Cat Chronicles, Episode #5: Defiance

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

Shadow never did appreciate the fact that she was rescued. It was two days before Halloween. She had a solid black soul… er, I mean fur…, when she crossed my path at just five weeks old.

Against all odds, I pulled over and rescued her.

I gave her a nice, warm home. Nice, delicious food. Nice, wet water (which she now demands that I warm up for her… But that’s another post.)

After sleeping on whatever surface was soft enough for her standards (usually smack in the middle of the dog’s blanket, much to his irritation), I decided she needed a bed of her own.

 

 

I went to the store and promised to let the boys help me decide.

There was a small, round bed that looked just her size. And it was cheap: that’s a plus. But no, the boys wanted something better. I guess it was pretty thin…

They chose a cush, luxurious bed with flexible sides for lounging in all of her odd positions. The boys were very enthusiastic about it. So I forked over the twenty bucks and left with the new bed.

I brought it home and opened the little packet of catnip that came as a bonus, and started to dump it out into the bed.

I hesitated, then decided to text my friend Heather, who is a cat whisperer if I’ve ever seen one.

What do I do with this stuff? I typed. Pour it out into the bed?

Oh no, don’t use the whole packet, she sent back. Take a little out and rub it into the middle of the bed. Then put the bed somewhere that she sleeps often. She’ll come to it.

I thought of the other generous gifts she’d rejected. Remember the scratching post you bought her? That fancy one? She won’t touch it. She still sharpens her claws on the side of the couch. 

Hm… I guess she likes the feel of her claws in the couch better. Give the bed a try. There’s a good chance she’ll love it.

The dog was currently occupying his bed, so I placed the cat bed on the couch cushion she seems to prefer. I called her over and patted her new bed.

She ignored me.

I picked her up and set her down next to it. She followed the scent of the catnip and sniffed the middle of the bed.

I held my breath.

She set one paw in. Then another.

I chewed my nails. Could this possibly be the one moment she finally accepts me?? I mean, not that it matters or anything…  Ahem.

She sniffed around a little more, then stepped back out, curled up on the couch cushion next to the bed, and fell asleep.

Ungrateful little…

For the next three days I set the bed in all of her favorite places, occasionally daring to actually set her in it. More than once, she took a nap directly beside it, I’m sure, to spite me.

I tried acting very enthusiastic about it.

“Ooooh, what a nice bed this is! Wanna come give it a try? It’s so soft. So very, very soft. Twenty bucks worth of fluff, right here. Come check it out!”

She was not enthusiastic in the least.

Now here it sits. Empty. I refuse to give up on it entirely.

Milo, on the other hand, is more than happy to sleep on his new bed he got for Christmas. (Just look how handsome and grateful he is, looking all picture perfect with his sweet little paws crossed, and his sweet little eyes…)

The defiance continues, however.

Last week I decided to spread a blanket over my pristine white quilt where she often sleeps. I had hoped it would protect our bed from her shedding.

I’ll give you ONE guess where she curled up to take a nap:

 

#betheanomaly

Cat Chronicles, Episode #4: Felines and Frostbitten Fronds

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

January, 2018

With the freezing temps we’ve endured lately (it’s 17° at this moment), my poor plants haven’t fared well. On the first day of below freezing temps, I wasn’t able to get to my beloved plants in time before they were subjected to the bitter cold.

One particular plant, a pretty palm, is in the worst shape. A few minutes ago, as I went over to water it, I noticed it no longer had any life left. All the fronds hung limp and yellow, and have now dried. I pulled them off and watered it anyway, refusing to believe it’s dead.

Can palms come back from this?

As I pulled away the last of the fronds, The Cat stalked in to supervise my chore.

She apparently didn’t approve.

Unnoticing of my grief over the plant, she walked onto the pile of fronds as I attempted to scoop them up, and sat on top of them.

