Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, January 29, 2012
I’m on the website of cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy (the host of a show I have just discovered, My Cat from Hell) reading about spirit essences, and scanning the dozens of ingredients listed in a promising little vial called Feral Cat Rehabilitation, a list which includes not only walnut, poison oak, pussy paws, lodgepole pine, avocado, calabash, and lotus essence but Full Color Spectrum, and Reiki Energy.
Because I have already tried Bach Flower Remedy’s Pet Rescue, researched pet pheromone plug-ins, and more recently begun to use lavender and frankincense oils on the crown of my own cat’s head, none of this sounds particularly extreme to me. At all. It offers hope; and, at this point, I am all about hope.
You see, I have a Rubik’s Cube cat, the kind I cannot solve, not even with the manual: a wayward, unpredictable, hilarious, bossy and mean female, scared of her own shadow. Though she’s nearly six, time seems not to have dampened one bit of her spirit or her insatiable appetite for attention-getting trouble. She won’t grow up; she won’t mellow out. She’s immune to the streaming vinegar from the super-soaker bottle even when it blasts her in the flank.
Naturally, at this very moment, she’s curled up angelically in front of the stove, little white paws crossed, orange stripes gently undulating with her breaths in and out. Who would know this was a cat with problems? A cat that doesn’t like it when humans argue, cry, or have phone conversations. That doesn’t like singing or dancing. A chronic biter that chases legs up stairs, has fur-licking fits, and growls if she is not given enough room to pass by. That will stop at nothing to get to her two favorite foods, butter and peanuts, neither of which she should be having at all.
This is also a cat …with everything. A single-family dwelling of her own with a staff of one. Wet food, house made on the premises, cooked and then frozen into daily rations. She has couches to sharpen claws on. Hanging lights to bat at, pot racks to swing on, birds and mice to drag in, butterfly wings to shred, and windowsill perches all over the place — for the endless hours of unbridled tail swishing necessary for her health.
Not only will this cat hide under things and pounce, she’ll hide on top of things waiting to snatch your hat off (or a little skin) as you walk by. She sneaks into your room at night in order to start meowing promptly at 5:30 a.m. She ruins sheets trying to claw her way between them. Ruins curtains trying to open them. Is it any wonder she has alienated nearly every sitter? She bit one so hard her hand swelled up.
On the other hand: she’s a cat that will walk down the block with me. That carries her oldest toy — a beanbag bunny – from room to room. A cat that will head butt, follow me around the house, and let herself to be stretched like a tube, head hanging backwards. A cat that senses when I’m blue, and seems herself to have two expressions: mouth long and severe like a hyphen (worried) or tipping up in a wide grin (other). A cat that simply cannot help being half vinegar and half honey.
I know what you dog people – as well as you not-an-animal-person people – are thinking. “This woman is nuts. Certifiable. If a cat scratched through the caning on MY antique chairs, that cat would be out on its butt, in the cold, thinking about it. I would make that cat behave.”
Of course, cats don’t behave — they do whatever they want. The trick is making them think everything you want was their idea first, which is what I still have not figured out. Not with honey. Or vinegar. Behavior modification might work, but the question is, whose, hers or mine?
Observing her now, perched five feet away, I can’t help laughing. She has just knocked a lighter off the edge of the counter, tried to scoop dirt out of a potted poinsettia, and is reaching her paw deep into a copper watering can. Just moments ago, she was close enough to a candle to fry a couple more whiskers.
Once I go off, will her day be quiet, uneventful, and drab? Will she misbehave? If a cat misbehaves in the house and there is no one there to see it, has it happened at all? Is a cat both a particle and a wave? I am awaiting the publication of Jackson Galaxy’s first book for answers to these and other questions. In the meantime, seriously: lavender and frankincense for both of us is very much in order.