Saturday, August 06, 2005

Stray Cat Strut.

We have a suitor hanging around the house these days. He’s not exactly my type, but he has an undeniable muscular charm and bad-boy appeal. While Consort and I are clearly not his reason for hanging around, he shows us a certain polite deference, and he is nearly courtly in his attention to his beloved. In fact, if it weren’t for the urinating and the vomiting, I’d say he was the perfect first boyfriend.

About three months ago, Consort came in from the back door looking a touch confused.

“Quinn, how many cats do we have again?”

“We have one.”

“She’s black, right?”

“Are you having a stroke?”

It turned out that when Consort opened the back door, a cat went flashing past him outside. Benumbed as he is to pets at this point, it only occurred to him after the fact that it was the wrong color. I was just grateful that it wasn’t a special cat, and started closing the cat door after dusk. About a week later, in the morning, Daughter went into the back room, and came flying back out announcing joyously “We have a new cat! She’s gray and she wants to sleep on my bed!”

I slipped quickly into the back room and there, eating my cat’s food, was a large, good-looking cat. It eyed me coolly.

“Hi.” I said tentatively, “This is a little awkward, but who are you?”

In answer, it jumped to the floor and he (for it was clearly a he) swaggered out of the house. It was only then I noticed Lu, who must have been sharing the food bowl with him. She shot me a filthy glance and followed him outside. Like it’s my fault she had invited him for dinner and had forgotten to mention she had roommates.

We got plenty of chances to get to know about Rhett, as I have come to call him (Besides being handsome and brimming with self-confidence, he has a darker patch of fur right above his lip that resembles a moustache and would seem remarkably natural in a white linen suit). He spends his mornings with us: actually, I usually find him sleeping on the newspaper when I go outside to pick it up, when he accepts a scratch on the head. He and Lu then spend the morning sleeping in total harmony in the back yard, flicking their tails in a synchronized manner. According to neighbors who are feeding him, he is one of the countless descendants of several feral cats in the neighborhood, most of whom are congenitally timid. Rhett, however, got the personality all of the others lack, which has led to multiple feeding stations, two cats beds put outside just for him, and the love of a good (cat) woman.

But no relationship is without its drama, and ours comes in the form of a skinny tabby I have been told is named Tiger. Tiger either adores Lu or despises Rhett, because at least twice a week he is in our yard, and he and Rhett stand about eight inches from one another and scream abuse at each other. One of the times this happened, the noise seemed louder and more horrible than usual. I walked towards the back room to shoo them out of the yard, only to find out that Rhett and Tiger had brought it in to the back room.

“Okay, THAT’S IT! Have you two even noticed she’s FIXED?” I shouted, shooing them out the door with my foot. Each time I would stop shooing, they would take their fighting positions and start trash-talking again. I got them outside and the screaming didn’t stop. I moved them to the back gate, and the screaming didn’t stop. I grabbed a broom and moved them through the gate and tried to get one to head one direction, and one the other direction, with very little success. I add all this in case any neighbor saw me yelling and appearing to sweep cats up the sidewalk. No, it’s not a new Canadian sport and no, my current dosage doesn’t need to be upped.

I came back in the house and found Lu sleeping on the couch.

“This is your fault, you know.” I said accusingly.

She flicked an ear indifferently.

It was at that point I decided to nip this problem in the bud, as it were. Rhett would be neutered. It was the appropriate thing to do, what with the world in general and my neighborhood in particular being overrun with unwanted cats. Also, post-surgery, he wouldn’t have to dominate every feline situation and might settle down with one of the nice older ladies who live near our house, instead of roaming a tri-county area. I found a low-cost spay/neuter program through the city, and made an appointment. I couldn’t keep him in the house overnight until his appointment, due to his cellular distaste for dogs, but this should be no problem, I thought, as he can be found every morning keeping the Los Angeles Times safe from dragons.

The morning of his clippage, Rhett was nowhere to be seen. I shook food in a hopeful and seductive manner outside, and got nothing but the dog standing next to me making expectant eyes. I called the vet’s office and cancelled my appointment.

The next morning, Rhett was back on the paper. I called the vet’s office and took the first available appointment, which was the following morning.

The following morning, no Rhett. Once again, I cancelled the appointment. This time he didn’t even bother to wait until the next day, but drifted by that evening to look at me through the open kitchen window. I considered him.

“You know, you’ll feel better afterwards. Tiger won’t irritate you as much.”

He eyed me enigmatically.

“If you roam less, you might actually live to see three.”

He commenced to washing his tail.

“We can tell everyone you were just in for a torn hamstring.”

He leapt down and walked away, the symbols of his probably brief and tumultuous life mocking me as he walked.

Later that night, I was talking to an old friend, getting caught up.

“Jeremy is making me crazy.” she sighed as I heard kids screaming in the background at her house “We’ve had three kids, which is all we ever wanted, and now he won’t get a vasectomy like he promised.”

“What does he say?”

“Oh, he doesn’t say anything. I just keep making appointments for him to see the urologist, and he claims he keeps ‘forgetting’ to go to them.”

Rhett, may I introduce you to Jeremy. You’re probably both hiding under the same house.


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