There’s no love lost between me and the cat that lives in our house. She’s not really my cat; I bought her for one of the kids a while back. There had been a specific Christmas wish for a white kitten with a red ribbon round its neck. I had worked a lot of overtime that year. And I am theoretically smarter than what I am about to say:It was December 23rd, and I just wanted to make it all better with presents.
I found her at the St. Paul Humane Society, the only kitten who fit the Christmas Wish description. I ignored the bloodstained Post-It note attached to the wee beastie’s cage: “Can’t go home with children—behavioral issues!” I bought the snarling, pointy-eared succubus, and invited the devil into our home.
Thankfully, the cat never attacked the kids—just us grown-ups. Over the next few months, my husband and I sustained several hairline lacerations—one that almost sliced my left cornea to ribbons—before I broke down and had our precious baby declawed. The cat resorted to biting. Like a cobra strike, she would sit quietly in a corner, waiting for me and my insolent stocking feet to dare walk past her without offering a semi-soft “fish-flava” niblet in tribute.
“Fool!” she seemed to say. “How would you like tiny puncture wounds in your Achilles tendon? Or perhaps you would rather just be startled out of a sound sleep by the terrifying sight of an eight-pound hissing bomb poised on your chest? As the glowing coals of my beautiful yellow eyes laser beam at you through the darkness, I’ll watch you weighing the chances of covering your face with the thick blanket for protection before I can lunge, jaws snapping. I would laugh, but I am a cat, and such things are beneath me. Instead, I pity you.”
My friend the animal behaviorist told me that our baby was probably suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, possibly the result of an abusive past. My friend said that our cat was also probably depressed, and suggested Prozac—for the damn cat.
See, I come from a long line of practical, uninsured working-class folk. The kind of folk who would not scoff at shelling out for antibiotics for an honored animal who had been injured in the line of duty, but who would definitely draw the line at mood meds other than Leinie’s, and would never, ever waste good beer on a cat.
I decided to approach the problem like any good East Side grandma would: Feed the depression, starve a cold—or something like that. I started double-filling the cat’s food dish; she stopped attacking and started napping more. Presto, no more midnight raids, no more surprise attacks in the hallway. She’s simply too fat and too tired. My husband recently likened the cat to a mini Tonka dump truck; she exists solely to empty out her food drawer, then lumber downstairs to the laundry room to unload her cargo into the shit box.
I disagreed with him, saying that I could see the feelings etched in her angry eyes, hear them in the petulant pitch of her meow if I am late shaking the kibble into her dish. My hub then stated that he thought I was willing to assign the cat feelings because I had feelings about the cat.
I countered that he also must have feelings about the cat, but he insisted that he didn’t. He then shrugged and said that men were different, that men have about one-fourth the feelings that women have, and they certainly wouldn’t waste any of them on murderous psycho house cats.
I’ve come across this before. The old “men and women are different” line. And I’ll tell you what I know is true: We are different, but it’s all in the language.
Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of feelings for this weird cat who shares our home. I’ve felt anxiety, terror, hope, and relief. And I think my husband has experienced many of the same feelings, only he would classify them as thoughts, opinions, or gut reactions. Go ahead and try this at home—pick a topic, any topic, ask a guy what he feels about it, and then listen to the crickets. Wait a day or two, and ask him about his thoughts, opinions, or gut reactions on the same topic. Just make sure you’ve got a comfy place to sit. And if you want to calm him down you can always double-fill his food bowl.
Writer, performer, and femme fatale Colleen Kruse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.