Monday, April 17, 2006

A cat's entitled to expect/ these evidences of respect

Sorry for the delay in writing; the system was down.

And by “the system”, I mean “Quinn”.

And by “down”, I mean “eating her weight in Peeps”.

Hard to write after eating your weight in Peeps. For one thing, your fingers are sticky. For another, you’re shaking and sobbing and keening for French fries to cut the sugar. Also, you end up staying awake for three days solid, writing a 17,000 word manifesto on how much you hate mayonnaise. You then insist to your life partner that it would make a marvelous light opera.


So, what’s new with me? Well, we still have the Cat Family. At the end of the week, the kittens will move to a new foster home where there is a room dedicated solely to their ambulation. Right now, they still live in a pile in a large blanket-lined box within the larger cage. Last Wednesday, one of them figured out that pushing a smaller kitten off a nipple and appropriating it was highly effective. All but the smallest kitten quickly took the cue and began duking it out. By the end of the day, Mother Cat’s abdomen was a rippling wave of paws striking heads, head-butting and body slams – it was the Ultimate Nursing Challenge -- with one wee little kitten standing on Momma Cat’s head and wailing.

Not surprisingly, M. Cat has begun to look a bit trapped. Every time one of us would go in the garage to feed her, give her water or just get in the car and leave, she would lean against the cage door and stare at us. My Spanish is embarrassing, my French is laughable, but I speak Mother across the species divide:

“Please, I’m begging you. I need a few minutes where someone isn’t hanging from my nipple or trying to nurse from my ear.”

I sympathized. Hell, I even empathized, but I just couldn’t let her out, even in the confines of the garage.

I worried she would find some small hole in the garage wall and make a break for freedom.

I worried she would find anti-freeze on the ground, drink it and die, and then I would be responsible for bottle-feeding ten kittens with endless appetites and a predilection for kung fu.

I worried she would bring sawdust back into the cage, and the kittens would come down with the feline, wood-based equivalent of silicosis.

Mostly, I worried I was going to screw up fostering her if I let her out of the cage, and despite my willingness to air all screw-ups in blog form, I don’t actually like screwing up. So, I would scratch her head sympathetically and block her exit as I spooned more food into her saucer.

Consort, however, is made of kinder stuff. Not being able to account for him one evening, I went out to the garage. He was standing next to the cage admiring the vari-colored mass of thrashing fur which was the kittens. On the floor of the garage was M. Cat. I slammed the side door shut quickly, so she couldn’t fly past me.

QUINN: I thought we weren’t going to let her out.

CONSORT: I came out to feed her, and when I opened the door she basically jumped over my shoulder and down to the ground. She walked around for a few minutes.

QUINN: And then what?

Consort looked over at her.

CONSORT: She did that.

I looked at her. She was lying on the ground, looking around. She wasn’t eating anything toxic, she wasn’t trying to claw her way through the door; cats don’t have a wide range of expression, but this was something approaching perfect contentment. She was me on my first errand away from home when Daughter was six weeks old; my offspring is safe, I will go back to work as soon as I am really needed but right now, not doing anything feels like a week in Tahiti.

And she didn’t even have to worry about whether her pants were on wrong.

I sat on the garage floor, scratched M. Cat’s head and told her what a good mom she was. I offered to get her a margarita and a DVD of Four Weddings and a Funeral. I mean, if she’s going to have a real evening off from the kids…

That very day, the kittens learned you don’t need abuse your littermates for nipple allocation alone; it’s also highly pleasurable to use one’s newly-sprouted razor-sharp baby teeth to simply make another living thing cry. Throughout my stay in the garage, there had been a series of bleats and howls from the cage. M. Cat didn’t flick so much as an ear towards Consort and the cage This indicated both her trust in Consort’s baby-sitting abilities and a deeply-felt need to pretend she was still Carrie Bradshaw and not Ma Walton. The noise, however, began to increase in both volume and anxiety. Without having raised feline dectuplets myself, it was still easy to guess they were getting hungry again and low-blood sugar was causing them to gnaw each other with renewed vigor.

M. Cat emitted the tiniest sigh of feline resignation, got up slowly, stretched every muscle and ligament which probably hadn’t been moved since the night she met the handsome tabby who got her into all this trouble, and headed off for the cage. She brushed by Consort, who closed the cage door behind her, and delicately stepped into the box with her kittens who, upon sight of the Goddess of Nipples, created a noise not unlike ten tiny car alarms. She lay down and the kittens pounced, taking any opportunity to inflict harm on a sibling while getting settled in for a feast

Every day since, either Consort or I have pulled the car out of the garage, sealed every aperture shut, and let her walk around. Sometimes, I slide away from my own chores and sit on a folding chair reading a fashion magazine while she grooms herself and stares off into space. Before a half-hour has passed, either her children or my child is calling for a maternal intervention about something.

We bid polite adieus and promise to have another get-together as soon as our schedules permit.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you write a book, I will buy many copies and give them to my friends.


10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All that's lacking is installing a cappucino machine in the garage, for that "moms meeting at Starbucks" kind of feeling.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Vikki said...

As for the peeps, well, you can see what I do with them at my blog.

As for the cat...sigh...I can relate. My daughter only weaned two months ago and I am still new to the whole "body being my own" thing. You are doing a lot of community service for M. Cat...housing and respite.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Melodee said...

You deserve a humanitarian award. Oh wait. A catitarian award. Kudos!

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it my own new motherhood that made me weepy on reading this post?

I'm with LJ, you write it, I'll pay for it.

7:28 PM  

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