Many many moons ago, when our first set of next door neighbors lived next door (we are now on neighbors #3 which may or may not have something to do with us) they asked me if I would feed their cats while they were in Hawaii.
I said yes because it’s not in my nature to turn down a request for help. And I thought they meant “feed” the cats. How hard can it be to walk next door and pour some food in a bowl? But since I had not owned a cat since I was three, I didn’t understand the full implications — feed the cat is code for change the litter box.
So a day before they were to leave for Hawaii, they called me over for my cat-feeding training. When she took me to the guest bath off the kitchen, I started to get the idea that maybe this could involve something more than pouring food into a bowl.
“This!” she said waving her hand Vanna-style towards a plastic washtub on the floor, “This is the litter box!” Then she proceeded to instruct me in the fine art of poop scooping.
Although this was not what I thought I had signed up for, I couldn’t exactly back out. I had been duped like a trusting two-year-old.
So about a day after they left, I went over to “feed” the cats. They (the cats) ran out to greet me. They were happy to see me and mewed and purred and affectionately rubbed up against me and serpentined between my legs as I tried to walk. The litter box was not too terribly atrocious in my estimation, so I held my nose and scooped poo, poured some food in their bowl, patted them on their little kitty heads and went on my merry way. This wasn’t going to be so bad, and bonus – I’ll get a star in my crown.
About a day after that I went back for my second visit. This time the cats did not come out to greet me but rather cowered in dark corners and hissed at me as I walked past. I went to the guest bath for the scooping portion of the visit and good glory, I couldn’t believe my eyes. They had dumped over the litter box, shredded the rug and shower curtain, pee’d all over everything and had apparently made a clumsy attempt at using the toilet paper. These were some mad cats. Vindictive too. Some words immediately sprung to mind, all of them four-letter. So much for that star in my crown.
I cleaned it up as best I could and took the shower curtain and rug home to wash. Here’s a tip. If a cat pee’s on something? Throw it away. Three washings later and the rug and curtain still smelled like the garbage dump from hell.
For the remainder of my active duty, I ran in and scooped and fed as fast as I could and then ran out before they shredded me. I was afraid. Very afraid. They were plotting against me, I could feel it in my bones.
That was about 10 years ago, and memories fade, so when my friend Jennifer asked me to feed her cat while her family went skiing over Christmas, I of course said yes. How hard can it be to feed a cat?
When she called me over to give me feeding instructions and walked me to the laundry room, I had a flashback.
“This!” she said waving her hand Vanna-style, “This is the litter box!” This was no ordinary litter box. This was the Rolls Royce of litter boxes. It cleaned itself automatically and had moving parts and sensors. It was nicer than my car. And it was idiot proof, or at least it was until I came along. She said I shouldn’t need to do anything because the box does it all automatically, but if does need to be changed, do this and this and this and put in a tray and then do this. And at that point, I sort of blanked out in the same way I do when someone starts talking about percentages and fractions and information that I don’t think I need.
So about a day later I went over to feed the cat. The cat ran out to greet me, mewed, purred and walked between my legs.
On the second visit, the cat hid in a corner and hissed at me as I walked past. And the Rolls Royce litter box seemed to be on the blink. So I scooped and said four-letter words in my head and got out of there as fast as I could.
On the third visit, I noticed that when I went in that the door from the house to the garage was open. No worries, I figured that it popped open when I opened the garage door as sometimes happens at our house.
So I go in and call for the cat, scoop and feed. The cat makes no appearance, but I figure she hates my guts and can’t stand the sight of me. And Jennifer said that she sometimes hides, so I left it at that and went home.
About two hours later, this horrifying thought occurs to me: What if the door to the garage popped open when I left on the second visit and the cat was not hiding in the house but was in the garage when I arrived? Since I left the garage door OPEN when I was calling/feeding/scooping, perhaps the cat availed herself of the opportunity to escape the hell that is having me feed her and scoop her poop.
And that horrifying thought was followed by this even more horrifying thought: I don’t really know what Jennifer’s cat looks like. Being able to identify Jennifer’s cat was one of those things that fell into the category of “stuff I don’t really need to know”.
And then even more horrifying thoughts followed: How am I going to find a cat that I can’t identify? What if I find a cat slinking around Jennifer’s house and I force it inside and it’s not even her cat? And then she comes home to a new cat?
So I go back over to Jennifer’s house to find the cat. She has most of the doors closed off, so if it is there, it can only be in a few places. I call and call and call for the cat. I search and search and search every possible place for the cat. But NO CAT. So I went home distraught over the fact that my friendship with Jennifer has ended.
As I sat at my desk, trying to order the horrifying thoughts and figure out how I am going to tell Jennifer that I lost her cat, I get an email from her saying how her girls were crying because they really miss the cat. I had a problem. A big problem. And so I did what I always do when I have a problem, I turn to the ultimate problem solver – AD.
AD takes command and control of the situation and launches Operation Find The Cat. He orders Sean and me to go with him back to Jennifer’s house for a search and rescue. First we do a reconnaissance of the property, even though we have no idea what the cat looks like. Our plan is to capture all the cats we can find and then we’ll line them all up and figure out which one is most likely to be Jennifer’s cat. No cats were found on or near the exterior of the property, so we then systematically search the garage and the inside of the house.
Finally, after 30 minutes of calling and searching, hand-wringing and brow-beating, Sean finds the stupid cat hiding behind the curtains in the guest room. The cat smirks at me and hisses. I stick my tongue out at the cat and we leave. I breathe a sigh of relief. My friendship with Jennifer has been saved. At least until she reads this.
So while I am perfectly capable of watching your kid while you are gone, please do not ask me to “feed your cat.”