I pulled the fronds out from under her like a rug. Of course, with her deft balance, she never even slipped. Like the magician’s trick of pulling the tablecloth off a table loaded with delicate china.

Then she had the nerve to glare at me as if I were the one being a jerk.

But then, I thought, Could it be possible that she is actually here showing support? Could I have mistaken her glare for a narrow gaze of sympathy?

To test this possibility, I gently reached out to pet her.

She hoisted to her feet and padded away before my fingers made contact with her fur, without as much as a glance over the massive chip on her shoulder.

Cat Chronicles, Episode #3: Litter Box Protest

I couldn’t figure out what was causing the hives.

Every time I would give the boys a bath, Wesley would suddenly become covered in hives and start itching from head to toe. He would eventually start crying, and I would dry him off quickly and put on his PJ’s.

This went on consistently every night.

Then one night, my husband gave the boys a bath, and he came out of the bathroom scratching his legs from the hem of his shorts to his socks. “I am itching like crazy,” he said, clawing at his skin. “So is Wesley.”

I looked at Wesley, who was rubbing at a red patch on the side of his throat.

“Oh no,” I said. “Are you guys allergic to cats?”

“I don’t think a cat allergy looks like this. Remember when Madi came over, and half her face was red and one eye was bloodshot?”

Madi and Bailey are the daughters of one of my best friends, and our boys have no idea that they aren’t actually cousins. The girls call me Aunt Natalie, and I hope they never grow out of that. One day while the girls were playing in Wesley’s room, Madi walked up to me with one eye beginning to swell, the whites completely red. It turns out she’s allergic to cats. She had climbed onto Wesley’s bed, where Shadow had been napping earlier that day, and immediately had a reaction.

“What do you think is the problem?” I asked my husband as he began rubbing the sole of one shoe against the opposite leg.

“Maybe we’re just allergic to her pee. The littler box is in the bathroom. We only itch like this when we’re in there.”

I picked up my phone. “OK, Google. Can people be allergic to cat pee?”

Minutes later, we came to the conclusion that the kitty litter was to blame. I began researching the cost of buying hypoallergenic kitty litter, and I literally heard my bank account start to cry.

“What can we do?” I asked.

“Maybe she can get used to doing her business outside. It’s either that, or we find another home for her.”

Wesley dropped to his knees. “Nooo! We can’t get rid of the cat! Her tail is so soft!”

Kris shot him a look. “She was an outside cat when we found her. Maybe instincts will kick in.”

I should have known that pure sass, not instinct, would inevitably kick in.

She was NOT happy about her litter box being moved.

Little by little each day, I would inch the litter box closer to the back door. Then one day, I placed it on the back porch.

The next time she needed to use the litter box, I opened the back door, and waited.

She glanced at the back porch, looked back and me, then sat down and glared at me with an expression that said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

I shrugged and just stood there, holding the door open, until she finally went out. I closed the door and peeked through the window. As soon as she squatted, she turned and glared at me.

When she was finished, I let her back inside and praised her.

She walked past me and ignored me.

After a couple of days, she stopped using the litter box on the back porch and found her own litter boxes in nature, and the official litter box went away forever.

That’s when the protesting began.

It started only occasionally. Instead of going to the back door to let me know she needed to go out, she would head into the bathroom and pee in the tub.

I would grumble as I cleaned it up, but told myself to be patient. She couldn’t possibly be doing it to intentionally annoy me.

Not my sweet itty bitty witty kitty.

Then she began pooping in the tub.

Enough is enough, I thought. How do you train a cat?

“OK, Google.”

One method of discipline is to use a squirt gun, and give her a little stream of water when she broke the rules.

Yeah, right, I thought, and just imagined the whole scenario.

I take said plastic water gun. I squirt a tiny stream of water at itty bitty witty kitty. She claws my eyeballs out of their sockets.

“OK, Google.”

One suggested method is to give the cat rewards when she obeys the rules.

