I’m fighting with my cat.
(Because she’s not here and I’m a fair person, let me just channel her: ‘she started it.’)
To keep going with a theme, let me respond to that: it wasn’t my fault. (It wasn’t!)
It was Maggie’s.
She’s the one who showed up at the front door with a big box and a weirdly anticipatory expression. I said, what’s in the…?
And then they mewed.
She had found two abandoned Siamese kittens who had spent perhaps two days next door huddled beneath an agave plant that blooms only once a century. It just so happens that this year, that night, the plant was blooming.
Clearly, despite their tiny size, half-open, gloopy eyes and visible fleas, these were magical kittens.
Maggie scooped them up, took them to the vet, got antibiotic drops for their eyes, a big can of kitten formula, and once it was ascertained they were disease-free, promptly took them home to bathe them until every last blood-sucking bug had been washed down the drain, whereupon she began their two-hour feeding schedule.
This, I might add, happened on her day off from her course work. Faced with a couple of upcoming 12-hour days of school in San Francisco (and no one to pinch hit at home), she came over and asked, can you, please? Just for tonight and tomorrow?
Kittens, five weeks old. Small cream puffs with chocolate-tipped ears and tails, cashmere-like fur and sky-blue eyes getting clearer by the hour.
Like I was gonna say no.
Within the space of ten minutes, they were installed, not just in my room, but on my big bed. Because it was an unusually chilly night, I put them under the covers with me, spread the ‘pee pads’ Maggie had so thoughtfully included everywhere, then turned off the lights.
I woke up only when they mewed (and bit the ends of my fingers – kitten-speak for, I’M HUNGRY NOW) to bottle-feed the insatiable little creatures, then again when one of them peed on my ribs and finally at dawn when after one especially voracious bottle session, one of them came staggering up my torso, breached the covers, opened his tiny mouth and deposited a few long noodles of curdled milk on my pretty pink North Carolina t-shirt.
But this isn’t really a story about a couple of cute, messy little orphans. It’s more a story about my own cat, Zelly (short for Zelda, as in Fitzgerald, because when I adopted her it was very clear that she was a party animal rather than a lap cat), an Abyssinian who has lived with me since 009, and has slept on my bed since the beginning (when she isn’t outside looking for small, innocent creatures to kill, that is).
She came in, took one long look at the two adorables, opened her mouth and barely gave breath to that HAHHHHH noise cats make (the kittens backed waaaaay back) then turned to me, with a look I needed no help interpreting: ‘what fresh hell is this?’
Without giving me another glance, she split. I called her, tried to feed her, went out to cajole her, but she’d disappeared until around three in the morning, when she came in once more, and seemed beyond incredulous to find that the new youth had totally colonized the bed, walked out once more, and, basically, did not come back.
Not the next day, when the kittens left, nor the day after that when the coast was clear. She didn’t come in the day after, either, and she had no interest in the bowls of food I tried to get her to smell before bringing them inside, where she did not come in to eat them.
One of my favorite Zelly traits is that from the beginning, she always came (usually running) when I called. And also how chatty she’s always been, saying hi, saying where the hell were you, saying here I am, saying what took you so long? Saying feed me, saying, come watch me play!
Now when I went into the house to watch TV (I live in a little cottage across the yard), she hung out on the sofa just outside, and when I went running through the cold night air back to our cottage, she remained stony-faced right where she was, hunched into herself, utterly silent.
This treatment lasted for ten (that’s 10) entire days. Which may not sound like a lot to you, non-animal guardian, but felt longer even than the ten days I once spent in Mexico, leaving her alone in Carmen’s Toxic House of Horrors (back then, she was just so damn glad to see me back, and me her, that we spent the next couple of weeks glued to the same surface, within a foot of each other. Of course, back then, she hadn’t been ‘replaced’ even if ever so briefly, by not just one cuter, younger version of feline, but two).
During those ten days, she reduced me to tears (not once, but three times) before she suddenly appeared last night, at 1 am, & curled up next to me on the bed; I made much over her (and meant every second), then woke up at four to find her gone again.
Now she has taken to sleeping in the basket right next to the window, which means she is technically inside, but only four inches from the open window that functions as her cat door.
I have a feeling it’s an attitude I’m going to have to learn to live with; after all, it’s summer, right? Who wants to miss a breeze?
The lesson here being that while those kittens were so damn cute, they left me with a certain amount of damage with my own best friend.
But the question here is: Would I do it again?
Please! How stupid do I look to you?
By which I mean: Absolutely.
By which I mean: Every time.