In the beginning, he was a normal cat.
My husband brought him home as a surprise for the kids, and to deal with the occasional critter that got into the house from the nearby woods. He was a nice enough kitten, handsome and stripey, and he spent a reasonable amount of time snuggling and pouncing and being adorable.
But once he grew out of his cuddly kitten stage, he made it pretty clear from that he didn’t need us at all, and that we existed for his convenience. We were to feed him, let him in and out, and step over or around him when he was sunbathing, and put up with the occasional random claw attack. A normal cat, as I said.
He was confident in his identity, and he understood his role in the family very well. He was the cat, haughty and sleek, dignified and independent. A normal cat.
The first crack in his armor was when we brought the bearded dragon home. This lizard is also a male, and believes himself to be a mighty warrior. If he doesn’t like you, he charges at you, and even though he’s about the size of a banana, his confidence makes it pretty intimidating.
He did not like the cat; and the feeling was mutual. In fact, the cat took his entire existence as a personal affront, and the first time we left the house, he managed to dislodge several heavy weights and knock the top off the terrarium to get inside the lizard tank so he could gobble up this ugly little intruder.
I got home just in time. Put down my purse and turned the corner to see the lizard was on his back legs about to attack, and the cat cowering in a corner, smooshed into a little wad, a look of abject terror on his face. Another moment, and the lizard would have bitten his head off, or at least taken the biggest mouthful he could manage. I yanked the poor cat out by the scruff of his neck, and he scurried away and spent the rest of the day under the bed, reassessing his worldview. The next day he was fine.
But it seemed like, from that day forward, he started looking over his shoulder a little bit.
Then we got a bird. All summer long, the cat had been stalking and devouring wild animals, grasshoppers, voles, moles, even a careless rabbit, and yes, sometimes a songbird, and nobody had anything to say; but then we went ahead and deliberately brought an obnoxious green parakeet inside the house, and apparently he was just supposed to accept it. We weren’t going to let him restore the natural order of things. Instead, we were going to feed this bird, and give it toys, and teach it songs, and let it literally walk all over us with its little dirty birdy feet, and there would be absolutely no massacre whatsoever.
I vividly remember sitting on the couch having happy family time with the parakeet one evening, teaching it the Indiana Jones song, when there was a sudden thump at the window, and we all turned to see. It was the cat. He had thrown himself at the living room window and had pressed his face against the glass, his face frozen into a look of pure revulsion. He didn’t want to come in. He didn’t want anything to do with us. He was just sitting there, gazing in feline disbelief at what we had become.
Then we got a dog.
And honestly, the cat‘s life became hell. The dog is a boxer and he loves everybody, and wants to play-play-play, and wants to wuff-wuff-wuff, and snuff-snuff-snuff, and IT IS SO FUNNY TO KNOCK YOU DOWN, YOU CAT; and LOOK AT MY NEW WET ROPE, YOU CAT, IT IS WET; and LET ME SMELL YOU, YOU CAT; and never more from that day on did the cat have a moment’s rest. He was constantly being harassed and nudged and harried and hassled and rolled and battered. Even when he closed his eyes at night, I believe he saw visions of the jowly, joyful idiot, pursuing him, always pursuing him, prancing and dancing and not-quite-romancing, but generally just trying to be his best friend and maybe accidentally eat him up a little bit, but JUST FOR A JOKE, YOU CAT.
And the poor cat‘s spirit was broken. All his haughtiness was gone. His dignity had all run away like the sands in an hour glass. He began to mew like a baby, and to seek out skritchings even when he wasn’t hungry. He was needy and pathetic and he didn’t care who knew it. He put on weight; he started hanging out with the middle school girls, spending all his time gossiping and watching BTS videos. He never even talked about getting his degree anymore. The bird would openly laugh at him, and he would just look the other way, pretending he didn’t notice. But if you looked closely, you could tell.
Last night, we were watching TV with the windows open, and the unmistakable stink of a skunk came wafting through the house. We suddenly realized we didn’t know where the cat was. My husband made a brief search and couldn’t find him, so we grimly resumed watching our show. Sure enough, half an hour later there was a frantic scuffling at the front door, and the world’s most demonic smelling cat wanted to come in and be comforted.
But we have hearts of stone, and did not feel like giving any cats any baths at midnight. So we stuffed him back outside. I went to bed and closed the windows, and over the next hour, I lay there listening to this poor forlorn creature scrabbling more and more frantically at the window, begging and pleading to be let inside. It was heart-rending. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. I did what anyone with human soul would do: I got up and took a sleeping pill, so I wouldn’t hear the little bastard.
Then in the morning, my husband scrubbed him down with a baking soda bath and released him, and left for work. When my son woke up, the first thing he saw was the body of the cat lying wet, stiff, and cold on the floor.
He wasn’t dead, though. He had just hit rock bottom. He couldn’t get any lower. It was the worst day of his life.
Or so he thought.
My son (who had just woken up) took one look at this pathetic creature, his whiskers drooping, his eyes forlorn, his fur gritty and matted with baking soda, and he thought to himself, “Poor little guy. Poor little kitty cat. I don’t know what he’s been through, but he’s obviously had some kind of a rough time. You know what he needs? He needs a nice warm bath.”
Well, I haven’t seen either one of them since. It’s possible that, in a fit of pure feline umbrage, the cat may have spontaneously combusted. I think if I go in there, I may just find little pieces of cat all over the place. Little bitty angry bits of the most disappointed cat the world has ever seen.
It’s a sad story, really. He was a perfectly good cat, and we went and ruined him without even meaning to. There isn’t any justice in the world.
Did I mention we’re getting ducks?