Archive for the 'My Cat' Category


Goodbye, Minnesota’s Rose

Catherine and Wain

Catherine Jensen and Wain McFarlane, Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, Minneapolis, May 2010

It seems impossible, ridiculous really, that we are bidding goodbye to our dear friend Catherine today. Just five days ago we had no idea she was even ill.

We got the news late on Sunday night, that she’d taken a turn for the worse, that she’d been on life support, that she was going to die.

The word “shocking” isn’t nearly accurate. What word is? There is no word for this feeling. There is no poetry for this. One moment, not a thought about her. The next, she is nearly gone. Continue reading ‘Goodbye, Minnesota’s Rose’


the saddest thing in the world

At first it’s alarming and briefly terrifying. And then it’s just heartbreaking.

I’m getting ready for work, rummaging in the closet, talking softly to myself — wallet, keys, phone — thinking of the first things I have to do when I get to the office. I am totally lost in my own head, totally alone.

I back up with my jacket in my hand. I am about to close the door, and manoeuvre an arm up my sleeve, and—

rrrrrrrreeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaoooooorrrrgh!  Continue reading ‘the saddest thing in the world’


Scat cat, or every creep that creepeth

When a situation is hard to control, we say “it’s like herding cats,” because cats are bloody hard to control—especially mine. Humans, by comparison—pet owners, especially—are much easier.

However, I can happily report that I have managed a coup of animal behavior control that might make a student of Burrhus Frederic Skinner jealous.

The New Yorker published a remarkable profile of Michele Bachmann in August that delves a bit into (among a great many other things) her devotion to a political conservative Christian principle called Dominionism. It’s based on Genesis 1:26.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Somehow it applies to the notion among some politically active conservative Christians that their ultimate goal is to gain control over every secular civil institution in the country through political action to create (they would say “restore”) a theocratic government run exclusively by Christians.

Makes sense as a metaphor: Control the animals, control the earth, control the system. And there are a lot of politicians who seem to creep about upon the earth. Though I know fundamentalist Christians hate metaphor. To them it’s either the plain truth, or it’s not in the Bible.

But to turn back to the original text, in which god is telling Adam and Eve to make use of animals—not, I might add, to annihilate Barack Obama—this may be one area where Bachmann and I overlap in our beliefs. And it’s specifically in regards to my cat.

Continue reading ‘Scat cat, or every creep that creepeth’


Here, kitty, kitty…

Thursday afternoon, on my way to the post office, I passed the fenced-in front grounds of a Catholic school in my neighborhood. The school day was over, so I was surprised to hear a woman’s voice inside the fence over the sound of my headphones.

She held the leashes of two dogs with one hand and her phone with the other. The dogs seemed agitated and restless, but she ignored them, carrying on as if she were talking to a girlfriend about her date last weekend or a sale at the Acme.

Ten paces further I saw a group of people clustered around a tree, each of them looking upward. None of them was wearing a coat, despite the snow and the cold. Glancing upward myself, I saw a cat, totally exposed in the leafless upper branches.

Two teenage girls were calling up to the cat, who seemed to be in no mood to come down. They held something up to it. It was white. It looked like a snowball, but I assumed it must be something else. Surely they were trying to coax it down with with something that would actually attract it.

“She’s scared. She senses the dogs nearby,” someone said.

No kidding. The dogs are as plain as day, and no more than 30 feet away. I guess it’s good that the woman is holding her dogs back, I thought, but as long as they’re there, whining and yipping, that cat is going to stay put. Doesn’t anyone watch cartoons?

Continue reading ‘Here, kitty, kitty…’


Cat and Mouse

Our cat discovered a mouse the other day. This in itself does not bother me. The benefit of having a house cat is to keep the mice away.

What is somewhat bothersome, however, is for Jeff to come home one day to catch her in the act of taunting a half-paralyzed rodent, batting it across the floor like a shuffleboard disc. The human intrusion distracted the cat just long enough for her prey to crawl under the refrigerator to die in peace.

So now we have a dead mouse somewhere under our fridge. This is not a terribly difficult problem to solve. But now I fear that our cat, starved for excitement in an environment not built for her, has re-awakened a carnivorous desire. She will remember those days spent outdoors in Minneapolis, before we moved her to this urban prison. And even though she may appear to be lying calmly on my lap, she will secretly always have one eye open and both ears tuned to the hunt.

There’ll be no living with her now.


Now That’s Entertainment!

Maybe the cat has the right idea, perched on the radiator, watching the snowfall this morning through slitted eyes. She twitches just the tip of her tail from time to time as I might tap my finger. Not bored, but content. And maybe a bit expectant.

