I am not a crazy cat lady. I do not have upwards of 30 cats roaming around, shedding, shredding, or hacking up undigested slimy fur balls.
However, I am a cat person. That is, I like cats. I prefer them to dogs, although I like dogs well enough. I grew up an only child with a succession of feline siblings. I’d spend hours scritching around the ears and under their chin, feeding them, grooming them, snuggling with them every night. I even wore them (right).
As a college student away from home and cat, I chafed at the dorm rules prohibiting pets. Pete and I and picked out an abandoned ball of fur at the pound the day after we moved into our first house. We’ve had at least one (and as many as three) cat(s) ever since—35 years’ worth of cats—until this past year when our last cat passed away at the ripe old age of nineteen. Between moving into a pristine, un-furred house (with new, odorless carpet) and the discovery that Pete is allergic, a cat is no longer an option.
I give you this introduction as background so that you’ll understand why, when a friend asked me if I would take care of her cat while she and her husband were away, I didn’t even hesitate. Of course I would. No problem—I love cats. I miss having one. I’ll even spend some time in cat-appreciation, petting and scratching all the right spots. Wait—what? How often? Um… Sure. I can give this cat his twice-a-day insulin shots too. Can’t be that hard!
I showed up for my insulin injection lesson the night before they left. Insulin in the fridge, syringes in this cupboard. Got it. How much? Okay, I see the lines. And the cat will come when called? Oh, I’m to feed him, then jab while he’s eating—and he always comes to food. Wow, he didn’t even blink, what a nice cat! Doesn’t look that hard; we’ll be fine. Have a great trip!
The next morning I showed up at 6 am, ready to play veterinary nurse. I didn’t see the cat as I let myself in, but surely he’d come once I started opening the can.
First, to make sure I’d be ready, I prepared the syringe. Then I used the can opener, spooned the food into the bowl, rattled the spoon around the bowl a bit, and placed the bowl on the floor. No cat. I refilled the water, and banged that down onto the floor as well. No cat. I put out a few of the special cat treats they’d left, making sure I rustled the bag. No cat.
I re-covered the syringe and put it down on the counter, then went hunting. Not in the family room. Not under the couch. Not behind the door. Oops, the basement door was left open. Twenty minutes later, I was sure the cat wasn’t in the basement. How about the dining room chairs? Nope, but some fur indicated I was on the right track. Upstairs? Two bedroom doors were open, and he wasn’t in the first one. Ah, finally, under the futon in the second bedroom—huge yellow eyes, all pupil, staring out at me. I reached in and hauled him out. He hissed. He growled.
I carried the beast downstairs, petting his head. He hissed. He growled. I plunked him in front of his treats. He hissed and growled as he ate. I delivered the insulin. There, done. See you in twelve hours.
That evening was a repeat of the whole scene, up until the point where I again found the cat under the futon. Only this time, he didn’t just hiss and growl. He yowled. He spat. He lunged. He gnashed his teeth. He swiped his claws. He defecated on the carpet. I used a handy prop to try and extract him from under the furniture. He shredded it. I finally wedged him into a corner and managed to jab him with the needle. Phew! I locked him in that bedroom with some food and water and his litter box and went home.
The next morning I was back at 6 am, ready for another run-through of the entire script. Sure enough, cat-zilla was under the futon. But this time, he had decided that he. was. not. coming. out.
I finally reached in to grab him and he sank his fangs into both sides of my left thumb. Yowww! Dripping blood, I went to wash out the two puncture wounds, while the cat smirked. He did not get his insulin shot. He did not get breakfast, either.
By noon my thumb had swollen to twice its size, unbendable, red, throbbing. The very nice medical person at the urgent care place told those fangs had penetrated the tendon sheath at the knuckle, and that both holes were infected. I hope the antibiotics work.
That night I simply refilled the water dish. Glowering eyes spat hatred, even as I kept my distance. I didn’t even attempt the insulin shot.
By the time the vet opened on Monday, I’d tried pinning, wedging, an extra pair of hands, Kevlar gauntlets, a towel (shredded), a thicker towel (pooped on), a thicker throw rug (quickly attacked, subdued, and sat upon), and finally, pheromones that promise to calm cats. Hah. The vet had no further suggestions, merely suggesting that I eliminate half the feedings in light of the lack of insulin. Yes, I had already thought of that.
Now I’m just praying that this monster is still alive when his owners return at the end of the week. I’m sure they’ll be happy to greet their sweet and loving pussycat. And the next time I need to pet a cat, I’ll go visit a different friend.