Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My Mind Is a Scratching Post

I WANT A CAT. I have had encounters with cats recently that have convinced me of this, including one in my head. To wit:
  • I have become a fan of Tien Mao's Little Read Book, a fine blog of words and gorgeous photos. A frequent subject of these photos is his cat, Mortimer. An Abyssinian, Mortimer is wonderfully photogenic. The camera, as the cliché goes, loves this cat. This was my first sight of Mort, which I found when I tracked back from one of Tien's posts on NYC pizza blog Slice. You can see why I was smitten.
  • My parents have been flirting with the idea of getting a cat themselves. They bought a book on cat care, which I have perused while at their house. While waiting to sleep, I have contemplated what furniture might need to be moved, which plants would have to go (nearly all of them), what delicate pas de deux I would have to enact with the landlord, to make my home ready for a fine feline companion.
  • On the forums of poker-book publisher Two Plus Two, there was a recent thread by a longtime poster in Las Vegas about how a friendly cat — possibly an escaped pet — approached him outside his place, nuzzled his leg, then jumped up onto his shoulders. He fed it and let it back out to take care of its business, but has not seen it since.
  • There is an absolutely darling calico living downstairs, in the apartment to the left of the vestibule. If I am lucky, this thin young cat will dart up to the windowsill, watch me approach, dash into the next room over, jump up onto that sill, and crane his or her head to track my final entry into the building. It is tremendously endearing, especially seeing as I have never actually met this cat.
  • I had a dream on Sunday night in which cats figured prominently. (So maybe I do have something in common with William S. Burroughs.) I was in my childhood bedroom on the second floor of my parents' house (in which they still live). The bed was over next to the window facing the backyard, which chronologically places this dream somewhere around 1980-1983. Looking down at the yard, I saw two cats walking around. One was black, young, and thin; the other was a tortoiseshell. That one suddenly looked up at me — not the window, but dead-on at me — turned, tensed up, and jumped two stories up, to cling to the window screen with his claws. Strangely for a tortoiseshell, he had an all-white underbody. He clung there looking at me for several seconds, claws tense on the wire, then detached himself and dropped, without harm, to the yard.
  • Tonight, while walking home from the train station, I spotted a distinctive silhouette in a third-story window of my building. Sure enough, it was the dark shape of a cat sitting on the windowsill, surveying the parking lot. I couldn't see any movement, but I was sure his or her head was swiveling to follow my progress like a whiskered security camera.
I've got cats on the mind, apparently! Or do they have me on their mind? Hard to tell. They usually don't answer any direct questions. Or when they do, they express it in cat, which takes a discerning eye and heart to decipher. Perhaps they are telling me I have such senses waiting to be tested on a cat of my own.

I have broached this topic with some folks who either own cats, know my place, or both. I am hesitant to make the jump. My apartment — 2½ rooms, bath, galley kitchen — is not huge. I wasn't kidding about having to pare down my plant collection; many of them appeared in my parents' cat book on a list of greenery toxic to felines. But most of all, I am out of the house from 7:30 to 6:30. Eleven hours. I hate to leave an animal alone for so long. If I worked at home, or didn't need to burn an extra 2 hours a day on transit, sure, I could understand it. It seems like too slender an amount of time in which to develop a relationship with a cat, keep it occupied, play with it to help release its energy, and the like. And of course, I am technically allergic to cats.

Yet I have been told that cats will amuse themselves, even over longish periods like this; that this doesn't necessarily make them difficult to housebreak or manage, as long as they have toys and scratching materials. By eliminating most of the plants, I would have plenty of room for either its litterbox or its food (which I know to keep plenty distant). And I say "technically allergic" because I eventually get used to the dander of cats I encounter regularly, to the point where I don't even pop antihistamines before visiting their houses. So some of these barriers might be overcome.

I can almost see it slinking around my furniture, curving its sleek body against my couch, the corner of the kitchen, anywhere it might want to leave its scent. There is a spot on my desk where a cat might like to jump, to observe the cursor moving across the screen of this very computer as I type. I have a basket, not unlike the one in which Mort appears in the photo-link I cite earlier, which for now I use for gym clothes, but which I could imagine a crafty cat nationalizing for the great and glorious cause of its cat dreams.

Perhaps such a cat is dreaming right now, of walking around a modest suburban yard with one of its companions, and looking up to spot a teenage boy peering down from a high window. High, yes, but not too high for a dreaming cat to reach with one mighty jump. Effortlessly it arcs up, to clutch the screen and get a closer look at a face it somehow knows, even without recognizing it, will someday greet it each evening with a smile.

Maybe 2006 is the year in which I help both of us achieve our dreams.

1 comment:

Trish said...

My cats pretty much sleep all day. I am out of the house from 6:45ish to 5:15ish, and they don't seem to mind too terribly. They do have each other for company, though. Oh, I could go on and on about the joys of owing cats. I got both my cats from animal rescue - if I could I would go rescue some more, but my condo complex has a two cat per unit limit. Ah well, I don't want to turn into a total cat lady just yet :) Good luck with your decision!