Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

Next Week's Column: Kitty Sitting is Nothing to Sneeze At



SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


My oldest daughter’s cat spent her honeymoon week with me. I’m thinking about getting a t-shirt that says, “My daughter went to Michigan and all I got was a lousy feline”.

Most of my life I’ve been around cats, even though I’m allergic, because I’m a softy at heart. Not toward the cats, but toward people who want to have cats. “I know you can’t breathe, but they’re so cute ...” Still, I haven’t had one since my youngest daughter developed allergies and asthma, more than ten years ago. In other words, I use her as an excuse. But I’m just a guy who can’t say no.

I saw virtually nothing of Chopper, who was named after some TV show about motorcycles, for the first two days. Twice a day I’d pull the tab on a can of cat food, and there he’d be. I turned it into a game. I’d open it as quietly as possible, and there he was. I’d hide in the closet, covered in a blanket. When I opened the door, there he was. Finally I drove two blocks down the street to open it in my car with the windows closed and the radio blaring. When I got back home, there he was in the window, by the front door.

Other than meals, he was no more than a rumor at first. Charis lives in an apartment, while I opened up my whole house, in the hopes new mysteries would keep him too busy to bother me. Sure enough, he took off exploring, coming back only when his psychic powers detected the presence of food.

Then he’d show up covered in cobwebs, giving me this “It’s all your fault!” look.

“Where did you come from?” I’d say. “I clean house every now and then – really I do. Don’t look at me like that!” Then I’d clean him off, while reflecting on the fact that within hours I’d been reduced to both serving and talking out loud to a cat.

I still don’t know where the cobwebs came from.

It took another day before my old pet-owner instincts kicked in, and I actually started hearing Chopper talk back to me. He’d wander around the living room for awhile, then look up at me with an expression that said, “Where are the hamsters? I can smell them. I can hear the little wheel. Help me out here, dude – I just want to introduce myself.”

Seriously, he said all that with just an expression.

I’d taken ten years worth of various memorabilia off the top of my dining room bookcase, which reaches almost to the ceiling, and put the hamster cage there. I’m no dummy. A cat can jump four to six feet unless it senses prey, in which case it can jump as far as it darn well feels like. I not only put the hamsters as high as they could go, but I greased the top of the bookcase and waited for the fun to begin.

Okay, not really – I’d have regretted such an act later, after forgetting I’d done it.

Much to my surprise, Chopper never found the hamsters. What he did find was my waterbed.

You see, the temperature in my house is turned down to setting marked on my thermostat as “bone chilling”. Those of you who know how much I hate being cold may go ahead and laugh now, but I hate paying bills almost as much. As a result, the only comfortable places in my house are under a pile of comforters on the heated waterbed, or inside the furnace. Inside the furnace doesn’t work as well in practice as it did in my imagination.

So I’d be sound asleep in the middle of the day, curtains drawn, fan running to cover the sound of traffic outside, and – thump! Something jumps on the bed. For a person used to being along in the house during my work week, I can assure you that’s an attention-getter. After the screaming stopped and I settled down again, I’d find myself – and I don’t get this part – staying very still so I didn’t disturb the cat.

Disturb the cat! He just caused me to dream that an 800 pound spider jumped onto the bed, and I’m worried about disturbing him?

Still, overall there are only two concerns I had during the week.

First, he’d be walking calmly through the room when suddenly he’d take off as if he’d been electrocuted, dashing through the house as fast as he could. At all hours of the day or night, I’d suddenly hear a mad scramble, followed once or twice by a satisfying thump. There are no mice. It was like his coffee suddenly kicked in.

The second involves my understanding that – not to be indelicate – cats cover up their own, um, leavings. That’s what cat litter’s for, right? But every once in awhile, Chopper would climb into his cute little covered box, strain for a couple of minutes, and – walk away.

Within minutes the entire house smelled like the inside of a kitty outhouse. And guess what I find myself doing? Covering up the cat’s crap! That’s just wrong. Twice, while shoveling, I glanced up to find him peeking around the corner at me. Did you know cats can grin? Neither did I.

Truthfully, we had no other major problems. At the end of Chopper’s visit, I said to my youngest, “So – achoo! – did you *sniff* notice any *cough* *cough* problems with your *hack* allergies?”

I guess she didn’t, because she never answered me. She just wheezed and fell over.

Yeah. Cats are in charge.


Tags: new era, slightly off the mark, weekly column
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