Cat Man

Cat Man in Box

Pet owners who go on holiday always pay a collateral price for their trip. A friend of mine has to put all of her shoes in cabinets or her German Shepherd will destroy them for being left alone. Another will come across little secret stockpiles of cat poop in shoes, closets, Tupperware in retribution for his little jaunt. A lot of animals don’t like to be left home alone, and they show it in different ways.

My cat has a pattern when it comes to doling out neglect-inspired revenge. When I return from holiday she meows me into the flat with the gusto and volume of a failed expeditionary general. She then pulls little passive aggressive moves like tripping me up and shouting at me about it, Whoa, dude, watch where you’re going! But when I turn on the bathroom tap for her and rub her head as she drinks, the meows slowly dissipate. She is back in her comfort zone, relief and gratitude take over the anger. While she drinks I pour a packet of top shelf kitty grub in her bowl and lure her to dinner. By the time she eats, her purrs could motor a boat across the English Channel.

It’s the period after this that worries me. See, she seems lovably grateful and happy that Dad has returned, but she will always get me once. With one bite, that is. My cat has the revenge memory, the plotting abilities, and the hand accessories of Freddy Krueger. She lays in wait, bides her time, and then she gets me with one good bite. When this will come, I genuinely don’t know. It could be in a day or a month or as I leave for Christmas holiday. I just have to be on my toes.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that she spends roughly eight hours a day sitting on me. My cat expresses neediness by sitting on me: my neck, my back, my stomach between me and my book, my hip, and by sitting on my feet when I am making coffee. This might be seen as charming by an ignorant observer. After all, she’s fluffy and sleepy-eyed, relaxed and reclined. But I know that at the drop of a hat this sleepy-eyed furball can turn into a lawnmower. And one that’s pissed off to boot. Sometimes there’s a warning, a growl, a mohawked ridge of fur, splayed claws. Sometimes there’s not.

Today there’s not. The cat moseys to the back of the couch on which I am lying and reading a book. My phone buzzes and like a good little mindless follower, I reach out for it. And that’s when it happens. The cat goes from 0 to 100 in a split second, literally pouncing on my arm. She grips my arm and plunges those vampire fangs deep into my wrist. I yelp in the manner of a truly surprised person (like a small child) and wrest the cat off by her scruff.

This is by far the worst cat bite I have ever had. Puncture wounds that are barely bleeding. I stomp off to the bathroom in a haze of vulgarities, and as I clean out the wound she jumps up next to me, paws on sink, for her daily drink from the tap. I suggest in an eerily calm voice that she find another place to be or that I might see how far I can throw a cat through a third floor window. It’s then that she starts barking at me. See, she says, I was only rightfully exacting revenge. But she runs away, maybe realizing that she has pissed off the giant who lives in her house and who, more importantly, is her source of food and water. She spends the remainder of the day under the bed from which distant chirps of rationale can be heard whenever I go into the bedroom.

My doctor is away on holiday (probably pissing off his cat) so at 7:15 the following morning I am walking through the rain towards a nearby clinic, muttering curses, and ignoring the terrified commuters backing out of my path. The women at reception are nice and they piece together meaning and actual sentences from what I am passing as my Czech this morning. They send me upstairs. At the doctor’s order, the very nice nurse applies an antibiotic paste and wraps my wrist in a bandage. “Come back tomorrow” she says.

Repentant Cat Oversees Handiwork

On the way home people note the wrist bandage and then give me a weary-eyed look of empathy. No, no, it’s not like that, I implore with my own eyes, my cat’s just a dick. I medicate with hotdogs and a donut. Burke laughs at my bandage and I resist the urge to tell her that I went to the doctor because of her paranoia for cat scratch fever. We go to the movies (Film: Yesterday, very funny, charming, The Beatles, wait for video release) and then for a few beers. It’s during these beers that I begin to feel sick. Chills, sore everywhere, and a red rash takes over the forearm. In medical terms: I am fucked. At our local hospital (Burke’s insistence) the nurse says that I am fine for the night and should go home and see the doctor in the morning as directed. When we get home, the cat meows me through the door and then runs to her bowl.

There’s a bit of insult to injury here. The cat’s mad at me because I’m late and I’m late because I was at a hospital dealing with a wound she dealt me. There’s no insult to injury (sensing a theme) in the fact that I now have to literally cater to and then clean the poop up of a cat who has injured me. I am feeling too sick to explain this to her, so I go to the couch and watch television and lick my wounds.  

I wish I could report that I acquired cat-like superpowers. I mean, there’s an hour or two when I mosey and lounge in the sunny parts of the house, but I think that’s to counteract the chills. Also, I do become inexplicably attracted to boxes. Even picture frames allure me for minutes on end. To successfully whack me, an assassin would only have to drop a cheeseburger in an open coffin in the ground. Done. Although to be honest, an assassin could get me with that modus operandi any other day. But there are no cat powers. If anything, I am too sore and achy to walk, jump, and climb with the ninja-esque agility of my cat.

The following morning I feel better, but the same tall nurse “hmmms” at the red forearm and its browning bruise. The cat has hit the muscle. I narrow my eyes, thus conveying an action movie-like dedication and plan for retribution. The doctor jams her hand in my underarm and asks me if it hurts.

Well, I think, you keep poking me. But I say, “No.”

She prescribes antibiotics and a return visit on Monday. The tall nurse lathers my arm in antibiotic cream, wraps it up, and puts it in a sling. Isn’t this a bit overkill? I might ask, were I not lost in revenge fantasies against my own cat. I take my prescription and I leave. I am angry. I walked in looking like a guy who sliced his wrist and come out looking like a guy who beat that sliced wrist with a hammer. On the way home I pick up my prescription and buy two hotdogs baked into croissants and a watermelon.

Next Time I’m Getting a Full Body Cast

Every movement of my right arm is painful, sending electric pulses of agony up my arm. I am still sore and exhausted. I have to keep everything in my left pocket and my messenger bag is shifted to my left side. Doing everything with the left is unnatural and like many people who have suffered sprained wrists and broken bones on their dominant arms, I realize that I have been taking this for granted my whole life. I promise a new perspective upon my successful convalescence. I lie on the couch and watch Stranger Things.

The cat wants to join me and for the morning I do not let her. In the first place, she’s in the doghouse. In the second, I am a little afraid that she’s going to go after my left arm and render me a full upper body invalid. But like most cats, she’s persistent, and though I keep shooting her dirty looks, she keeps scurrying away and then trying again. Finally, I can no longer by angry at my little friend. She comes up and I let her sleep on my hip. I keep my arms covered with my blanket just in case she’s still a little irked, but she turns on her side and gets into the show in peace.

My little buddy is my little buddy again, for the most part. But at least I’m reminded that my the pleasant little mop who sleeps in a furball and loves lunch meat and drinks beer is also a natural predator. While I’ve never been one to fuel that instinct and loathe the idea of cockfighting, my mind looks forward with worry to my return from the U.S. in late August.

To save my own ass, I may open a coliseum in my living room. Pit her against cockroaches and hefty spiders and maybe a mouse, feed her playful blood lust with the occasional snapped wing fly and reward her efforts in the ring with some ham and salted turkey breast. Maybe she’ll leave me alone. Or maybe I’ll just wear long-sleeved shirts until December, when it’s time to leave again.

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