Monday, February 05, 2007

Feel the burn.

When last we saw Lulabelle the cat, she was eating wet food and bringing sexy back with the external hard drive. I think even the most churlish among us would consider this a December well-spent, for a cat.

But, as many of us find out every year, winter calories don’t just go out with the molting brown Christmas tree sometime in January, to be picked up by the Fat Sanitation department, to be shredded into cellulite mulch which can be packed around Nicole Ritchie in order to keep her warm. No, winter fat is more like a gopher, wrecking the stability of your lawn of self-esteem, eating the tubers of your hope for wearing shorts this spring.

[Note to self: Read Sunset magazine only after writing blog.]

I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Lulabelle noticed she was grooming a few more inches of stomach than she had been last summer. Maybe she saw a candid snapshot from Christmas and mistook herself for an ottoman. Possibly some kind neighborhood cat clued her in to how our new nickname for her, “La gata gorda grande” did not, in fact, translate as “Walks the runway for Oscar de la Renta”. Whatever did it, by the first week of January, Lulabelle was clearly on an exercise regimen. I respected her discipline and maturity. She didn’t strap on a pair of running shoes and try for five miles the first morning, only to turn her delicate ankle and head back to the loving embrace of the hard drive. No, Lulabelle works out in a smart and measured way for forty-five minutes to an hour every day.

Oh, did I say day? I meant night.

It goes like this. Night falls, the humans read and watch a little television. Eventually, we turn out the lights and, inexplicably, attempt to sleep. The cat, on the other hand, fresh as a cat food-scented daisy from an entire day of sleeping, views the bedroom light going as the cue to start stretching out her hamstrings. Within minutes, she’s doing time-trials through the house in pursuit of her prey. And what is her prey, you might ask? Is it one of the literally dozens of toys which have been bought for no other purpose than to cause her feline delight?

Have you ever met a cat?

Her great pleasure is throwing, stalking, pouncing on and then killing Daughter’s fuzzy ponytail holders. Having had a few weeks of late nights to contemplate this new avocation, I think I’ve discovered their appeal. They are little enough to be thrown and then carried around after you kill them. The fuzziness means they hang on to your claws, seemingly mocking you by refusing to die. Best of all, their very smallness means no matter how hard Quinn looks, no matter how certain she might be that she’s found every rogue ponytail holder in the house, Lulabelle can always find one more for the 3:45 am “Stretch and Tone” class she has devised for herself.

What I don’t understand is how a cat who, even Super-sized, still weighs less than twelve pounds, can make so much noise. Wouldn’t you think an animal genetically wired to be a killing machine would skulk? Every night is the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona here, only with trash-talking. Because when one catches her intended prey of North American Pink-Breasted Ponytail Holder, one wishes to let everyone know. Since I speak basic Cat, not idiomatic Cat, I can only guess, but the yowls and yodels could probably be safely translated as “…who’s your kitty-daddy, chump?”. This leads effortlessly into an aria I like to call “All hair-holders bow down before me”. This is usually around the time I come staggering into the living room. Lulabelle, understandably frightened by the homunculus with closed eyes lurching towards her, grabs her kill and takes off, leaping over the couch, sliding under the dining-room table, streaking through the bedrooms across people's heads. This is the circuit-training portion of her workout.

God help me if I try to lock the Workout Queen out of the bedrooms. Unbeknownst to me, I am her exercise buddy, and Lulabelle will be damned if she’s going through all this by herself. She stands by the outside of the bedroom door.


QUINN: Hush, Lu.

A second of silence, where we all contemplate what an incredibly stupid thing I said.



A paw slides under the door, trying to wiggle the door open. Sensing this won’t work, the paw slides back. A moment later, there is the sound of a cat’s body throwing itself against the door.


Over the sound of her hurling herself against the door, I can hear Daughter sleepily saying “…Mommy?” and feel Consort thrashing into wakefulness. I give up, leap from the bed, and open the door. The cat, mid door-hurl, skids into the room. We stare at each other in the half-light until the cat sees something under the bed. With a crow of triumph, she darts under the bed. The amount of noise she generates would indicate she has either trapped a wolverine under there, or she found a ponytail holder. I slide under the bed and, in the dark, differentiate the precious toy from a rubber band and a dust bunny. I wriggle back out from under the bed, walk to the door, and throw it into the living room. The cat races after it, screaming in joy and blood-lust. I get back into bed and am just drifting off to sleep, so I don’t hear the sound of tiny well-exercised feet walking up to my side of the bed.


On the plus side, I think the shadows under my eyes make me look mysterious, and the cat’s wearing jeans she hasn’t worn in years.


Blogger priscilla said...

Oh yes! We go through this about four times a week at our house. Now I know the cat has a workout schedule. I might find a tiny calendar with the dates ticked off...One workout she never revisited was "Get a shopping bag caught around your waist so it appears to be chasing you though the entire house," even though it seemed effective enough. I'm pretty sure she dropped pounds after that one just out of sheer fright.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

around here, it's pilates for pussys. ours likes to do his stretching on our bed around 2am.

apparently i also run a 24 Fitness for Felines.

4:57 PM  
Blogger carmilevy said...

