So it’s come down to this

I had dreams. Aspirations even. Big things I was gonna do. Instead, my sister summed up my life this way:

“You’re a cat slave,” she said.

A cat slave. Ouch.

Reality bites. And sometimes scratches. And it happened so subtly — just like they say. You give up one small freedom, then another, and suddenly you’re downtrodden under someone’s jackboot. Or paw.

I started out innocently enough as the adopted mom of Mike’s cat, C.C., who used to be very low maintenance. In the good old days, Mike would throw some food in C.C.’s bowl and trot off to work. “Grandma'” would check in during the day for playtime, box cleaning, and the occasional head pat. Mike would return 10 or more hours later, at which time C.C. would finally acknowledge the food in his dish and chow down. No fuss.

But after moving and acquiring a stay-at-home mom servant, C.C. gradually became a food-obsessed whiner, paunchy middle and all. A day’s worth of food vanished in under 2 minutes. And he’d demand more in just a couple hours.

In the meantime, bigger trouble was brewing. Julius, the adorable stray, showed up sleeping on our porch and gradually became one of the family. Aside from being utterly lovable and a typical cat (e.g., actually playful and mischievous, unlike C.C., who stares dully at any toy thrown his way), Julius has what’s euphemistically referred to as a “sensitive stomach.” In other words, he pukes. Often. At least twice a week. Never for any reason we can discern, and only on carpet. (That spike in Resolve sales is thanks to us.)

So between C.C.’s paunch and Julius’ barfing, I started rationing the food (weight control food for C.C.; a mix of sensitive and urinary tract specialty food for Julius). Morning and night feedings morphed into morning, afternoon, and evening. And those morphed into splitting those feedings into smaller portions (less food = less puke to clean up). And even though I could fill Julius’ bowl to the brim and he would eat only as much as he wanted, C.C. would happily consume his food and Julius’ — so, everyone is rationed and on a schedule and supervised while eating.

Except, Julius gets hungry overnight — usually between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. His solution is to deplaster himself from his sleeping spot against or between my legs and wake me up. Every. Single. Night. Creeping up my body. Sticking his little face in mine. Breathing in my ear. Giving a tentative lick, then licking persistently, my hair his favorite target.

Sure, I throw him off and yell (sometimes Mike yells too, but usually he just sleeps through the madness). It works for about 3 minutes. Then it starts again.

I resist, but I know who’s boss. I’ve learned it’s best to get up and get it over with. Trudge downstairs and throw food in both bowls. Resistance is futile.

C. C. never takes part in the waking ritual, yet somehow I know he’s in on it, egging Julius on and reaping the rewards.

Three hours later, between 7:00 and 8:00, round 2 begins. Usually just before Mike is ready to get up, so I get another half-hour or so of periodic awakening, either by cat pestering or the just-as-annoying snooze alarm.

“Snacks” before bedtime didn’t help — they just added another (now mandatory) feeding to the mix, me with only one eye open before tottering off to bed every night. 

So it’s come down to this. I’m not doing big things or writing best-sellers or living in a cottage surrounded by gardens. I’m a cat slave, plain and simple.

But still, I can dream of sweet freedom. It looks like this or this. I can picture it so clearly — two cats who do nothing but stare at the feeder all day, waiting for food to magically appear. And it does. Up to 8 times a day (or night).

Could it be that emancipation — and a good night’s sleep — might be only a ridiculously expensive purchase away?

Cats were put into the world to disprove the
dogma that all things were created to serve man.
                                                             ~ Paul Gray


My husband and I have undoubtedly yelled that word to each other more often than any other. And more often than not, the answer we get back is an equally loud “I’M TALKING TO THE CAT!”

Our house is not large, but we never can seem to hear each other — only vague language-like muttering that we think may be a sign that one of us is trying to contact the other. Often, no. It’s just one of us talking to one of the cats in another room. (Other times, of course, it is my husband talking to me or I to him. However, I have the uncanny ability to focus intently on what I’m doing and tune out any background noi…I mean speech…even mid-conversation — sorry, honey — and he just plain can’t hear me when I speak normally. So, we exchange a lot of exasperated “WHAT?!”s, followed by a pointedly soft “you don’t have to yell” or maybe a helpful “look my way when you’re talking” or “I can’t hear you when the water’s running” or just a glance rich with meaning, usually “are you still talking about that dumb thing that happened to you today?”)

When Mike and I were first dating, I used to think it so strange that he would always acknowledge his cat as he walked by. C.C. never blinked one way or the other. I’m certain he never felt snubbed if he heard no “Hi C.C.” or happy if he did. But I easily fell into the same habit. One, because the cats (now plural) are so darn cute that they merit some fawning, and two, because I work alone all day, it beats talking to myself. I also think it’s true that if you don’t have kids, your pets take up that slack — I need something to mother, and the cats are so childlike. Why just a couple of weeks ago, Julius threw up on our bed (while we were sleeping in it), and C.C. peed on me yesterday from the sheer terror of having to be crated to go to the vet. They cry when they’re hungry, come for comfort when they’re lonely, snuggle on top of us to sleep, lash out in frustration if Dad gets them all worked up before bedtime, fight over toys or turf, bug the crap out of us when they want something…the only thing they won’t ever do is grow out of any of this. Or learn to take out the garbage.

But that’s OK. We love them anyway. Especially because no matter what we say to them, how loudly, how softly, or how many times we say it, they never, ever yell “WHAT??!!”

Lots of people talk to animals….
Not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem. 
                           ~ Benjamin Hoff,
The Tao of Pooh

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