One can see the snow only against the buildings and cars and the skeletons of trees. Glancing skyward, it seems to disappear against the gray. But it’s there. Traffic is quiet; schools are closed: the world in slow-motion. I already hate the rain that will come later to beat it down and flush it away.

Actually, she might just be staring at the wall across the alley.

Still, I suppose the principle is the same.


Defending Territory

What is it about a dog that encourages people with no interest in each other under normal circumstances to interact with each other?

Since I have been dog-sitting these last few days for a traveling friend, I have earned all kinds of attention. Carrying a dog, puts one in an instant spotlight. I am not just the anonymous guy who wants to be left alone on his way around the block. I am A Guy with a Cute Little Dog. People come out of the woodwork to say hi — just not to me.

“You have a beautiful puppy,” a woman said on the sidewalk. Absent the dog, would she have thought to remark about the weather or stop to tell me my zipper is down? Hardly. The dog invites the niceties.

Even my surly neighbor, with her enormous, thuggish boyfriend, crouched down in the elevator on the dog’s first day in the building. “Hey, there,” she said allowing the dog to sniff her hand. When she asked me “What’s her name?” I counted the most words she had said to me in a year.

“Honey,” I said.

“Oh, how cute.”

“Yeah, she’s just visiting,” I said gamely but awkwardly, startled by the excitement I felt, hopeful we might speak more. Maybe she’s nicer than she seems, I thought.

But that was it for three floors.

Conversely, the harmless old guy on the subway had a lot to say as I held Honey on my lap in her stylish polka-dot carrier bag. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“A girl.”

“She looks tired.”

“Yeah, she’s had a busy day.”

Honey rides in style on the G train. Heh… “Honey on the G Train.” Sounds like the title of an urban porn film.

I realized for the first time the power of talking about yourself through your dog. I should try it more often. Honey’s not coming to work today. Honey doesn’t feel like doing the laundry. What I was really saying was that I was tired and didn’t want to talk. Don’t come closer to pet my dog, and don’t ask me questions about her. I am just minding her for a friend. Apart from her breed and her name, I don’t know much.

“I bet you she’s just going to go right to sleep when you get her home.”

“Hmmm.” With any luck, I thought, I will.

“How old is she?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“How old do you think she is?”

“I have no idea. Maybe three?”

He directly addressed Honey with various and sundry encouraging affectations, though I couldn’t properly hear him through the rasp in his voice and the din of the wheels on steel.

“May the wind be at your back and God hold you in the palm of his hand. That’s Irish wisdom,” he said to me after downing a tea-colored 50 mL bottle.

About as Irish as that whiskey, I thought.

Usually what I get is a “Mira! Perrito!” from small children as Honey races by on the sidewalk eager to sniff the next clump of weeds at the edge of a neighbor’s lawn.

I felt like a prick when a couple of parents clearly wanted me to stop with the dog, but I merely smiled and continued walking right past them even as they stopped so their stroller-bound child could see her. I just defer to the dog. She doesn’t want to stop, and neither do I. So I let her dictate the next move. Sorry, I’d totally stop, but my dog … well, you know how she can be.

It’s a strange feeling to interact with people while being invisible. A family with two small children was talking about the dog on the train the other day. The kids would wave and make funny faces at Honey while their ice cream cones dripped on the floor. Their parents said encouraging things to them en Español. And every time I looked up, the kids turned away, looking embarrassed, and the adults stopped talking. Turn away, and they burst into action. Look up, and silence.

My cat doesn’t care how big Honey is or what her carrier bag looks like. Her primary concern is the strange new intruder.

She outweighs the dog by at least 50%, and Honey is scared of her. She won’t walk past her. We keep them separated, but Mukau camps out at the doorway of the spare bedroom where we keep the dog, guaranteeing that she stays there.

They get along fine, as long as they stay out of each other’s way, but sometimes out of the clear blue Mukau just gets it into her head to mess with the dog. I was giving the cat some extra attention one day thinking she may be getting resentful of our houseguest, and in the middle of a hearty belly scratch, she leapt to her feet, darted across the floor, and started hissing and batting at poor Honey. It’s like, “Ooh, that’s good. Up a little bit. Up. Yeah, right there… Ohhh… Oh — wait a minute. Sorry, there’s um… this thing… that I, um… forgot to do. Be right back. Won’t take me a minute. Just gotta scratch this dog’s eyes out.”



Since a friend of ours asked us to watch her cat Xena for her, I have felt like I’m cheating on my cat. Xena is really a standard, black, short-hair domestic cat. Nothing special. A dime a dozen. But like any ordinary mistress, she is completely enchanting.

Her eyes are gorgeous — smoldering dark amber coals against night-colored fur. My cat is colored like a holstein.

Xena is thin and sleek, nearly weightless. She moves like a shadow. Mukau is obese and graceless; grunting comically with every leap of her corpulence.

