We moved to Seattle with two cats that we'd adopted from a feral cat rescue when they were wee kittens.
FIRST OF ALL you should all know, because I didn't, that when an airline lets you bring the cat onto the plane as your carry-on, and you must first pass through security, you have to TAKE THE CAT OUT OF THE CARRIER and hold it, IN YOUR ARMS, as you walk through the X-ray machine. And then. THEN! You have to wrestle the panicked, borderline-psychotic cat back into the carrier in the middle of the fucking airport. What the holy shit. I was in LaGuardia having a no-holds-barred bitch-off with the TSA agent.
Me: I'm sorry, you mean I have to open the carrier and take the cat out.
Me: Seriously? That's, like, a policy. I have to carry a cat. In my arms.
Me: Through a crowded, loud, busy, scary airport.
Me: And then I have to put him back in. When he's already freaked out. GREAT. That's exactly what I wanted to do this morning at 5:18 am. Wow. I mean, honestly, wow. Do you think that's the best way to handle this situation? It's seriously dangerous, and like, inhumane. Who came up with this idea? Obviously not a pet owner. Or anyone who's ever spent any time at all around any cat. Honestly? Seriously? Are you serious right now?
Me: (unzips carrier)
She had tattooed eyebrows and wielded silence with the cool detachment of a sociopath.
We moved here with our two cats and stayed with Ryan's parents (and their four cats) until we found a place. 6 cats and one house is a recipe for 6 pissed off cats. And when cats get pissed...
I will never forget the night we all sat down to dinner at Ryan's parents' table, and Nero jumped up on the counter right next to us, met my eyes, and held my gaze with that sociopathic chill even as he peed all over the microwave.
Those months put the cat p in catastrophe.
(You don't have to say anything.)
(It just happened.)
(It was so organic.)
When we moved out and got our own place, the cats never furinated again.
(YES. FURY + URINATED = FURINATED.)
That is, until this past year.
Chicken had arrived in 2012 and they ran for cover but, thanks to ignorance and arrogance, remained in a state of cowering indignation. They didn't really believe he was, like, a thing. I mean 2 years in they were still popping their heads into his room and then looking up at us like Wow. Still? This guy cannot take a hint, huh?
Then Buster was born and the furry urine fury returned with a bang. Or perhaps a hiss. They peed on his play mat. They peed on our bed. They were trying to tell us, in the most literal way possible, that they were pissed.
I mean, I get it. They already have Chicken thundering around the house. No cat wants to be woken up from his crucial eighth nap of the day with the words, "CAN I RIDE IT MOMMY?" They'd already set up 24-hour crisis napping HQ in the safe haven of the basement.
So when another one came home, squalling and floppy, this time they knew exactly what was in store, and if it was more of what they'd already been served they were sending that shit back posthaste.
And honestly, you guys, we were right there with them.
The first days of a new baby are always tough, as you try to gather the scraps of your old life and rearrange them like some new age tile puzzle into a quilted-back-together existence. We waited it out to see if they would settle down. They didn't. They got worse. We established a three-strikes rule, just to set a deadline in our own heads. That very day we found 2 pee spots in the house.
They were still living almost exclusively in the basement, only coming upstairs when it was time to eat or after the kids were asleep, but at that point in our night we had given exactly 100% of what we had to give. We couldn't even summon the give-a-fuckitude to hold each other's hands, much less throw a mouse toy for a creature we weren't genetically bound to protect.
So I wrote a craigslist post offering them up to a loving home. I thought yeah, right, I'll have to re-publish this one fifteen times before anyone even emails me, and then it'll probably be the scary bearded lady in a motorized scooter who hangs out at the Safeway to ask shoppers to pay her cable bill. Next day I got an effusive and polite email written in complete sentences, with correct spelling and grammar, from a semi-retired teacher looking for a couple of adult feline companions. When I say it like that it sounds questionable but I swear, it was on the up and up.
We met her, and she took our cats home.
I felt guilty, but mostly just guilty about how relieved I was. Ryan felt guilty because we'd made these animals a promise to care for them for their entire lives, and he felt that he had broken that promise.
The way I saw it, we were breaking that promise by keeping them in a situation that was making them pissy and cranky, relegating them to the humanless basement when they'd always been devout lap cats. This way they got to have the home they deserved - a loving new guardian who cared for them with joy, rather than irritation or grim determination to meet the bare minimum of maintaining their pulses.
I don't regret what we did. Our boys were, at best, years away from making any kind of reasonable connection with the cats. I'm glad that we decided not to suffer through, all of us, when there was a way for all of us to be happy instead.
I think a lot about Joni Mitchell's line, "there's something lost and something gained in living every day." We lost the guilt that plagued us every time we yelled at a cat for meowing, or decided to just close the basement door rather than try to go down and play with them. We gained new guilt, of course - we sent them away. They must be so scared. They must be confused.
For the record, yeahnope. Send a cat to live with a trim fifty-something cat lover, and give him full reign in her sprawling child-free home, and he's not gonna be scared. They settled right the fuck in, thank you very much. Honestly, I am super jealous of them a lot of the time. Like tonight.
Tonight I had to assume a secret identity to make sure that Chicken ate dinner WHICH WAS DELICIOUS AND NOT EVEN HEALTHY. I had to do multiple voices to get him to sit and eat hot dogs and oven fries. I would so much rather be dozing on a sun-bathed windowsill.