Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Cat Story

Lately my wife and I have been having this conversation.
       I say: "You don't care that we have god knows how many wild cats around the house." There were ten but I like to exaggerate for emphasis. But they were wild all right. (She calls them feral, as if that were some sort of excuse.) "They are pissing and shitting all over the place and destroying the house, and we have to get rid of them. But oh no, why should you care?"
      "I have done everything that I can think of to get rid of those cats, but the shelters are full up to the ceiling and nobody will take them."
      "You know why," I say. "It's because you love animals. Babies and animals. And you really don't want to get rid of them."
      And so on the conversation goes.
      And I am walking away, because I have had enough with cats, feral or otherwise. And now she is mad at me for walking away in the middle of everything. After a short break we start up again. "You know I don't want the truth, I just want to get rid of those cats."
      "Okay, you call the dog officer. He won't do anything."
      "Okay. I will."
      In a few minutes I'm on the phone with the dog officer. "Oh, I've got fifty feral cats to pick up," he says. "I'll put you on the list." Which is exactly what he said two months ago.
      "Just a minute. We're old, I'm retired. They're tearing up my house. I have to get rid of them. I'll donate." My wife is in the next room and she is beginning to giggle. She thinks this is funny.
      "Well, ten cats," says the dog officer, "that's two thousand dollars."
      So that's a fine story. They are going to spend two thousand dollars on ten feral cats! I mean, it's not my fault they reproduce the way they do.
      "Two thousand dollars," I repeat, croaking.
      My wife thinks this, if it were not nonsense, is getting funnier and funnier. She always did have a great sense of humor.
      "I think I can catch them," I groan. "It may take awhile."
      So the dog officer says what he always says. I'll call this and that. Friends of feral felines. He mentions numerous places to call. Friends of feral felines is on vacation till mid January. Cats don't reproduce till spring. He claims this to be a positive. It seems to me these big animals I am feeding every day are in a perfect mood for breeding anytime now, hard winter or no. I could easily have forty or fifty kittens on my hands by May. The thought is an absolute nightmare.
      I'd like to blurt out, "I'm gonna kill the bastards. I'm gonna move them into the deepest darkest forest along the border of nowhere." You hear about these people all the time never realizing what a fix they are in. Cats are like Chucky: they die hard. And anyway I can't do that. I guess that means I am fortunate, because you hear that people who try to end their personal cat nightmare by poison or "drop off"—I love that phrase—do on occasion get caught and they are beset by a swarm of feline lovers so they never see the end of it. Technically it is against the law. You can do jail time. I'm trying to calm down. "Well what should I do?"
      Again. "I'll call around." He mentions the fifty other wild ones.
      "Okay. Maybe you can pitch the donation?"
      I suddenly imagine a rock hard faced woman, they are feline lovers, you see them on the TV all the time, laughing at what an idiot I must be.
      "Okay. Well. Bye," the dog officer says.
      So that's the end of conversation. Now what?
     But my wife has an idea. "If we catch them and spay or neuter them, and we agree to take them back, they might go for it."
      "How about half of them. Five? We take back, maybe?" A long time ago we used to have five cats. They lived up in the barn with the goats. That's where I fed them. Then one of our goats died suddenly, and somebody thought it might be rabies, so he took all the cats, and we never saw them again. (It wasn't rabies, but I always thought I got lucky. Dairy farmers used to be a big help. There was always a little milk around, the cats managed the rats, and the cows managed the cats. But where are the dairy farmers?) I thought if we did get this bunch back and if I fed them in the barn and they stayed there, they might get friendly, and I might be able to put up with them. What happened to those cats many years ago I was never sure, but they never came back, and the way I look at it, it was a lot more enlightened time.
       But that is my theory. The majority have become assaulted by a sort of madness in which a tiny, loud minority can hold a majority at bay through terror. While a few quake and grumble and squawk, the majority is silent, not even a quiet rebuke forthcoming. The irrational lives next door.
       I wish I knew where these cats came from. I see them streaking here and there every time I drive into the dooryard. We did have a problem at one time, then the cats went away, and now they are everywhere.
       Our house cats are of course neutered. They each had a litter, but the kittens were eagerly sought after and gone in a day or two of weening. It is always charming to see young children and adults, too, walk out the door in total delight hugging a sweet, peaceful kitten. My wife claims I live in la-la land. She is tired of it. She has wanted a divorce because of it for the last thirty years.
       I wonder where this story will end. We men are weak. But I have often seen cats wandering the darkness on my way to work. There are six or eight of them, only one of me. Men are weak, cats are strong. Sounds like a good subject for a TV mini-series.

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