Yeah right, I thought. How do you reward a cat that hates rewards? She turns her nose up at kitty treats (I’ve tried them). She doesn’t play with toys (waste of money). She refuses to use a scratching board and instead, uses the couch, which is right next to the scratching board (sorry, Heather – it was a very generous gift).

“OK, Google.”

The next one made me crack up laughing until I cried. WebMD said, “You could even teach your cat to pee in the toilet and flush afterwards!”

Not Shadow.

I came up with the brilliant idea to just leave the bathroom doors closed.

Problem solved.

Until it wasn’t.

One night, my husband and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. It was winter, but wasn’t cold enough for a fire, so we covered up with blankets. Shadow marched through the living room, stepped up onto the hearth, slipped into the fireplace, turned her back to us, and squatted in the ashes.

“What… Shadow!” Kris said, sitting up.”Stop! What are you doing?”

Oh, she didn’t stop.

She just turned and glared at him while she took her time finishing her business. Then she stood, delicately raked the ashes into a neat pile, and walked away, leaving a trail of tiny, ashy paw prints across the living room floor.

Kris and I looked at each other, dropped our jaws, and died laughing.

Shadow: 1, Inferior Humans: 0.

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ROW80: Hi ROW80 community! My writing progress update isn’t as good as I’d hoped to report, but at least it isn’t zero. 🙂 I’ve been very sick for the last week. I’ve only written about 3,000 words in the last two weeks, but am just shy of the 40,000 word mark. That means I’m still on track for completing my first draft by May 1st! I’m so ready for the revision stage. Hope everyone else’s progress has gone well! High fives all around!

Cat Chronicles, Episode #2: Trapped Like a Rat

We’d had the cat less than a week. She and Milo, the dog, were still getting used to each other. He often had to tip toe over her as she scrambled around his feet and chased after his tail.

She was certainly living up to her name: Shadow. It’s hard to get used to a creepy little ball of black shooting out from dark corners while I carry a stack of folded laundry down the hallway.

Many a stack found itself up-heaved onto the floor as I scrambled to dodge the clawed, fanged furball that detached from the shadows, attacked whatever flesh she could reach, then retreating before I could register what happened.

She was still kinda cute, despite the pointed razors at her toes that had all but shredded the skin on my hands.

Shadow was trouble from the get-go:  snagging my favorite sweaters, leaving unbelievably vile kitty bombs in the litter box I couldn’t believe her cute little body was capable of creating, and stealing the dog’s bed.

It was on the fourth of November that she gave me a scare when she disappeared for about an hour, then began screaming in the most horrible way.

“Shadow?” I called out, as if expecting her to shout back her exact location.

Wesley followed closely at my heels while Caleb snoozed away the drama.

I followed the sounds of screeching and howling and finally found the little furball kicking and struggling beneath the corner of my bed. Stuck to her entire backside was a sticky rat trap, placed there with the intention of catching the occasional scorpion by the recommendation of pest control.

I lifted the screaming kitten and tried to tug the fur loose, but it was stuck.

It was more stuck than a cheerio up a toddler’s nose.

The more I tugged, the more she squirmed, and the more stuck she became.

I’d only seen this happen one other time to a neighbor’s dog, a white cotton ball of a thing that had not one, but three sticky traps clinging to her fur. It took a professional pet groomer and an electric trimmer to shave the dog bald.

There was no way this cat would tolerate a trimmer held anywhere near her body.

I Googled how to remove a sticky trap from pets, and it appeared I was by far not the only person who found themselves in such a predicament.

I followed the instructions on my phone screen and applied some vegetable oil, but it didn’t make much of a difference.

She was still more stuck than a Lego man in a Play Doh wad.

I tried sliding a pair of rounded-tipped scissors between her flesh and the trap, snipping one little hair at a time. But for every one that I cut, six more got stuck.

More stuck than a golf ball in a home theater system subwoofer.