Our cat used to pounce US in the middle of the night. I'd wake up to an 11-pound hunk of soft black fur kneading my face with his mitten-like front paws. Nice.

Then he'd lean in and kiss my face, purring into my ear until I woke up enough to make nice to him.

Now that he's gone, I miss that. A good night's sleep somehow seems to be missing something.

6:49 PM  
Blogger alanaransley said...

Oh, I have been there many, many times. Now that my cat is twelve, he has calmed down a bit. His new favorite exercises seem to consist of taunting the dog, who has to sleep in a crate, pounding on our bathroom door (it's a pocket door, and makes LOTS of noise when you hit it with your clawless paws), and maintaining the most annoying position on the back of the human who is trying to sleep. That, and shitting on our bathmat to let us know how displeased he is that we got a dog after him being the only pet for over 11 years.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Gail S said...

Funny, about those skinny jeans your cat is wearing... I actually saw some tiny little jeans in Target the other day, with suspenders. Technically, I suppose they're for dogs, but the only real fit is around the waist, so I'm sure it could work. That is, if you have some really big, thick hand and arm protectors to wear while getting them on the cat....

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to think of my cat as a psychic friend of sorts. I sleep very poorly and whenever I wake up in the middle of the night my cat immediately runs to my face. It isn’t that he is what wakes me up either. It's that I wake up a nanosecond later he is there in the dark doing the kitty two-step on my chest. I have to ignore him or I will never get back to sleep. Anyway I don’t know how he knows I am awake but I also NEED to keep my hands under the covers out of sight at night or he will be around for petting at all hours. It may be cruel but if I particularly need a good nights sleep I will put the vacuum cleaner on sentry duty outside the bedroom door. That and the opening of ironing board are my cat’s mortal enemies.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dog's best trick is to wake me up by standing with her front paws on my shoulders, her back paws in my bladder, and her nose touching mine until I wake up. It's remarkably effective (she weighs about 30 pounds). She learned that one when we were camping, and I think my shriek woke up the whole campsite. I now allow her to sleep in the bed with me, because it's a straight choice between that and a whole night of howling and thumping. The night I shut her in the kitchen she headbutted the door off its hinges. Now she likes to sleep right in the middle of the bed. God help me if I ever get a partner.

Oh, and in our house, the war is between the dog and the evil evil tea towels. And anything that might pass for a ball or a stick. Balled socks, rolls of wrapping paper, round fruit, baggettes... This is the same dog who made my housemate cry with the evil stench of her wind. I love her.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm a househusband and I have enjoyed your body of work as an actress. I also enjoy this blog at lot (us Fathers learn too from this!)

Keep up the great work.


12:43 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

When I was a girl, we had a cat. A crazy, demented, mentally deranged cat.

I would awake in the middle of the night with sharp, shooting pains in my feet. Caraway apparently felt entitled to bite the offenders when I had the temerity to turn over in my sleep.

I would try to make sure she wasn't in my room at night. I would check under teh bed and in the closet after shutting the door, but she still always found some way in. It may have been if my parents opened the door to check on me, but I never knew for sure how she did it.

Her workout regime was to climb the brick outside wall of the chimney, and hang there spread-eagle. She would also leap up and grab the screen portion of the storm door with her claws, allowing her body to slam into the lower portion, making it sound like someone was knocking at the door.

She would also come up when I was reading, as all cats are wont to do, and sit in my lap and demand I pet her. Which I would do.

She would start to purr and then inexplicably claw and bite me in a frenzy before running away, leaving my arms and legs in bloody shreds.

She was a freak.

I was always a dog person at heart, anyway, but her insanity really put me off cats for a very long time.

Thanks for the great story. Another tremendously well-writtten, highly entertaining post!!

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suzanne, I feel for you. I once had a nightmare in which someone was eating my feet, and woke up screaming to find a very guilty little furry face peering at me from the end of the bed...

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an amusing post! It brought back memories from 30+ years ago, when we had a third-floor apartment and downstairs neighbors who slept lightly. Our two kittens would get their nightly exercise by playing ping pong. They'd bat the ping pong balls (which we had misguidedly given them as cat toys) around the living room, bouncing them off the furniture and up and down the hallway, with its hardwood floor. Finally, as the kittens tired of their pursuit, the balls would get lost behind the sofa or a cabinet, only to be found again the next night and put into play.

9:02 AM  
Blogger marallyn ben moshe said...

i just found you through torontopearl...what a great post...why isn't all this in a book? brilliant writing...bravo...

12:04 PM  
Blogger Melissa C Morris said...

I consider your blog to be a service to the greater good of humanity. This exercising cat yarn (get it, yarn -- heh) has brought a smile to the face of this grumpy, one-armed preppy. Most impressive Quinn.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

Hilarious! I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at the computer. Our cat pumpkin brings his mousy to us in the middle of the night. He drops it on my husbands face. My husband throws the mouse. The cat screeches across my unexpectant, slumbering body. I scream. The cat returns and it all begins again. The mousy can never be found during daylight hours.

As if I weren't laughing hard enough, Jeff divulges that his vacuum cleaner is sometimes posted as sentry at the door.

Oh my good heavens. My sides hurt.


10:44 AM  

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