April 15, 2007

I have a cat. Her name is Sweetpea. Actually, her name is Lucy—the name her former owner gave her. You call her Lucy and she puts her ears back and make this low pissy “meh.”

I haven’t really ever had a cat. Well, when I was 7, I was given a pretty black/brown tabby kitten and I named him Simon. I then trimmed his whiskers (so he’d look like he had a bow tie) and he was hit by a car seemingly the next day. I always felt as though the cat world knew this and hated me for it. I’ve felt horrible about it for most of my life, actually. In reality, I tend to be loud and move too fast and because of this, cats don’t really respond positively to me. It would be most accurate to say, as a general rule, cats split until I’ve departed. However, Sweetpea isn’t most cats. She adopted me.

She showed up on my front steps in Midtown—she was cute and super friendly. She let me pick her up. She let me balance her on my bent knees spread out on her back and rub her belly. She let me carry her around like a sack of potatoes. She let me rub her silly, hug her and squeeze her and put her down and she’d come back for more…. purring. Always purring, this cat.

After a year, I bought a collar and I named her officially “Sweetpea.” Let’s be clear. In the year she was hanging out (sometimes I’d let her spend the night and kick her out in the morning when i went to work), I never fed her. She was fat. She didn’t need food and given her hunting abilities, I figured she always had a full belly. Once I put the collar on her, I did make a point to feed her. She’s been on a “diet” for three years and ate the food I left her but continued to supplement her diet with whatever she could catch or squander from the neighbors or the Thai resturaunt down the street. I once caught her eating a bowl of food they’d left out for her. My first thought: who would feed a cat that fat? then I realized the said fat cat was my fat cat.

She’s wicked smart and pretty friendly to other humans (she often sits out on the front sidewalk, greeting the pedestrians as they walk by. Sometimes she swats at them…. which isn’t OK, but most of the time, we all get a good laugh out of it). Mostly, though, I love this cat beccause she loves me.

We have a few arrangements— First off, whatever is mine is hers and whatever is hers is hers. I leave fresh water in a wine goblet on the kitchen nook’s table and she doesn’t drink out of the toilet (yes, I have caught her drinking out of the toilet. She fell in once. I nearly peed my pants laughing so hard. It was funny. And before I get any hate mail, yes, I got her out and I bathed her immediately). I feed her treats at least twice a week and she doesn’t lay down bloody mice or rats on my 800-count egyptian cotton pillowcases…. or at least, not that often. She doesn’t mind that I refuse to have a litter box in my home and I don’t bitch when she leaves kitty prints on the kitchen floor. She’s allowed out and about to explore, but she better be home when I get home from work or come when I whistle for her. And she does come running when I whistle for her. Her collar has a bell on it and often I hear it jingling as I get out of the car and open the front gate. I’m impressed that she can still kill small mammals (including squirrels) and birds given her girth and her bell.

Her nickname is “the messenger” because she often bursts through the doggie door like she’s on a mission to spread the latest and greatest Wildlands news. She loves water. She lets me bathe her without all the crazy claw blood-letting I’ve heard other cat owners describe. She doesn’t really meow. She squeaks, makes a funny gurgling noise in place of a normal meow, and makes this odd purr-meh sigh that I equate to a human’s “uh huh.”

On my 30th birthday, my mom and boyfriend were having a nice polite banter back and forth (they did not like each other) at the dining room table. My mom was cutting fabric, leaning over the table. She said something curtly to him, and from behind her (moments before sleeping peacefully in the chair), Sweetpea reached up and grabbed my mom on the ass with claws out. Mayhem ensued. My boyfriend pulled the newspaper over his face and laughed until he nearly cried. I did the only thing I could: I made a stiff drink. It was 10 am and one of the worst birthdays of my life up until that moment. I love my cat.

She was forgiving and stayed when I brought the black beast home from the kill shelter. I was fairly concerned she’d split. She didn’t—but she did beat the hell out of him the first day I left them alone. I was horrified when I got home and found her covered in blood. It wasn’t until I checked her for the wounds that I realized the blood was not hers. The poor dog was under the dining room table, shaking. It was my endless battle with her in those early days that our household motto (peace begins at home) was born.

She can be a bit mischevious. She once overturned an open can of paint and in the process, covered herself and the dog in pale green latex paint. Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat, but it has been known to injure the dog.