It finally took persistent tugging to get her free. So there I was, saving that dang cat for the second time.

To this day, she hasn’t shown an ounce of appreciation.

As of the sticky traps, they’ve claimed many more victims since.

 

 

Goodbye, brand new Paw Patrol socks.

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ROW80 Checkin: My goal of 1,000 words per day is the perfect goal. I have written that as a minimum each day, strictly on the manuscript that is a fairytale reimagining. I’ve been able to recycle old scenes from old works that fit perfectly, and match my MC’s voice flawlessly. 

Cat Chronicles, Episode #1: The Beginning

I had always wanted a cat. I wanted a sweet, warm lap cat that would fight for my attention and curl up next to me, purring while I wrote stories. I envied my friend Crystal for her gorgeous tuxedo kitty named Felix. If I could have cloned him for myself, I would have. My husband was not keen on adopting a cat, however. We already had a dog and two kids. That was plenty for us. Plus, litter boxes. Yuck.

Little did I know how my luck would turn one Wednesday in 2014.

Caleb was only eight months old. Wesley was three. We had just dropped my husband, Kris, back off at work after meeting him for lunch. I was headed up the ramp to get onto the interstate, and glanced to the left at a man in an orange vest picking up trash with a grapple tool. That’s when a tiny black flash darted out in front of the truck.

I swerved to miss it, thinking it must have been a chipmunk or something. As we passed by, I saw a small black kitten curled up in the weeds.

My heart jumped. My mind immediately flashed to visions of a fluffy black lap cat, forever grateful for being rescued from the tires of passing vehicles.

I pulled over.

“I’ll be right outside the truck,” I told Wesley, rolling down the backseat windows. “I need to see something.”

I circled to the back of the truck, and sure enough, there sat the tiniest kitten I’d ever seen. The moment she saw me, she ran over to me, mewing loudly. I was impressed by her set of lungs in such a small body.

I picked her up and cradled her in my palm. She felt as light and fragile as a baby bird, and just as fuzzy. She curled her tail, which had chunks of fur missing, around her body and settled down. That’s when I remembered the man picking up trash. I stepped over to him.

“Do you know who this kitten belongs to?” I asked him.

He smirked. “Nah. But it’s been following me around for over an hour. She almost got ran over a couple of times.”

“Oh no!” My heart broke. What now? “I can’t just leave her. She’ll get killed.”

The man stopped in his task and shrugged. “I ain’t seen a mama or any other kittens around here, so it must be lost.”

I held the kitten out to him. “You should take it home. It seems to like you if its been following you around.”

He took a step back and held up his hands as if I’d just suggested he contract the plague.

In hindsight, I should have taken that as an omen…

“No way, I ain’t taking it.” He smirked as she began to doze in my hand. “It looks to me like you got yourself a new cat.”

He laughed and walked away, dropping more trash into his bag.

I climbed back into the truck and looked into the backseat. Caleb chewed on his fingers, and Wesley’s eyes were huge. “Is that a kitten?” he asked, unable to hide his thrill.

“Yes,” I said, “but we’re not keeping it. We’re just going to find it a good home.”

I tucked her into my lap and pulled away, making it only a few yards before she jumped down and began circling the pedals at my feet.

In hindsight, I should have taken that as a warning…

“Ok, this won’t work,” I said aloud as I reached down and plucked her from the floorboard. She loudly protested, clinging to my hand with needle-like claws.

I pulled over at the very next exit and found a gas station. Pulling up to the curb, I stepped out of the truck and called to the clerk through the open door. “Excuse me, do you have an empty box I can have?” I held up the kitten, who looked around with pure innocence. The clerk smiled and brought out a large, empty liquor box.

I thanked her, set the box into the passenger’s seat, and plopped the kitten inside.

She easily used those needle-like claws to scale the wall of the cardboard, and jumped right back out.

