Sunday, January 02, 2005

Los Gatos

So, we're doing the cat thing again. I still feel bad, but these guys are awfully cute. It's almost like I'm powerless in a weird, backwards sort of way, like I'm this clumsy Baby Huey sort of creature, or Lenny from Of Mice And Men just trying to love and be loved but wreaking havoc instead. But I should back up a little.

I've had dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, tadpoles/frogs, fish, hermit crabs, birds, and sea monkeys as pets for most of my life (not all at once, mind you). Since 1999, however, I've been living pet free, and I kind of liked it. It was sort of liberating to not have to worry about the well being of someone other than myself for a few years. Of course, I missed the warmth and companionship, but left to my own devices, I probably would have remained petless for a little longer and then ultimately would have gone for a dog. Since G came into my life, my priorities have changed a little.

G is my my fiancé. G's cat, Toonses, passed away a few months after we started dating. Toonses was found abandoned in a parking lot as a kitten and was, by all accounts, a fine friend and companion to her for many years. He developed a malady that was never properly diagnosed and despite a great deal of care and attention, many expensive trips to the vet, and a loving support staff that included not only G but also her mother and friends, he succumbed at a relatively early age. Needless to say, G has been jonesing for a kitten ever since. And I'm cool with that. I love animals: some of my best friends are animals.

A few weeks ago, G and I had a bit of a cat debacle. We decided to rescue a cat from a shelter and arrived early one morning to look at kittens. Most everyone was napping, but one fellow, a bright-eyed orange and white kitten named Cruiser, was up and talking to us. He also had a good rapport with the gal working at the shelter and just gave off a good vibe in general. We sat with him in one of the meeting rooms and after a few minutes of making him chase the bouncy thing on a string tied to a stick we decided he was the one for us.

One of the other gals at the shelter told us he was mouthy. "Mouthy?" I asked. By way of explanation she sort of gently clawed at my hand with her fingers. This mildly surprising and completely unwarranted (in my opinion) violation of my personal space did little to help us understand what she was saying, but we were caught up in the moment and let it go.

Mouthy, as it turns out, actually means bitey. Cruiser was all about biting. He was a very cool cat in many ways: only scratched the things we gave him to scratch--never the furniture, played with the toys we bought him, and wasn't at all skittish--a rare, fair feature in a cat, and had loads of personality. But he could not stop biting.

Every morning he'd climb onto our faces and bite us on whatever was exposed, purring like crazy the whole time. He'd never break the skin with his teeth but was less careful with his claws. It was near impossible to pet him at all without him trying to bite, and it was laborious to try and respond to his rough mode of play without encouraging him. Grabbing him by the scruff of the neck would temporarily settle him down. Another tactic I employed was carefully rolling his gums over his teeth so that he'd feel the force of his jaws on his own flesh whenever he'd try to bite. He was only trying to play, never did this in anger, but it was a deal-breaker nonetheless.

A trip to the vet illustrated the situation for us. The vet described Cruiser as an extremely aggressive cat and cautioned us against allowing him near small children. We're planning to raise a couple yard monsters in a year or so, which meant that Cruiser had to go. That simple. G called me at work to tell me this, weeping. We were still within the two week trial period, so I took him back.

We like to think that we did the right thing because he's still a kitten and this gives him a better chance to get adopted by someone else. Whereas if we'd kept him only to give him up the first time he took a swipe at the future half-pint, he'd be an adult cat, less cute, and therefore less adoptable. The more I think about it, though, the more I think I signed the little guy's death warrant when I spelled out the phrase "too aggressive" as our reason for returning him.

Ironically, we now have two kittens. It's as if we decided that because one was too much to deal with, two will be easier. And everyone assures us that it's true. With a pair of kittens, litter-mates even, they will work out their aggression on each other and leave the house and its occupants safe and intact. That's what everyone says, anyway. In the meantime, they've already ruined two pieces of expensive leather furniture. So much for popular theory.

One is a siamese mix and the other a tabby. I named the former Albrecht, and G named the latter Brodie. Brodie is named after the character in Mallrats who does the stink-palm. Albrecht is named after the German painter/engraver Albrecht Durer. They're great friends and inseparable, fighting, eating, sleeping, and charging from one end of the house to the other all day long. They are slowly becoming a little less skittish, but so far only Albrecht has shown any affinity for being a lap cat.

Their favorite hide-out is inside the bottom of a reclining chair in the living room. Kittens. Damn, they're cute. And I negotiated a deal where I get a dog when the imminent kids are just a few years old. Maybe I'll name it George.

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