bathing ritual in the middle of the day, please do it in the privacy of another room.   I’m trying to have a sandwich.
            Also, there’s nobody in that closet.  Thanks for checking.  But I’m pretty sure none of your feral enemies are hiding behind my shoes today.   And speaking of closet doors, here’s another tip: If you have to work that hard to push your way in, there’s a chance it might be hard to get back out.   Remember that time you crawled behind the dresser drawer and you were trapped for more than four hours?  Different door, same concept.  Every single time.  
             I wonder if what’s really been bothering you lately is that I closed off my bedroom.  I do apologize for that.  But even if you stretch your whole front leg underneath the door, you're not going to get in.  When one of you urinated on my brand new mattress – like five times – I had to close off that part of your territory.  I guess I misunderstood, but I had always thought cats were exceptionally clean.  Maybe you just confused my bed for the litter box.  I get that.  A bed is all warm and soft and fresh-smelling.  Not that different -- at all, really -- from those plastic boxes filled with ammonia-soaked granules of clay. 
            Still, cats, I do have limits.   I know it doesn’t seem that way, given that I spend a significant portion of every day dealing with your creepy glaring and obsessive pacing and regurgitated hairball vomit.  But peeing on my bed went over the line.  It just went too far.  I seriously almost lost my shit, and plugged in a snake for you to chew on.   Just kidding. I don’t want to confuse you.  That’s actually a power cord.
            Anyway, I couldn’t do it.  Instead I took all the bedding off the mattress, threw some of it away, and stayed up half the night washing the rest.  Now I just make sure the door is closed all the time.  Somewhere in your predatory, anti-social brains, you might be asking yourself: why?  Why do I do it?   The answer, of course, is that I love you.  I value our owner/pet relationship. I’m glad you both live here.  I honestly can’t imagine life without you. 
            The other answer is that I like keeping my door closed because you’re both up a lot at night.  And we both know that you wouldn’t hesitate to eat me if you could only find a way. 
            So I’m glad we had this talk!  I feel much better.  I hope you’ll come to me with any concerns you have in the near future.   For now, don’t worry about anything. Just sit tight, and enjoy your little cat nap.  I got this.