I remember the afternoon quite clearly. My husband announced from his recliner of command, “A kitten keeps walking back and forth by the patio door. I’m going to feed it.” Please understand that up until that moment we had enjoyed a season of blissful freedom from pets.
“Sweetheart, I’m sure the cat belongs to someone. If you feed it, it’ll stay.” I might as well have been whispering in a windstorm. He fed it. It stayed.
During our married life, we have had too many pets to count, dogs, cats, birds, a ferret, and salt water fish to name a few. We have a shelf in our store room completely devoted to animal supplies to prove it: dog shampoo, flea spray, flea dip, tick control, flea combs, collars, leashes, a Pooper Scooper, food bowls of various sizes, toys, fish tanks, pumps, filters, nets, tubes, gravel (why on earth would anyone save gravel?), various bottles of medication, brushes, bird cages, perches, grit (small gravel); ad infinitum. We could take online bidding to a whole new level with our start-up, PP of PP, Pleasing Plethora of Pet Paraphernalia.
It became Cecelia, who became Ce Ce. When she selected us she couldn’t have been more than two months old. Please understand, Ce Ce is a beautiful cat. Her satiny black and white coat and the way she kneaded my husband’s paunch like bread dough, all the while purring like a Harley at a stop light, won our hearts.
The next day we restocked the shelf with new equipment: cute little furry mice toys, cute little feathery bird toys, cute little sparkling balls, cute little—well, you get the idea. Walking down the hall during the day became an obstacle course; at night it transformed into a mine field. If you don’t believe me, try feeling your way to the bathroom in your tender bare feet, barely awake, through coal mine blackness, and stepping on a plastic ball filled with tiny bells. The ball cracks and thin plastic shards find a new home in your instep producing an amazing display of long forgotten Marine Corp vocabulary. I wonder if my husband, just for an instant, regretted that generous first bowl of pussycat food.
Ce Ce adores my husband. He sits and pets her while she massages his soft middle and rhythmically rumbles. The responsibility fallen to me is that of food supplier, personal trainer, and maid. Ce Ce soon learned that the family she so carefully selected could be easily controlled. My husband would pet and snuggle with her whenever she jumped up onto his lap. I would feed her whenever she meowed and bit my leg. I need to clarify that only a millisecond passed between the warning meow and the calf crunch, not enough time to race to the cupboard, open a can, and plop it in the bowl. Perhaps it had to do with the food. I tried anticipating Ce Ce’s bouts of hunger, repeatedly switching brands, and finally researching cat food on the Internet. Reeducated after an hour of surfing and studying, I learned that cats in their natural state are carnivores that eat raw food, such as birds, mice and lizards. Enlightened, I decided to make cat food using the BARF diet. I’m sure that BARF is an acronym (perhaps Basic Awfully Raunchy Food), but I’ve found it to be a relatively exact description the inclination I feel after making up a luscious pan full of BARF. The best BARF contains ground bones, rather than ground bone meal; therefore as responsible cat owners it behooved us to purchase a $200 grinder. Into the grinder go pounds of raw skinless chicken thighs with the bones, chicken hearts, chicken livers, egg yolks, and lots of vitamins. Out comes red slop; BARF. Stir it all together, bag it, and freeze it and you won’t have to go through the process for another week. Ce Ce likes her BARF and is prospering on it. She has grown into a beautiful large cat.
On the way to becoming large, Ce Ce went into her first heat. Now I’ve seen cats in heat before, but Ce Ce does everything with gusto. Our tender tabby became possessed with a passion for prowling. She traveled from door to window caterwauling in earsplitting tones that produced the same inner response as would Howard Hughes’ fingernails dragging over a chalkboard. Male cats perked up their ears and descended on our borders from the entire neighborhood.
I approached my husband regarding the matter. Bless him; he rewarded my best persuasive efforts by agreeing not to let Ce Ce out. After all, one cat proved more than enough. Leaving the house required a carefully devised plan of escape. One of us would distract Ce Ce with a toy, food, petting; anything while the other ducked out the door. Petting her lost its attraction. If you just touched her she immediately pushed her backside high in the air in your direction. No, thank you.
Once again, I hit the Internet, this time researching feline estrus, and learned that the psychotic event can reoccur as often as every three weeks. I called every vet in the area for an appointment for Ce Ce to be spayed. They either charged prices that would make my credit card company salivate or couldn’t offer a date for eons. In desperation, I turned to the county’s spay and neuter service. Their prices seemed fair and they offered first come first serve procedures. So, as soon as Ce Ce returned to sanity, we set our alarms for 4:30 am. In the pre-dawn hours we packed up Ce Ce, drove to the facility, and waited by the locked gate. Surely, this would be the day. It wasn’t. Three other motivated cat owners materialized from nowhere and beat us out. Disgruntled, I spoke to the attendant who granted us the golden appointment in three and a half weeks. What ensued was a bureaucratic mess. It turned out that the county commission had just voted to turn the facility over to the humane society. In the interim, my appointment slipped out of their computer and the new phone service hadn’t yet been connected so I couldn’t contact them. Meanwhile, Ce Ce went into heat again, in less than three weeks. Apparently sensing that I was up to no good, she intensified her flirtatious efforts, but this time the human won. She passed out of heat on the day of her renewed appointment.
Did I mention that Ce Ce awakens ready for three things, food, a trip to the litter box (where I fulfill my role as maid) and vigorous play? Demanding that we arise and comply with her desires by scratching voraciously on our recently painted bedroom door, Ce Ce leads me to the refrigerator where I grab the BARF and slop it in her dish. By the time I’m dressed, she’s ready for some exercise. I’m expected to “bowl” select toys down the hall in her direction. She hides around a corner and pounces out just in time to catch the object.
I run and grab the toy and the game begins again. We both get a good workout. If I should take too long to begin aerobics, or if I quit too soon I stand the risk of a full fledged attack. We’re talking blood here. Ce Ce attacks not only with her sharp little pointy teeth, but claws envied by Edward Sissorhands. My husband remains unscathed, but somehow my legs offer a special appeal. Is it that they resemble pre-BARFed chicken legs?
Ce Ce’s not vicious by nature; she simply wants to make a point: Read my mind or you’ll wish you had. Once again I hit the Internet searching under “reading a cat’s mind”. I learned that you can tell a lot by their body language, particularly by noticing their ears and tail. Laid back ears and twitching tail means head for the hills. I also learned that you should talk to your cat. So I did.
Since our little talk the relationship has improved greatly, in direct proportion to my improved powers of observation. We spend a lot of quality time together and I really love Ce Ce, but sometimes do I wonder who’s whose personal trainer. What do you think?