Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Cat's Pajamas

Oh, the irony...

For years I have tortured my sister with my degrading, hateful comments about cats.

Rancid fleabags was my expression of choice, but I made full use of the language in describing my loathing for felines.

Now, I was just kidding, of course. I was trying to torment my sister by ragging on her cats. I don't have anything against them--nor anything for them, come to think of it. I was just playing around.

She always threatened to get me a cat as a punishment and I always swore I'd donate it to the nearest Chinese restaurant. So it went on over the years. She'd put her cats on the phone so I could hear them purr(?!?) and describe what they were doing while she was talking to me.

Hey, who cares about them stupid cats? I got better things to do then waste time on those obnoxious, lazy, overfed trouble makers.

Or then again, maybe I don't. It seems now I am in need of cats, or at least one, to scare away the mice (or worse) that have gotten into this house.

I put poison down in the cellar, of course. But that cellar is a hellhole and the bastards have been tunneling in from the front garden. (I suspect a rat or two may have joined the party.)

But I don't want these vile creatures in my house and I don't like spreading poison around the old homestead. So, what's left?

Alley cats, that's what. They're always around, knocking over the garbage, brawling and fornicating in the alley at the dead of night. For all the trouble they caused me, the least they could do is help me get rid of the rodents.

I went to the grocery store and walked back to the pet food section. I know nothing of cat food, except that I wasn't buying the canned crap. The odor, the very look of the stuff makes me gag.

So I went for the dry food and I found the perfect brand: Alley Cat, complete with a cartoon of a scruffy looking feline on the bag.

I got some small paper dishes and put on food in the front garden and the backyard. My plan was to have my house reeking of eau d'cat so mice, rats, kangaroos, zebras and any other type of vermin would haul ass out of my home and never darken my door step again.

I put on food once and the next night I forgot. The following morning I open my door to get my paper and there are two cats in the middle of the street looking at me with this wounded, dismayed expression.

How could you forget us? They seemed to ask. What kind of person are you?

Look, this is business. I feed you, you scare away the mice. We don't have to like each, we don't even have to see each other to make this thing work. I'll put down the food, you put down the mice. Got it?

The Calico Queen

At one time mice were unthinkable around my house. At one time my family's house was cat central. With our pet Phoebe, a beautiful calico cat, we had more litters of kittens than you could shake a scratching post at.

Phoebe had her own way of doing things. While she spent time in the house, she also hit the streets, coming back when it suited her. We always had dogs and we had to keep them separated, but, aside from a few skirmishes, we got by without any bloodshed.

Phoebe and her broods ruled the cellar of our house. We'd put down food and water and Phoebe would take care of the rest. I have dim memories of Phoebe and her kittens running down the stairs from the second floor of our house, their tails up in the air.

We gave away a lot of Phoebe's kittens, and we kept a few. I remember Figaro and Domino, a beautiful black cat with a white spot under his chin. He turned up dead one day, poisoned apparently by some godless bastard and I recall how angry and upset we all were. And Phoebe, of course, was crushed.

We could go on vacation for two weeks and as soon as my father turned the car into our driveway Phoebe would pop up out of nowhere, her eyes reflecting green in the car's headlights.

Phoebe got older and she had to have a hysterectomy, so there would be no more kittens. And then, it seems like a short time later Phoebe was feeling sick. My father put her in this ancient cat box we kept around and when he came back the box was empty.

I remember when he told my mother, how she burst into tears, poor woman. My grandmother had died a few years before that and our dog Schnapps had also gone to his reward. With the death of Phoebe now my mom shook her head and sadly said, "it's the end of an era."

That may sound a little strange but I know what she meant. My grandmother, Schnapps and Phoebe had spent a lot of time on this earth and they spent a lot of it together, so, yes, when Phoebe died, there was a feeling around the house that a chapter in our family history had come to an end.

My sister said I should put down water along with the dry food. I joked about strolling musicians and porter house steaks, but honestly it does feel good to help the buggers out. They have to eat from garbage cans, deal with scorn, foul weather and speeding cars.

I guess some days we all feel like an alley cat in a harsh world, so putting out some food and water seems like the right thing to do.

And I like to imagine that I could be feeding one of Phoebe's descendants. God knows she had enough kittens, maybe this is one of her grandchildren coming to our house each night to empty the food dish and scare away the mice.

Maybe it's not the end of an era after all, but the start of a new one.

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