The coldness and cruelty of a cat can sometimes borderline on human abuse.
I love cats, don’t get me wrong. If I have to have pet, it is a cat. If they’re outdoor/indoor cats, they walk themselves, make the world their litter boxes (or occasionally use the one I put out for them), eat the food from the bowl when they feel hungry, clean themselves, they’re quiet and prefer to keep to themselves, and when I feel like snuggling, I only need to put a blanket on my lap and a cat is sure to find it since they have that innate “comfort and heat radar” which guides them to the ideal sleeping place.
Once in a while, though, a cat makes such a statement that I have to bite my lip not to cry.
For example, I have a friend who I call “The Cat Lady,” but not in the traditional sense of the old miser who has lots of cats and is a recluse from society. She is very society-functional and is engaged, but her three cats, however, do rule the roost, so she earned her title accordingly.
I stopped by her house one evening with my boyfriend while I was pet-sitting for her. I was making my rounds putting food in the proper dishes and sweeping the floor around the litter box where the cats had aggressively buried their turds.
I changed the litter, added a deodorant to it, scratched one of the little guys behind the ear, and turned to feed the fish. When I spun back around, the largest cat in the bunch had stepped into the litter box, turned his behind to my boyfriend and I, lifted his tail, and let out the biggest, nastiest poop I’ve ever seen come from a small animal.
We both stood there speechless, mouths gaping slightly, and appalled at the sight.
“That’s a statement, Bec,” he told me. “That cat was totally insulting you by crapping in your freshly cleaned litter box. That was a blatant act of defiance.”
But then I wondered, “Maybe he has a point…”
Another time, my mom and I were at the pet store and we fell in love with a particular Siamese cat that was hissing at everybody that walked past its cage, so, naturally, we bought it (what was the logic there?). It warmed up to us eventually, but occasionally, I would happen to be following her down the hall because I was walking to the same room as its intended destination, and she would whip around, hiss at me, smack my foot with her front paw, and God forbid, that foot better not have been bare.
Another time, a cat I raised from the time she was a kitten, Oreo, came into the house with blood on her white chin and had this wild look in her eye like, “I am no longer the bird virgin. I just made my first kill. My first kill.” I remember being terrified of her for about a week, thinking she was a murderer, before my parents explained that cats are predators at heart.
But then, she laid her paws on my bird. I left the room for just a moment in order to move laundry from the washer to the dryer and I forgot that my hand-fed parakeet was sitting on her play set on top of her cage. I heard lots of squawking and let’s just say… it took lots of emergency surgery to get that bird up and flying again.
She won’t go near any of our three bird’s cages now after all the screaming my mom did that day in order to get her to drop the bird. “The caged ones are off limits,” I could almost see her noting in her little cat head.
Another time, I was laying my head against a bath pillow on the edge of the tub that I’d filled with lavender bubble soap. The room was dark except for a small candle whose flame flickered and danced casting shadows on the walls, and I had relaxation music playing from my iPod player on the counter (yes, it was finals week). I suddenly heard the slow squeak of the bathroom door and squinted in the dim light to see what it was. Before I knew it, the Siamese cat, Ling Ping, had jumped onto the edge of the tub, slipped, and then landed into the tub beside me. There was a flurry of claws and scraping and my screaming and eventually, there was a very humiliated cat that slinked out of the bathroom and lurked on the sidelines of our home the rest of the day with a scowl on her face.
That same cat took a liking to the guppies I was breeding in a tank upstairs in our library. I had been experimenting with genetics, and I had two tanks. Both were filled with water, but only one had fish. Ling Ping decided that she’d stand on the tank without the fish in order to peer into the one beside it that contained the fish. Her foot slipped, and my dad happened to glance up from his book with enough time to see a sopping wet fish-scented cat climb her way out of the ten gallon fish tank.
My other cat, Sophie (which ironically means “wisdom”) has this propensity for trying to kill me on the stairwell. Whenever she sees I am going to climb the stairs, she decides that it is a great time to play the “Try to avoid stepping on me” game which, I’d think, with the risks involved, is a game she wouldn’t want to play. Anyhow, the moment I raise my foot to step on the next stair, she scurries below me with surprising speed that I never see her demonstrate elsewhere in order to lay belly up on the exact spot where I planned to land my foot. As you can imagine, it makes it very difficult and time-consuming to get to the top of the stairs while trying to avoid crushing her or falling to my death doing so.
