do you want to get our cat?
“Do you want to get our cat?” my husband asked me. “Someone turned her in at the vet clinic near our house.”
“Not really,” I said.
There was silence on the other end as he waited for a punchline. Followed by more silence as he waited for a, “just kidding.”
I wasn’t kidding, though, I was shocked and confused. I didn’t understand how she was still alive. When she didn’t return after a week I assumed she got lost. After three more weeks, a freak spring snowstorm, and another week, I assumed some lucky coyote won the Fancy Feast lottery and dined on feline filet mignon garnished with grass. I didn’t miss her. I didn’t even like her.
I know, it sounds terrible and it is, because sometimes I’m a terrible person, but this wasn’t my fault. She didn’t come into my life as a kitten leaving glitter and rainbows in her wake. She left cat crap on my new carpet and tore up my screens. She would sit on the kitchen chairs and poke her nails through the vinyl like she was popping bubble wrap. She tried to kill me on my own stairs by weaving herself in and out of my stride every single evening. It was never love at first sight for us, it was awkward and uncomfortable. It had always been this way; an arranged relationship that bound us together by the cost of vet visits and the treat of a hefty fine from the state if I ditched her by the side of some road late at night—thanks, chip technology.
So, when she disappeared I took it as a sign. A gift.
Four weeks prior to her disappearance, we had slowly transitioned her to mostly-outside-cat status, because conditions inside the home were less than ideal for our other cat Zoola. Yoda and Zoola had a complicated and unhealthy relationship. To be honest, I hadn’t realized how bad the bullying had gotten until I started to see blood spatter around the house. Knowing full well my husband was way too exhausted to moonlight as a serial killer, I figured it was the cats. Had it belonged to any of my children, I would have heard about it because they are all tattle tales.
I noticed the issue had gotten worse when I saw Zoola less and less. As the weeks passed, she wasn’t even eating much and only when Yoda was outside. Zoola hid from her all day and all night. The only time I ever saw them together without any conflict, was in the late mornings. Yoda would lay in a sun spot on soft, warm carpet while Zoola dutifully groomed her. It reminded me of a mean girl in high school who found the one girl with no self-esteem who just wanted to be accepted. I could almost hear her whisper to Zoola, “On Wednesdays, we wear pink.”
It wasn’t just the other cat she was bothering. It was all of us. I would watch her eyeball me as she licked her paw and planned to slide down my sheer curtains like she was riding a wave of fabric chasing after a fly. She lifted the fish tank lids and swatted the fish around until she splashed water everywhere. When it came time to pet her, she wouldn’t have it. No holding. No touching—unless you had a can of food. If she didn’t get up and walk away from you when you made an attempt to be friendly, she would slap you.
I had no other choice than to see how she did outside.
She seemed to like being outside better, which was a relief to everyone. She was friendlier, happier, and enjoyed her afternoon adventures into the fields. She would cruise by for a walk-by leg rubbing, roll around on the driveway, and chase the kids like a puppy as they played around the yard. At night, we’d call for her to come inside, she’d eat, go to bed, and be up in the morning to begin a new adventure outside, chasing mice, bees, or whatever the hell she did out there. After about two weeks, she didn’t want to come back in anymore. I had to use wet food to lure her inside at night. Every morning she’d scratch at the door to get out and immediately slithered under the deck like a tortie colored snake. Whatever was under there must have been pretty exciting. Maybe it was a cat casino, or a mouse peep show. Maybe it was an anonymous support group for jerk cats who literally hit the hand that fed them because it wasn’t feeding fast enough.
That was the last time I saw her and her plump, well-fed, cat booty, squeezing through the broken lattice of the deck skirt. I’m not going to lie. I felt relieved when she was gone. I did feel a little bad when I thought about her being eaten by a wild animal, but I didn’t shed any tears. I mean, we all die. Besides, it was peaceful in the house. Zoola was eating more than four pieces of cat food, she didn’t flinch and dart out of the room if you moved too fast, and she was happy. So, you can understand how difficult it was for me to try and look excited when the vet tech took my carrier to the back room to retrieve my cat.
“She is such sweet cat,” the vet tech said to me.
“Do you want her?” I asked.
She looked at me with a blank expression before dismissing what I said. I had an incredible urge to shake the carrier like a can of whipped cream. Instead, I smiled at the tech, thanked her, and left with a cat I didn’t like and one who didn’t like me. I set her inside the back of the car and drove him while she yodled the cat’s rendition of, “Nobody knows.”
“I feel the same way,” I said to her, as I pulled into the driveway.
She wandered around the deck yodeling like she’d never been there and stopped in front of the back door. With only a pane of glass separating them, she and Zoola stared face to face. They squinted their eyes as the wind picked up and a tumbleweed blew by. Okay, maybe it was a pine cone. Zoola realized that Yoda couldn’t get inside. Yoda did too. I could almost hear Zoola whisper, “On Wednesdays, we wear pink.”