I fed Xena a quarter of a can of cat food and gave her a bowl half full of dry food yesterday, and this morning the canned was gone and the dry was hardly touched. This morning, when I fed Mukau half of her normal serving of dry food, she wolfed it down, turned toward the oriental rug and vomited it all back up. Each nugget was intact. She had not even bothered to chew.

And yet, Mukau is very soft and warm. She is large enough to wrap herself around you, and it’s lovely when she does. She is sweet and quiet. She sleeps with me, on top of the covers, in the valley between my knees. Sometimes if she catches me on my back, she’ll crawl onto my chest and wheeze softly into my face until I fall asleep. And though she is just using me for ambient body heat, she certainly does a lot of it and seems to enjoy it. She is good company.

I guess the grass is always Xena on the other side, right? But I’ll take Mukau. My dalliance with Xena ends tomorrow. Suppose Mukau can smell another cat on me. And suppose she forgives me. If she can forgive me, I think I owe her the generosity of my full attention. Funny that she’s the house cat, and I’m the one to stray.


Feed Me. Now. OK… Now. (No, really. Now!)

The fat one is ruled by that weird little beeping box. It’s perfectly ridiculous. Any sensible cat knows when she is hungry from the emptiness inside. But this one waits until that box bleeps every morning before rising to feed me. Despite the plainly stated reminders I gently whisper from across the room in my softly melodious voice.

Sometimes he’ll get my hopes up when he stirs. But as I dash toward the door, fervently calling out my thanks over my shoulder, I am often met with a pillow he has sent sailing across the room instead of the reverberating thuds of his footsteps.

The thin one doesn’t even move, unless it’s to pack his pillow more tightly around his head.

It’s enough to drive a self-respecting housecat to hunt. Right. Hunt what, exactly? Dust bunnies? In this dismal prison I have been reduced to such desperate acts as shredding whole rolls of toilet paper, or climbing atop dressers and tables and nudging artfully selected items to the floor.

To add insult to injury, they are also giving me less food these days. If they are not careful, I could lose weight, and we can’t have that. I mean, would they dare? Is it possible? In this place they have removed all exercise from my otherwise active and vigorous lifestyle. Sometimes I need to gallop from one wall to another just to produce a heart beat, just to prove I still can. Now I need to take 20 naps a day instead of my customary 18. I am all but forced to sit at the window, looking out into open air — where is the grass, by the way? the trees? — at those pesky, those dirty, those delicious pigeons.

If they don’t begin to treat me better, I think I will kill a mouse or a large insect and leave it on their bed.

I could do it, too.


Kitty Liberation Day

The unwilling captive

November 24 henceforth shall be known as Kitty Liberation Day. We expect Bloomberg any day now to issue his proclamation stating words to this effect.

One of nine friends we had invited for Thanksgiving is allergic to our cat, Mukau. And she’s a big girl. There’s a lot to be allergic to! So we knew we had to do something drastic. On Tuesday evening, I thoroughly swept and vacuumed the bedroom and invited Mukau in. While she lay comfortably on the bed, I moved her food and water dishes and her litter box into the bedroom. She quietly regarded my bizarre activity. I left the room, and closed the door behind me.

“Forgive me, kitty,” I said.

She was my prisoner.

I put a fan in the open living room window to blow out as many allergens as possible while I moved the furniture and swept the floors and vacuumed the rugs and vacuumed the furniture. Then I washed the floors. The place was gorgeous. It smelled disinfected. Surely, there would be no allergic reactions from anyone.

Naturally, five minutes after his arrival, our friend was popping Benadryl. So much for that.

Every time we went into the bedroom Tuesday night, all day Wednesday, all day Thursday, the cat tried to get out. The moment she heard our footsteps, she’d run to the door and spring toward our feet to attempt escape every time we opened it. She got more and more crafty, and her senses are far better than ours in every respect, but she always hesitated just enough for us to be quicker than she was.

She grew angrier each time. Once, there was a scuffle, and it got a little rough. She was getting desperate. I guess it spooked her, because she hid under the bed for a few hours afterward. We’d open the door, and she’d peek just her little head out from under the dust ruffle. A room made for our comfort and safety had become a torture chamber for her, for all she knew.

She complained loudly from behind the door. She had food and water. She had her potty. She had a west-facing view from the window. But even her little walnut brain had the capacity for enough object permanence to know that there was a world beyond that door that she was not a part of.

Every cry she uttered increased our guilty conscience. But our friend was having such fun hopped up on Benadryl and red wine.

Early this morning, not a minute after our friend left, I opened the door and stepped aside. Mukau looked up and muttered. She looked at the door. She looked at me. She started as if to hop off the bed, but she stopped. Could she trust us? Was this another nasty human trick?

the untallied hours