Sophie also plays the “Poop in the bathtub” game or the “Poop on the top step on the cement stairs in the garage” game. The first game is the one where our entire family spends hours trying to hunt for the turd that is causing the stink, only to discover when we go to take our showers that day that Sophie has pooped in each tub. The second game is the one where she tries to make us slip in her unexpected turd on the top step of the garage. This is so that when we go out carrying a large bin of laundry or find ourselves in a hurry to get our back up dinner items from the cupboards, we step in her poo and fall to our doom.
It’s one thing when it’s from my own cats. It’s an entirely different ball of fur when it is from somebody else’s cats.
I was with a client this afternoon who decided that, after his surgery a few days ago, all he wanted to do was sleep today. He deserved this rest, and it gave me time to study for finals in his pleasant living room by the golf course with its large windows, high ceilings, and bookcases embedded in the walls. It was beautiful, and very quiet. I could hear only the hum of the little box that Direct TV installed.
That hum was interrupted by a “splat, huck, splat, choke, splat, blehhhhhh” noise.
Oh my gosh. What was that?
Hairball? No, definitely not. From the volume of whatever it was that was hitting the carpet after the noise sounded off, it was far more than a hairball. It was my worst fear: vomit.
This cat was projectile vomiting like a foot in front of its face, and massive amounts of chicken and kibbles were coming forth with all kinds of sick colored fluid.
Okay, I know I’m studying to be a nurse and all, and I need to get over this fear, but something comes over me when I hear and see vomit. It’s like, terror washes over me. I freeze and my eyes get wide, or I scream and run as far and fast as I can in the direction opposite of the vomit.
I don’t care if it is human or animal, baby or adult, it sends shivers through my spine, knots up my stomach, and gives me the urge to regurgitate my own lunch.
Today, my reaction was the freeze-and-try-not-to-look reaction, but as much as I tried to turn my head away, I knew I needed to watch so I could explain what happened to the wife of my patient when she returned home from her meeting.
The cat glanced up at me after four rounds of this, and for a moment, I let my shoulders shrug in relief. Good. It was done. Then it closed its eyes, arched its back, and puked again.
Oh my gosh. I felt that “I’m-about-to-throw-up” feeling in the back of my throat.
“This cat is seriously going to make me puke? I am going to be cleaning up two species worth of barf. Hold it together, Becca. Hold it together.”
It paused again, started walking towards me, then puked again, and then again.
Once more, it walked towards me.
“Stop getting closer to me,” I wanted to tell it, but 1) that felt to cruel because this poor creature was getting sick and 2) I had that freeze reaction today and I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t even run.
It got about two feet away from me and puked six inches from my backpack.
I almost died. I ran.
I ran because I could smell the vomit and if I stayed any longer I was going to upchuck the McDonald’s I’d had to grab for lunch all over my patient’s living room floor and explain to the wife why the cat and I were throwing up together.
I heard the puking stop, and after a good two minutes of silence, reasoning that this time, it was probably safe, I returned to the room, holding my breath, trying to take in the damage.
Shoot. Shoot shoot shoot. My backpack was safe, thankfully. Knowing me, if the puke had touched that pack, it would have been in the trash right there and then, and I would spend my next two measly pay checks paying for a new one on Amazon. I spent two years leaping over a two foot spot in our house where my brother had thrown up in a battle with pneumonia when he was five.
Thankfully for my sanity and my income, there wasn’t much left in it by the time it reached my backpack, so it literally threw up powder at that point which, like I said, was about six inches from my belongings.
But the two piles leading up to that one were terrifying. They were the things of my nightmares.
Cat vomit mountains.
I gently rubbed my patient’s back.
“B?” I whispered quietly.
He stirred and opened his eyes.
“I was just waking up. Is Judge Judy on?” He asked me.
“No, but she will be soon. Which one is the big cat?” I asked him.
“Bree. Okay, well, Bree just threw up everywhere. Does she usually do that?”
“Oh. I’m going to call your wife after I clean it up. Do you know where your she keeps the cleaning supplies?”
He had no idea, so the two of us scoured their big house, searching high and low for some sort of pet solution. With three cats and two dogs living in a house, I figured there must be some somewhere.
Finally, in the reject bathroom nobody uses, I found a shelf stocked full of rags, latex gloves, and pet cleaner, some sort of enzyme solution.
I quickly got to work, beginning with doggie bags to get the big stuff, paper towels to get the smaller stuff, changing gloves, dousing the carpet with the enzyme solution after testing it on another more inconspicuous piece of carpet, rubbing it gently with more paper towels, soaking it again, and then, upon the advice of the wife, I placed three old towels on the spots.