I scrambled around the floorboard, located her fuzzy little form, and dropped her back into the box, folding the lid down gently.

Seconds later, the lid popped back open, and she jumped out, leaped over the console, and hid beneath the backseat.

I knew if I left her beneath the seat, there would be trouble the moment I pulled away. I snaked my body over the console, stretched across the floorboard and gently gripped the kitten, pulling her free from the carpet like velcro. I plopped her back into the box and folded it shut. When there was only silence, I sighed and headed home.

The moment we reached the interstate, a tiny black claw thrust up through the center hole and waved around like a spiked periscope. It was followed by two triangular ears, and a tiny round head. She mewed at me, then attempted to climb out.

Traffic slowed to a crawl, so I took a picture, then pushed her head back down like a gentle form of whack-a-mole.

As we inched along the interstate, she tried it again, this time swiveling to look at me, attempting to use the charm of her cuteness. For a moment, the spell worked. I took another picture and laughed.

She saw her opportunity and took it.

In hindsight… well, you know.

I pushed her back into the box and held my hand over the lid the rest of the way to keep her from climbing out.

Every few minutes, she jumped up and stabbed my palm with a needle-claw.

By the time we reached our animal clinic, my hand looked like it had been attacked by Baby Wolverine.

I unbuckled the boys, held Caleb on one hip and the box on the other, and walked up to the counter.

The two women stood to peer into the box.

“Awwww, a kitten!” They both exclaimed, and took her out.

“Will you check it over and make sure it’s OK? I just found it, but we can’t keep it. Do you think you could find it a home?”

They glanced at each other. “We’re taking the weekend off, so there won’t be anyone here to watch it or feed it. Plus, it’s two days before Halloween… we have a policy against adopting black cats out before Halloween. People do horrible things to black cats at this time of year.”

Just my luck. I have found a black cat two days before Halloween.

In hindsight…

I resigned to take her home with me, but only for a few days. Once the threat of Hallow’s Eve black cat sacrifices had passed, I would find her a home. I tried not to think about what my husband would say…

The ladies took her to the back to give her a mini-exam (because what other kind of exam can you really give a kitten this small?). I took the boys next door to Dollar General and bought a litter box, litter, and kitten food. I studied the photo of the minuscule morsels on the outside of the bag claiming to be “actual size”, and wondered how she would get her tiny mouth around them.

When I returned back to the vet, the ladies brought the box with the kitten back out to me. A small paper bowl of food was at the bottom, and she was, miraculously, asleep.

“Well, here’s what we know. It’s a female. She’s healthy. She’s about five weeks old, and she was very hungry. What will you name her?”

“Oh, I’m not naming her,” I told them. “I don’t want to get attached. I can’t keep her.”

“Well, we need a name for the computer records. How about Pumpkin, since you found her right before Halloween?”

She turned and began typing.

“Uh, sure. That will work for now.”

I took the box and snoozing kitten home, set the box in the middle of the living room, and stared at it.

What now?

I called my husband.

“Um, listen, I have something to tell you…”

He was not happy. He swore he wouldn’t be cleaning any nasty litter box. He determined she had one week, tops, before we find her a home at all costs. One thing was abundantly clear: we weren’t keeping her.

That evening, when Kris arrived home, he took a deep breath and said, “Let’s see this cat.”

We looked around the room.

She was gone.

He shook his head and sat down on the couch, narrowly missing her as she uncurled from the shadows of the cushion.

She immediately climbed up his shirt to his shoulder, tucked in her little paws and tail, and fell asleep, purring loudly.

 

I held my breath.

Kris rolled his eyes.

“Fine,” he grumbled. “We can keep her. But we’re naming her Shadow.”

I turned and walked into the kitchen where I could fist pump in privacy.

Just before turning the corner, I glanced back and caught Kris reaching up to pet her.

I should have known we were simply under her spell. In the weeks to come, I would realize exactly what we’d gotten ourselves into.