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March 24, 2009

I Don't Like My Cat

-2 I don’t like my Harlem cat.

My cat is crazy. She stalks me and the kids. She stalks the air. She eats rubber bands and cotton swabs and then politely regurgitates them all over my floor. She has an odd and unnatural affection for plastic bags. The only time she’s not whining for food is when she’s eating. She runs through the house like she’s being chased by the devil. And those are her good qualities.

Psycho Kitty is quite fond of my bag of to-be-shredded mail. She pounces on top of it like it’s a mountain she’s conquered. She gnaws and bats at the plastic ties. When I approach, she looks like she wants to hiss at me, but then thinks better of it. To her credit, she has never hissed at me, or even scratched me. I think she knows it would be her last hiss or scratch in my house.

The cat, whose name is Princess, although she also answers to "Cat!" sleeps in my room every night. Every morning, she startles me out of whatever sleep I might be enjoying at 4 am, with a low volume whine that means "I’m hungry." I ignore the whining for about an hour.

At 5 am, the cat does something she knows will drive me ballistic and force me out of bed -- like scratching at my wicker hamper or my box spring. Or jumping into the window next to my bed and sending my clock radio crashing to the floor. Still, out of spite, I refuse to get up. This happens Every. Single. Morning.

On weekdays, the cat and I play this…well, cat and mouse game, until my alarm goes off and it’s officially time for me to get out of bed. On weekends, when there’s no alarm, it’s worse. Instead of continuing to ignore her at 5 am, I get up and open my bedroom door. When she runs out to her food dish, I close it behind her.

She penalizes me for that brief moment of triumph by ratcheting up the volume. The whining grows louder by the hour. She claws at my bedroom door. She sticks her paw underneath the door and rattles it, repeatedly, until I get up. I’m awake the whole time, refusing to acquiesce, refusing to reward bad cat behavior. I lie there, hoping the noise wakes one of the kids. It never happens. She wins every time.

The cat not only sleeps in my room, she hangs out in my room. Right now, my cat is grooming herself on the rug between my bed and the Pilates machine I never use. By "rug," I mean my $1400 Oriental rug from ABC Carpet, now scratched bare in places, covered in white cat hair and pretty much ruined. I don’t fool myself into thinking the cat hangs with me because she likes me. I know the cat hangs with me because I feed her. And maybe because she’s keeping her friends close and her enemies closer.

The cat is one of the few things that survived my divorce. I have always been a dog person, but I was never thrilled with the idea of being a dog owner in New York City. My ex-husband wanted a dog. I said no. So he went out and got a dog.

Since he had a dog, I demanded a cat. I didn’t just want a cat because my ex defied me and got a dog. At the time, my friend had a cat -- the sweetest, most loving, most adorable cat. When I would visit, her cat would jump on my lap and purr incessantly. I will admit, having a warm, soft, furry cat purr on your lap is a rather singular experience. All that warm vibration makes you understand how cat ladies get to be cat ladies.

My ex went out and got me a cat. I was supposed to be satisfied. He had his dog, and I had my cat. You already know that didn’t work out.

The cat hated the dog. The dog was too stupid to realize the cat hated her. She would try to play with the cat, and the cat would go into a snarling, hissing, clawing attack. The dog was too stupid to realize she was about 3 times bigger than the cat, and inevitably would go cowering into a corner.

My cat seemed fearless. I now realize she was just crazy.

The real question is, why do I still have this cat if I dislike her so much?

The easy answer? The kids. Although that’s not entirely true. My daughter dislikes the cat even more than I do. When I ask Cami to feed the cat in the morning, the grumbling is loud and profound. I stopped including "litter box" on the kids’ list of chores because I got tired of the complaints.

It’s really because of my son. Randy loves the cat. But his seven-year-old boy love is intense and rough. The cat steers clear of the only person who truly likes her. He can’t be deterred. He crouches outside her litter box, waiting to grab her as soon as she comes out. He lies next to her on my cat hair-covered rug while she grooms herself. His clothes are often covered with enough cat hair to make an entirely new cat.

Whenever I suggest getting rid of the cat, my daughter just shrugs in her annoying, pre-teen way. My son becomes upset.

"No, Mommy, we have to keep Princess!"

"Why?"

"Because we love her!"

"No, we don’t. You do."

"Well, because I love her, then."

"Then why don’t you take care of her?"

"Because that’s your job."

And, for now, it is. I’m keeping a cat I don’t like because my son loves it. It may not seem fair, but somehow, it feels exactly right.

Original to NYC Moms Blog.  Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer and writer who lives in Harlem with her two children and one crazy cat.


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