During this process, I left the room and went outside for numerous excuses, pretending to look for the sick cat even though I knew where it was, pretending to look for the other two cats, you know, just in case they got sick too, pretending to look for the black trash can on the side of the house, etc. I found any excuse to get myself out of the room to get fresh air to fight the vomit I felt rising in my own throat.
Swallow, I told myself. Swallow. Don’t let this cat win. DO.NOT.THROW.UP.
Mask. I needed a mask. I could do this job just fine if I had a mask.
I keep a nursing bag in my trunk, but I sighed when I realized I had just removed it to organize it earlier in the week. Stethoscopes, gloves, alcohol prep pads, sphygmomanometer, isolation gowns, one way masks for infant and adult CPR, and HEPA masks…they were all at home.
I held my breath and kept cleaning. I cleaned for my lunch. I cleaned for my pride. I cleaned for the keeping of my reputation with this family. They loved me, praised me, and adored me. Recently, every time they had a needed for medical care in the home, they requested me. But they didn’t know my weakness. Their cat, however, did.
We opened the doors and windows, despite the extreme chill, in order to cleanse the house of the rancid smell, and then plopped ourselves down on the couch for an episode of Judge Judy with the heater roaring in the background as we shivered under blankets.
“It smells better,” B commented.
“Yeah it sure does. Thanks for getting me the trash bag while I cleaned that mess up.”
“Sure thing,” he replied. “Did you get any studying done today?” he asked me, pointing at my textbooks.
“I did. Until your cat exploded,” I winked at him.
The cat entered the room, meowing.
It followed me into the kitchen and sat waiting at its food bowl.
“I ain’t feeding you till yo mama gets home, Cat” I placed a bowl of water in front of it, which it welcomed. I scratched its back, carefully avoiding the mouth region.
When the wife of my patient returned home, she thanked me, reminded me that she’d see me tomorrow evening, and apologized for the cat.
“Oh, that? That was no problem at all!” I lied, playing it cool. “Any time. I hope she feels better.”
“Yeah, me too. Strange she threw up. She has feline AIDS, you know.”
Please tell me that couldn’t transfer to humans.
On that note, I should be leaving now so I can go jump into an autoclave.
“Aww, poor little kitty,” I said, as I scratched her head, thinking “What the heck, I’m already infected at this point and probably going to die from feline AIDS, so it can’t hurt to scratch her in the vomit zone.”
I got off work with 40 minutes to make a 35 minute drive to my brother’s high school concert.
My dad texted me, “We’re already at the school because your brother had to arrive thirty minutes early. Go ahead and just come by when you’re done with work. We parked near the front of the school.”
I looked at my clock which was fifteen minutes fast, and veered onto the freeway. I hit the gas and although I was in the slow lane, my odometer read 85 mph. Yeah, for the record, that odometer is incredibly broken and it gets more inaccurate when my speed is past fifty. My GPS crushed my rush of feeling like I was speeding in the slow lane by saying I was going 64 mph.
I made it into our town, saw that I had ten minutes and I said,“Screw it.”
I went straight home, ran inside, tore out of my clothes, throwing everything violently in the hamper, and I yanked on a totally unmatched clean outfit. I hurried to by brother’s concert, sending my parents a text that said, “Got it. Be there in five. Got off work late, had to go home to change and get the smell of puke off my clothes. Cat projectile vomited. Feline AIDS apparently…don’t even ask.”
My dad wrote back, “That’s funny! LOL!”
I replied, “No, dad. Too soon. Too soon.”
I made it to my seat in the concert with two minutes to spare and I my mom suggested I go buy a brownie from the boosters to support the music program. Back in my seat holding a brownie, I thought, “You can do it. Eat the brownie. Eat the food.” It took all my willpower to eat that chocolate (trust me, it usually doesn’t take me any convincing to consume chocolate). “You’re going to have to eat eventually. Why not start now? Eat the brownie. It’s been six hours since you’ve had food. Eat. EAT IT!!!!”
I took a bite.
I knew I’d have to face vomit eventually in my career. But I guess I didn’t expect that my first patient would be an cat with AIDS.
Good thing I started out with a cat, because if that had been a person and I ran from the room and left them puking on their own, I probably would have lost my job.
I think that cats may have it out for me.
The cruelty of a cat…[sigh].