Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Guy’s Guide to Cat Watching

Guys, if there is a woman in your life, there is a good chance that the two of you will be asked to monitor one of her friend’s felines for a brief overnight stay.   The simplicity of this plan will only be surpassed by the absolute chaos to which it leads.   You will undoubtedly be assured that the cat is good, does not scratch, does not climb or knock things over, and is next in line to be canonized by the Pope.  As a female, your partner’s only concern will be that it may dig in her plants.  As a guy, your only concern should be: it’s a cat.  

Women will tend to have more experience with cats.  One girl I knew grew up with five.  As five cats are far more than no cats, (Thank you Cookie Monster for another valuable lesson.) I thought I should be able to defer to her greater experience in this area.  However, due to the unpredictable and occasionally near demonic behavior of the animal, I was forced to learn much on my own.  This is important knowledge that should be passed on.

When the cat comes over, (with its owner, as it can not see over the dashboard to drive itself) search for telltale warning signs such as:

The animal was cranky that morning when put it in its travel box (DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!!!)

It begins feasting on household plants instantly upon arrival (DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!!!)

The owner gives you instructions like - “If it gets upset, flip it over and rub its belly, it definitely won’t scratch, maybe only bite a little, ‘playfully’.” (DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!!! WARNING!!!! ABORT MISSION)

Once you are alone with it, the whole “not climbing” claim will go out the window, (followed closely by the cat if you are not careful) and a 3-D exploration of the place will be in full swing. You will find yourself rapidly setting the state record for saying, “Down!” in a single evening. You also will learn a favorite game of these distant cousins of jungle hunters consists of leaping out from absolutely nowhere, and embedding their claws in your feet. 

Caution Number 1: While it may dawn on you, as the beast sprints toward your lower extremities, just why the Good Lord decided that these fun filled animals should be about the size of a football, DO NOT attempt to boot it through the uprights.  While nothing will feel better than this sport related action at the time, no matter what stage of a relationship you believe yourself to be at, you will find yourself sleeping on the couch for the (very brief) remainder of it.

To add to the enjoyment of the human/feline interaction, it will switch between purring and hissing at random.   Guys, at this point, you may discover that your cat-loving companion becomes afraid of the apparently insane thing, placing you, and your extensive lack of experience, in charge. 

Caution Number 2: She will not think it’s funny if you continually chime in, “This experience is NOT increasing my appreciation of these animals.” 

You must be prepared to lure the meow filled monster away from her by waving something (a terrycloth tie string from a bathrobe is effective) while she scoots to a new location.

Trying to hide anything from your new stress inducing friend is a hopeless proposition.  The beast’s initial instincts will be to hide, causing it to be gravitationally attracted to any of your so-called “protected” places.  You will then be forced to lure it out with a bathrobe belt again, or one of its toys, (such as the affectionately titled “rat on a stick”).  During this initial exploration phase it will also endeavor to introduce itself to any fish or other small (translation: edible) pets.  When this happens you should scold it in a firm and controlled tone, which it will ignore and give you a completely innocent, uninterested stare, as if to ask, “Does the ‘J’ bus stop here?” 

Cat people will tell you that none of this behavior is the animal’s fault (with a straight face, no less), and that it is simply unused to the new surroundings.  Therefore, it should be placed in a contained area first to get acclimated. 

Caution Number 3:  Bathroom = good contained area; plastic bag = bad contained area. (See Caution #1 for results of ignoring this.) 

Once placed in its cell, an amazing thing happens. The cat will enter its litter box, and explode…after which it will reconstitute before you open the door. This is the only explanation for the amount of kitty litter that will be strewn and festooned, in a nice even layer, about the bathroom.

Upon letting the attitude with whiskers out of the can, (That’s the bathroom, so just calm down guys.) it will have mellowed, somewhat, due to its time in solitary.  Still delighting in its little intimidation games, expect it to continue to pounce and swat at anything moving at eye level. (Human feet, sadly, are the primary object in this category.)  Now your job, as the protective, grunting guy, will be to play with it, far away from your formerly feline friendly partner, until it is less “frisky”.    Using as long a bathrobe belt as possible is advisable. If it manages to catch the terrycloth in a claw, and pull the distancing toy around itself, beware of the obvious solution.  As you bend to untangle it, remember that your own flesh and blood hand (accent on the blood here) will probably become the new target in his swat filled existence. Considering the wonderful advice about rubbing its belly is not helpful here.  Not only does this not calm your fanged playmate down, but also it places your previously mentioned flesh and blood in perfect range of all four of its claw laden paws.  After a few less than PC words with the creature, the correct solution of dropping the whole belt down onto the flailing fur ball will quickly occur to you.  This will place it into a nice, non-injury-inducing full body tangle, which kills a good period of time, and provides some visual amusement as it performs a lovely personal interpretation of a cat’s-cradle.

Sleeping is not much of an option. Upon ushering the fiend back to the rest room (the meaning of this title finally made clear) it will then decide that this would be an opportune time to meow a lot and bang on the door.  There are too many legally useful reasons to avoid having the sounds of a tortured animal echoing inside your domicile at night to go into here.   Releasing the noisy thing, and several more unacceptable words, is the only option, as by this point your lady friend will no doubt be peering through a cracked door coaching you on. Barricading yourselves in one room, even if you take the bathroom this time, is preferable to sharing space with your charge.  Giving up the bed to sleep on the floor or even in the tub is a far better alternative than discovering a hissing, scratching, extra pillow on your face in the wee hours of the morning.   Fortunately, these animals’ vanity is greater than their desire to have you arrested.  Any floor level mirror will keep it contentedly staring at itself all night, incessantly scraping its claws through the carpet (yet another of its endearing little hobbies). 

The simple fact that these creatures can routinely perform a five foot standing vertical jump, behind a curtain, from a wet bathtub, onto a miniscule shelf, is the final proof that possession is involved.  When the owner returns, it will, of course, magically free itself of whatever nether spirit is controlling it, and transform into the angelic pussycat that was originally described to you.

Even after this information, there’s still a chance that you could get a great deal of enjoyment out of a small, clawed, household pet, that has a taste for climbing…iguanas are pretty neat.


Renae said...

Ha...loved this! You're going to laugh...following the demise of a leopard gecko named Spike, a kitten has been mentioned. The beagle of 3 years would get much enjoyment out of this so perhaps I need to re-read your information over and over and over before I decide to do this....:)

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for stopping by, glad you liked it. Yes, the decision to invite a creature into your home that has the instinct to randomly attack you for no reason may merit a little more thought.