Some of you might know that I am an evolutionary biologist who is currently unemployed. While I continue my two-year long job search, I have been trying to survive by working as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at a local college, a job that barely pays my rent, and as a freelance writer and an animal care provider, in an attempt to pay all my other bills. Most of my animal care clients are cats, although I do care for some dogs and, when I am lucky, even a few parrots.
This week, I am caring for a certain feline whom I will refer to here as HellKitty* while her human vacations in a remote region in China. As her pseudonym implies, this cat is the most miserable and hateful creature I've ever met. HellKitty is hugely overweight, can barely walk and apparently spends all of her time sleeping or eating. Because HellKitty was recovering from anesthesia the day when I first met her, I was blissfully unaware of the depth of her passions. It turns out that she had visited her veterinarian (whom she also despises) earlier that same day, and he had trimmed and filed her claws smooth and had shorn off all of her long, thick fur, exposing her 22 pounds of righteous outrage to the world.
She looked ridiculous and she knew it.
Initially, during our introductory pre-cat sitting meeting, HellKitty gave me a friendly and interested sniff but, quickly realizing her mistake, she immediately set about correcting it by hiding under the bed, growling and hissing ferociously. HellKitty's human slave, whom she apparently only tolerates, feigned confusion about her "uncharacteristic aggression", blaming the anesthesia. I was clearly too astonished by her behavior to correctly read the warning signs and back out of this job before it was too late.
Usually, feline personality disorders such as these are not a problem for cat sitting, except in those rare cases where the cat sitter is required to routinely violate the cat's personal boundaries. Unfortunately, HellKitty is a rare case because she suffers from diabetes mellitus and thus, must have insulin injections every 12 hours, or she will die. This of course means that the cat sitter (me) has to touch her twice per day. My mistake; HellKitty never gave me permission to touch her and there was nothing I could say or do to convince her otherwise. After working with HellKitty for four days, I have concluded that she is not especially bothered by the insulin injections as most people might suspect, but instead, she simply hates people and she especially hates to be touched by strangers.
When I was a very young kid, I was attacked by a cat as I took the garbage out. It was a warm summer evening, and I remember seeing a beautiful Siamese cat sitting on the back porch looking at me as I walked to the compost pile. I reached my open hand out towards the cat and suddenly, I found the cat hanging off my left arm by its claws, its teeth moving up and down my arm like a cartoon chicken pecking its way up and down an ear of corn. It seemed that I stood there for at least an hour in horrified fascination, watching this cat's teeth punching their way through my flesh like twin sewing machine needles and seeing red, red blood spurt in all directions. It was like watching a movie.
I heard the plastic bowl containing the garbage drop to the cool green grass with a soft plop as I reached out my right hand to slap the cat, startling it such that it went flying from my arm and ran into the alfalfa field a short distance away. Much of the rest of that day and the next is a blur, but I do remember sitting in a hospital room being questioned at great length by medical doctors, veterinarians and animal control officers about the cat. The Cat, The Cat, The Cat.
I remember telling them that it was all my fault, that I should not have tried to pet The Cat.
I also recall that the result of this discussion was that I almost was subjected to rabies vaccinations -- they were described to me as having a foot-long needle jabbed through your belly button and into your spine once per day for 30 days. I remember trying visualize in my mind's eye what a foot-long needle might have looked like, what it could have felt like as it poked through my guts and finally pierced my spinal cord. I realize now that this vision gave me nightmares for years afterwards. In view of this, it's odd that I am not afraid of cats (nor needles), that I am actually quite fond of cats (and I tolerate needles).
So here I am, a few decades later, trapped in a tiny Manhattan apartment, facing down a partially shaven cat who is screeching like a mountain lion while I hold a teeny-tiny needle in my hand. After I wrapped a thick towel around HellKitty's body and pinned her down so that I would not be bitten, I injected her in the scruff of the neck with the life-saving insulin. I then released her and jumped back as quickly as possible, watching her struggle free of the towel, screeching madly all the while.
As I left the apartment, I found myself sweating and shaking uncontrollably, feeling faint. Inexplicably, I could smell sweet green alfalfa ripening under the summer sun and I could hear the distant echo of a screeching cat as it methodically bit its way up and down a tanned child's arm, leaving scars that I carry to this day.
* Not her real name, although it ought to be.
NOTE: the picture (above, top) is not HellKitty, it is an imposter. But it gives you an idea what HellKitty's haircut looks like.
This story was included with the 71st issue of The Carnival of Cats,
"Best of Cat Blogging".
© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist