Three years ago, our beloved last cat Pooter kicked the litter-box. As time has passed, I have romanticized what it is to be owned by a cat. I picture sweet Hallmark card photos of the cat and I hanging out, enjoying life and each other’s company. My furniture stays clean, my rugs spotless. My cat loves me and only wants to please me. His meow is melodious and only deployed occasionally. When he hunts and kills the occasional rat, he eats the whole thing and I am unaware of the event, I only notice how low the cat food bills have dropped. My cat is never sick and rarely goes to the vet. In the car, the cat obediently rides in his crate, knowing the whole adventure is for his own good. My cat never interrupts me while I work; he waits patiently for me to finish. He never claws me or my furniture. He never pukes or poops behind the couch. He is perfect.
Riiiiigghht. I am actually too well aware of the realities of having a cat roommate. When I was very young we had Liz. When I was six, we adopted Cabbage. Since I was twenty, I’ve been owned by Helen, Puff, Harold, 43, Norman Bates, Doris, Crunchy, Stimpy and Pooter. The last six as a group. Yet, I still find myself forgetting what it was like. I do not want to be blind. I want to prepare myself. So I have developed a twelve-step plan to simulate being owned by a cat.
Step One: The Cat In The Lap. Every time I sit down, I must pick up and hold in my lap a plush-covered heated bowling ball randomly studded with spikes containing one extremely stinky spot. The plush covering must shed and the spikes must be sharp enough to draw blood. I must jab myself with the spikes occasionally, enough to puncture my skin, and create pulls and pills in the material of my pants. Every half hour, I must reposition the bowling ball on my lap, ensuring that the stinky spot comes within a half inch of my nose.
Step Two: Sleeping With The Enemy. I must take the bowling ball to bed at night, put it in my spot under the covers, and try to sleep in the four inches of space that’s left. Every hour, I must try to move the bowling ball to create more room, but fail miserably and allow the fuzzy ball to take up most of the bed. Every now and again, I must rake my face with a fork.
Step Three: Egregious Egresses and Food Demands. I’ve set an alarm clock to go off every three hours, including during the night. When the alarm sounds, I must stop what I’m doing, get up and go into the kitchen, smell the garbage or a tuna can, then open and close all the doors leading to the outside.
Step Four: Vomit Treasure Hunt. Frank will hide scoops of wet newspaper pulp mixed with oatmeal in random places around the house for me to step in or find before they rot. Half I must locate by walking around barefooted at night in the dark.
Step Five: Shred Fest. We’ve attached razor blades to our robotic vacuum cleaner to shred the furniture—and our legs if we aren’t paying proper attention—at approximately cat height.
Step Six: The Fur Coat Coating. I’ve cut open an old pillow and randomly sprinkled the contents all over the house and my dark-colored clothes.
Step Seven: The Litter Jitterbug. I’ve set up a litter-box in the bathroom filled with cat litter and many Tootsie Rolls. Twice a day, I have to fish out one of the Tootsie Rolls with a pooper-scooper, and sprinkle cat litter on the tile floor. (Frank thought it was important to simulate a horrible smell, but I drew the line at this.) I must purposefully forget that I’ve spilled litter so that I will walk through it later and track it everywhere in the house.
Step Eight: Lost Cats, Lost Minds. I’m arranging for a friend to break into my house, steal the bowling ball and hide it somewhere in the neighborhood. After putting up flyers with a picture of the bowling ball all over my neighborhood, I’ll stay up for three days canvassing the entire city of San Mateo while crying and worrying about the ball’s safety.
Step Nine: Destruction Derby. Once a day, I’ll knock one of my most precious glass objects off its shelf, making sure it shatters. Then I’ll take an embroidery needle and pull threads from my favorite sweaters, shirts and sweatshirts.
Step Ten: Sick Tricks. Right before Frank and I leave for our next vacation, I’ll pretend the bowling ball became ill and cancel the vacation, making sure we lose a hefty deposit. As I “wrestle” the bowling ball into a crate, I’ll rake my arms with a fork until I bleed. Then I’ll drive to the vet’s with pre-recorded cat cries blasting from my stereo speakers. To approximate the money paid to the vet, I’ll burn a stack of one hundred dollar bills. Twice a day, I’ll scratch my arms with a metal comb to simulate administering pills or medicine to the cat. Frank will hide extra scoops of the newspaper pulp/oatmeal mixture around the house. I’ll set the alarm for every hour to get up and check on the bowling ball, clean the cat box and find the fake puke. Frank will get up at random times during the night to hide the bowling ball so that I lose lots of sleep looking for it.
Step Eleven: Pray for Prey. I will buy a mouse and bird at a pet shop. When I am running out the door to an important appointment, I will let the creatures loose in my house. However, unlike my former cats, I will not maim them first. Then I will attempt to catch the live cat toys in an empty milk carton or small box—whatever I have handy that’s inadequate for the purpose.
Step Twelve: Bathroom Follies. If a bathroom door is left open, I will yank on the toilet tissue until it is in a large pile. If I’m in the bathroom for longer than a minute, Frank will yell outside the door, shove his hand underneath and wave, and try to sound pitiful and lonely. If I leave the door ajar, he’ll come in, yell at me, and knock whatever reading material I have out of my hands.
If I get through all of the above and am still sane, then I will adopt a cat. But at this point, I’m thinking a stuffed toy kitty might be a better option.
©2013 Janet Periat