As many of you know, we now have a pet cat. (See “Wanted a dog. Got a cat.” for the details of how she came to live with us.) It’s been about 15 weeks now, and I still don’t speak cat. I’m not sure I ever will because it’s such a difficult language to learn! Cats have so many vocalizations (most of them sounding like kvetching to me), and there are no changes in facial expression—that I can detect–to understand the context.
She greets me with a very muted “mrr,” which I interpret as “Hi, there, beloved owner!” When she comes downstairs to a) eat, b) poop, or c) stretch out on a part of the townhome that gets direct sunlight, she’s silent. But when those activities are completed, or she gets bored, she’ll serenade us with a series of four or five increasingly louder “Me-e-e-ows.” I think we’re safe in concluding she’s not happy. She wants us to stop what we’re doing, go upstairs to the bedroom, lie down, and then wait for her to leap onto the bed so we can provide rhythmic petting, belly rubbing, and an arm to snuggle against. And we often obey.
Life with Maude is delightful. Sure, there are the bits of poop I have to scoop up and deposit in the Litter Genie (yes, new moms, they do make these things for cats, patterned after your indispensable Diaper Genie). True, I have to put out bowl after bowl of little brown pellets that look and smell unappetizing but that Maude seems to like. And yes, the pet hair remover roller is our frequent companion. But she repays us…with love. How do I know she loves me? Let me count the ways:
- She butts me with her head, sometimes in odd and tender places. They’re hard butts. This behavior, according to online cat gurus, is a sure sign that your cat is rubbing her scent onto you and making you part of her own family. I’ll take their word for it.
- She likes to sleep with her head and one paw on my extended arm.
- She’s always purring when I pet her.
- She swishes her tail across my arm (and sometimes across my mouth, which I try to discourage).
- She licks my hand and my arm. When I told her previous owner (my lovely daughter) about this, she was surprised because, as she said, “Maude’s not a licker.” Then I felt bad. I didn’t want to give the impression that I thought Maude liked me better than her former family of 10 years. But Maude went from a three-cat household in which both owners worked full-time to one in which somebody is almost always home, and she’s the fussed-over, snuggled, spoiled Princess.
And do I love her back? Absolutely. (It’s obvious in the names I call her, other than her given name, which she rarely responds to (she’s a cat!). There’s Cutie Pie, Baby Doll, Sweetheart, Little One (she’s only 10 pounds), Pretty Kitty (she’s almost 11 years old), and Kitten Caboodle (which is a name I used in a sing-song way with one of my daughters when she was a baby; I wish I could remember which daughter…). I haven’t yet called her “My Sweet Patootie,” but that’s on the tip of my tongue. (How it got there is a mystery.)
My husband’s favorite name for her is “Le Croissant,” with genuine French pronunciation (leh CWAH-sahn). This came about because, when she’s sleeping in a certain curled-up position, she’s actually the shape of a croissant! (See photo.)
But there’s another advantage I noticed about having Maude with us: Owning a pet is a great way to hide the fact that you talk to yourself. I say lots of things in the guise of talking to the cat, but everyone knows that she can’t possibly understand what I’m saying. She can’t be expected to react to: “Where did I put the remote control?” or “I need to wash my underwear…I’m running out.” But with a cat in the room, you don’t stop and notice that you’re actually talking to yourself and worry that you’re sliding down that slippery slope…you know what I mean.
Now we’re about to test her love for us. She’s been scratching her ear and sometimes crying out in pain when she scratches. It’s time for her to see a vet. We spent some time researching area vets online because her former vet is located in Chicago’s west loop area. It has one parking spot. Driving downtown is tedious and an inconvenience, to say the least. And Maude does not like the cat carrier (does any cat?) nor riding in the car. I’m sure she doesn’t like a vet visit either. But we found one not too far away and have an appointment tomorrow. I’m wondering how many licks I’ll get after that.