Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Saga

The cats are agitated. A tiny interloper spent last night in my bathroom, and now while we're waiting for Animal Control to call back, he's trying to make friends with the resident cats of Apartment Two, into which he waltzed last night when I opened the door upon hearing him howl. He's a scrappy gray and white kitten who can't be much older than a couple of months, and yet B.C. and Kitty are terrified of him. Kitty moans and hisses and runs away when he makes overtures. B.C. whimpers and cringes whenever he comes near, and this is hilarious because B.C. is at least six times his size.

B.C. is short for Big Cat, and that's what he is, the biggest house cat I've ever seen. He's not round, but his body and legs seem extraordinarily stretched, and his tail is as long as my arm, and I have long arms.
Brent calls him The Suitcase. He also has the biggest eyeballs I've ever seen in a cat, wide as the convex backs of teaspoons, and what's more, they're usually widened in horror, because this cat is afraid of everything. To the nieces and nephew he's a myth on par with Bigfoot, and when the neighbor boys came over to tend the cats while I was in Alaska, they had to go looking for him under the bed to make sure he hadn't somehow escaped.

Anyway, the kitten can't stay. In my house, cats come in pairs (that way they tear each other up and not the furniture), and two is already pushing the limits of Brent's tolerance. But he'll make somebody else a great pet. He's utterly trusting, fearless, and loving, and I keep wondering why my cats are both so afraid of everything and why they're only affectionate once a day. I keep trying to remember them as kittens, although they were both about six months old when they came to live with me, and who knows what they'd been through before I found them.

Update: It's now 2:30 p.m. and Buster (mock me all you want, but this guy is utterly irresistible) is still here, blissed out on my lap. Dispatch did call me back, but since the Animal Control officer on duty was busy, she had City police officer Faddis meet me at the pound, and if I had known what horrors awaited me there, I'd have made him come get the cat.

When he pulled up Buster was balanced on my shoulders, headbutting me and licking my ears. Faddis raised his eyebrows. "He sure likes you." "Yeah," I said, "but I've got two cats. I can't keep him." He unlocked the door and I followed him through a nice reception room, a small, bright, tidy employee lounge, and into a sweltering concrete cell. As Faddis gathered two small bowls and filled one with food, it only took me a moment to realize that a dining table-sized metal enclosure with a glass door was the gas chamber, and then I knew what the huge furnace that took up the center of the room was for and why it was so hot. "Could they call me if nobody wants him?" "If you leave your name and number, sure."

"Do they have to put a lot of animals down?" I asked. I shouldn't have, but he may have volunteered the information anyway. He looked grim. "You'd be surprised." He motioned to a small box on the floor full of what I had taken for wood chips or other debris, and then I saw the tiny charred bones and gray powdery flakes. "The EPA makes them incinerate daily now." That didn't mean that they euthanize daily, but I had already started to blubber.

I followed him into the wide garage lined with cages, big cages along one wall where two or three dogs waited quietly -- one looked like an alarming but charming mix of maybe Basset and Dachshund, and had a very gray muzzle, and the thought hit me, nobody's ever going to take him home -- and another wall stacked with smaller cages full of a half dozen or so gray and white kittens. OMG. Faddis opened one of the empty cages on the end and motioned for me to put Buster in, and I did. He looked baffled and horrified, and I was streaming tears. I was realizing that if anybody did come for a kitten, they wouldn't recognize the potential this kitten possessed if he was huddled at the back of a cage, ruined and terrified and mistrustful. Faddis shut the wire door but left his hand on the latch. "Sure you can't keep him?" I held out my hands.

I can't keep him, but I couldn't leave him there. I had never been to an animal shelter before -- Kitty I did get at a shelter drive, but it was held at a pet store, and B.C. just came to the door one day, probably by way of the Philipino neighbors whom I suspect raised cats to eat -- and it was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever seen. I will never forget the look of hopeless terror on the faces of those animals, and you can't tell me they don't know what's going on.

I will find a home for this cat if it kills me; I owe him that for opening the door and allowing him to trust me. He reeked of cigarette smoke (he was also a bit grimy and yellow, so he got a bath first thing, which he actually didn't seem to mind so much), so I know he belonged to somebody, but whether or not they turned him out or he ran away I don't know. So I'm making signs and calling everyone I know and maybe I'll knock on some neighborhood doors later. He eats like a horse but he's potty trained and has delightful manners, no claws out during play and so far hasn't destroyed a thing, even though I left him in the bathroom overnight where he could have shredded the rug and raided the trash. When I opened the door this morning he was laying on the rug, waiting patiently. He's a plain old gray tabby American shorthair mongrel with a great pointy face, pink nose, and yellow-green eyes, and he grins. Who wouldn't love a cat like this?

Update II: And just like that, he's gone. I took a box of things out to the dumpster and without thinking left the door open like I usually do, because if the door's open you can bet B.C. is under the bed and Kitty's out the door happily mowing the grass, but going no father than the nose of the Cadillac. And when I got inside I realized the kitten was nowhere to be found, and now we know how he came to be at my door at 9:00 last night. I suppose he's an incurable wanderer, and all I can do is hope he'll find his way home, wherever that may be. There's a chance he could turn up again -- possibly he's lurking somewhere in the apartment, but I did a pretty good sweep and didn't see him -- but I assume he's gone. And I'm sort of relieved, but I'll miss him and worry a little. And now I have all those kittens at the shelter to agonize over, even though he was the only one I felt I had any personal obligation to.

Something else rather nice has come of all this trauma, though: Kitty and B.C. were both so jealous that now they're clingy and affectionate, and maybe they're remembering what life was like without me and they'll be a little more grateful that I took them in instead of so all-fired entitled and demanding and selfish. Or maybe they'll just lay around like they always do, until I'm reading in bed and one of them decides they need some attention and comes creeping up to be scratched and petted, and I'll love them for it. We have an understanding.


Anonymous Jaden said...

Love your facts about cats. Well, I'm also planning to have a pet cat, thanks for sharing information about them.

September 30, 2008 at 12:01 AM  

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