Alex, my wife, recently made the unilateral decision to adopt a cat. Anyone who personally knows me knows I have never been a cat person. In fact I shared Faulkner’s sentiments that while man has domesticated many a wild beast, he has never tamed cats. Indeed, contrary to the affable personality of dogs, felines have always seemed to me like creatures of independence and shyness and subtle savagery.
Imagine my surprise, then, when Alex comes down the stairs schlepping this Bible black cat in the attitude of some four year old girl and says “I need to tell you something.” The long and short of it was that a kind lady approached her in a parking lot looking to find the feline’s owner. The stranger explained it was the sweetest cat whose forlorn condition did not warrant a death sentence at the pound, and did she—my wife—know of anyone who could provide for it? Alex likes to say that she fervently resisted custodianship but could not; I suspect her protests were not nearly as impassioned as she says.
Having introduced me to “Cleopatra,” Alex told of how she purchased all the necessities for the cat, including litter, food, and toys, you know, “in case we wanted to keep her.” Well, what could I do? Cleopatra was busily rubbing me with her face in a foreign sign of what I could only guess was affection. She had nails, too, which I discovered after the cat had kneaded me (more affection?) She purred and slept; she felt robust. She was a little dirty, yet lacked any mangy symptoms from having lived in feline squalor for goodness knows how long. Here was an Artemis-like hunter-survivor who might just do as a house cat.
Among the chores on my honey-do list the next day were to get the Cleopatra relocated to our apartment via car. Lacking a cat carrier, this proved a most harrowing experience. Despite their ability to leap effortlessly atop a book shelf, cats are panicked by the phantom hand of physics. Inertia and centripetal forces might as well have been invisible demons tossing the poor beast to and fro. She was so distraught that at one point, she climbed over my shoulder to the backdoor and triggered the window. It rolled damn near all the way down. So, with my free hand I grabbed for tail and/or leg and threw the cat somewhat abusively back into the front seat (lest she decorate the hood of the vehicle behind us) and locked all the windows. I think I deserve some sort of award for not wrecking (I drive a stick shift). Once at my apartment, a traumatized Cleopatra disappeared beneath the bed, not to be seen again until late that night.
Our first week with Cleopatra was as much a learning experience as marriage. To my relief I learned that, despite my occasional bouts of procrastination, I haven’t any trouble remembering to clean the cat’s litter box and to put food in its bowl. My wife, with her savant-like talent in couponing, has reduced the expenditures on the pet to the point they seem negligible. Still, I decided it might be a good idea to arrange for a veterinarian checkup. Because the car ride may very well have triggered a feline case of PTSD, it was prudent to wait some time before another trip. Yet we were greeted with a surprise the night before the vet.
My wife was petting Cleopatra when she rolled over. I was busily reading when a startled voice yelled “WHAT IS THAT? MARCUS WHAT IS THAT!?” Reader, understand something: having never owned cats I have never bothered to acquaint myself with their anatomy. Still, I was certain that what I saw was not the appendage of any female animal. Alas, Cleopatra was due for a name change.
We decided upon Leo, and for a surname I opted to add “Tolstoy.” Leo was given a clean bill of health at the vet and took his vaccinations as well as any ascetic. I am still adjusting to the idiosyncrasies of cat behavior—the crepuscular activity, the desire to sleep on a laptop, and so on, but I cannot avoid including him as a member my “family.”