Twice she has played the funniest trick on Siddhartha. He doesn’t like to be out in the backyard (because he is a prissy dog that doesn’t like dirt, water, or lots of vegetation) and so, she takes every toy she can find of his and drags it through the doggie door and places them in flower pots, under the fig tree, in chairs, under the studio stairs, etc. Each time, I have been woken up by Siddhartha’s crying and licking my face. I stumble out of bed and I only realize after I’m sipping coffee that i didn’t step on a single dog toy from my bed to the coffee maker. A quick survey of the yard turns up all his toys. It is a game the dog doesn’t find funny at all. Me? Ah, I think it’s pretty damn funny.

She has done a swell job training Siddhartha. She taught him how to bark at things. He didn’t bark when I first got him (he was a year old) and about three years ago, I came in the back door and found the two of them sitting side by side at the front door. Pea would let out a low meh and lean into him. He’d let out a low woof. This still goes on to this day.

She walks all over him, waking him up, when she thinks there is something he should bark at in the middle of the night. They often sleep together, curled up on the futon or bed. I think she lets him stay because he lets her use him as a pillow and her personal heat source.

Aside from the fact that sometimes I swear she’s thinking “if I were a larger species of feline, I’d eat you right now,” I’m really thankful for this opportunity to bond with a cat. She always lets me know what’s on her mind, her preferences, etc. And what inspired this blog today? I picked up the new Bright Eyes album “Cassadaga” and when I put it on up in the studio, she immediately woke up, put her ears back and meowed that low meh of hers that means, quite clearly, “that’s annoying. Stop that, girl….” To which, I only laugh at her and tell her to lighten up…. She doesn’t like Bright Eyes. I’m not sure why. Not that she likes Joni Mitchell any better. She’s getting older…. I think she’s about 9 or 10 now. I’m alittle more concerned about her when she comes home late and I think about making a little door so she doesn’t have to jump the 6′ privacy fence, that sort of thing.  But for now, she’s OK.

She’s loyal, I’ll give you that. Siddhartha is loyal to the big soft queen bed in the other room. The cat? She’s right here, laying on my wrists as I finish this bit…

June 9, 2007
The last 24 hours has not been exactly pleasant around the homestead. Yesterday about 1 pm, Sweetpea brought a juvenile starling through the doggie dog and deposited it under the farmhouse table and promptly ran to get me—look what I caught, so proud. The bird was freaked out but otherwise uninjured. Now, keep in mind, in the past, I have handled passerines for work.

I close the door between the dining room and kitchen. Both Sweetpea and Siddhartha took turns throwing themselves against the door. This did nothing for my nerves, and I’m betting the bird didn’t find it amusing either. I pull out the clutter under the table (that’s where the doggie food bins and paper bags are stored). It flaps about and I respond with appropriately high pitched screams (nice, right? yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself. Freak). I knew my attempt to rescue the bird was going downhill fast—it hopped behind the clothes rack across from the stack washer and dryer. I moved that out. And in a quick grab and toss outside move, I really freaked it out and it flew behind the stack washer and dryer.

I tried to get it but there was no way to move the stack. I opened the door to the patio, went into the kitchen, closed the door behind me, and had a talk with Pea. She wasn’t listening. She was pissed. I took her toy. Nice.

A few hours later, I go out and the bird is apparently gone. No noise behind the stack. I take a broom and fish around. Nothing. Awesome. While this was a passive rescue, I felt success. A few hours later, I’m in the front yard working on that mayhem and madness when Siddy comes running out the front door and makes a beeline for me, whimpering. Hmmm. This can’t be good. And then I hear it—sounds like WWIII in the house. The starling is calling for reinforcements. It sounds as though it is being torn apart. I rush through the house and what do I find? Sweetpea stretched out like a sphinx under the dining room table with one paw extended towards the corner. I look in the corner and at first all is see is the Gibson on its stand. And then Sweetpea extends her paw again and the starling starts again. Nice Pea, way to be a bully. NICE.

I throw the cat back in the kitchen, and try to get the starling. It is terrified, the definition of flighty but seemingly still uninjured. It had a nearly a direct line to the backdoor, so I go back in, leave the door shut, and hope for the best. The next morning, Siddy and I go out to investigate. No bird. Awesome.

Five hours later, I’m in the front yard when I hear a ruckus in the large jasmine bush alongside the porch. Actually, the first thing I see when I turn around is my cat’s bum sticking out of the bush, midway up the lattice and thought for such a fat cat, your hunting skills are impressive, Pea.

Long story short, we had the starling’s funeral a few minutes later. Siddhartha and I picked a nice spot under the hibiscus bushes (just planted) while Sweetpea conducted a loud though rather garbled eulogy from the living room window. How do I know it was the same bird? It was missing two tailfeathers. Just like the two I found under the diningroom table. Nice one, Pea.