Vamoirekitty

For a writer, working from home, alone most of the day—and many nights this spring, due to a sudden change in my romantic status—loneliness is a given. Solitude/ work. Solitude/loneliness. It’s part of the deal.

Until I got a cat. I’ve wanted one and resisted the temptation for years because I live in a small Manhattan apartment. I’m used to cats roaming outdoors at night; in my childhood, even the dogs came and went as they pleased. But a friend needed to get rid of this young cat quickly, because her girlfriend was unexpectedly allergic. I didn’t have to go to any trouble, or weigh consequences; he was dangled in front of me like the fizzy champagne on a waiter’s tray at a wedding.

So I acquired my lapcat, my windowsill cat, a beautiful orange and white male who followed me from room to room (and back again; I only have two), asking when dinner was and complaining about being bored. I named him Fitzroy, after a flame-haired vampire in a book by Tanya Huff (Blood Price, 1991). Henry Fitzroy was the bastard son of King Henry VIII; in Huff’s novel, the bastard became a vampire, surfacing in 20th century Toronto to enjoy an easy life of non-fatal snacking on swooning humans while penning romances for a living.

It was a gentle joke. I was Fitzroy’s human; he could bite me all he wanted. He never broke the skin. He was a creampuff. He only looked like a vampire when he yawned.

As soon as he acclimated to the apartment, he began interrupting me every two hours, wanting to play. He wanted to walk across my chest, rub his cheeks on my jaw and knuckles, and lovingly bite my chin. I liked the breaks, the string-dangle, and the luxury of a soft armful of animal, a creature willing to be cradled like a baby though his big white paws held stiffly in front of him let me know his dignity was slightly impaired.

Yet after awhile, it felt unhealthy. For him, I mean. I’m used to my own sometimes-pathological isolation, my hours lost in books or the Internet, going to sleep early or drinking cocktails at 2 a.m. in bed. And I’m used to going out when I feel like it.

Fitzroy couldn’t read, put up a profile on Facebook, patronize dive bars or spend quiet afternoons remembering rowdy nights. He stared at pigeons through screens he was always trying to dismantle. He chased fruit flies. He ran growling and muttering around the apartment at odd hours.

I tried him on TV and music: no dice. I considered taking him to the park on a leash but the park is never not crowded. Really, all I could do for him was to get another cat, which felt both like a necessary mercy and the pet equivalent of buying a second $500 handbag.

“Are you prepared to care for a cat for up to 20 years?” they asked at the shelter.

“Of course,” I said. I absolutely have the next 20 years prepared for: mortgage paid off, income secure, health-care-and-pet proxy named and notarized. Not. I’m a writer.

I told them I was an editor. I said I was home all day. They gave me my dainty Mouchette.

She’s tiny at 10 months, black on top with white splotched across half her face, painted under her chin and meandering down her belly. She’s low to the ground and slinky with eyes as big as the moon. She refuses to be held, but she creeps beautifully. She’s fond of playing with sugar packets and antacids, and eagerly crashes every party.

Fitzroy hissed at her for two days, then decided she was interesting. Now she’s object of his continual pursuit (except when they’re sleeping, which is, after all, most of the time).When he catches her, often leaping from above like a California mountain lion attacking a jogger, he bites her neck, his confused brain responding to her female scent—even though he’s neutered and so is she. She splits the air with a long wailing note, waves her front paws like a lobster and hisses. He backs off, offended. He tries again. When he finally gives up and retreats in a huff, she sneaks up and bites his tail. When he seems to be abusing her too ferociously, I separate them, and as soon as they realize what’s happened they sit on either side of the shut door and meow.

I can’t decide how much of this is just normal cat behavior, how much is made worse by hormones with no place to go, and whether it would be different if she was bigger. I feel like I’ve upgraded him from neurotic-lonely-cat life to something akin to a reality show: situation completely contrived, but with company.

As I write this, far past midnight, they gallop over the bed to the windowsill and back again, my body no more privileged than any other obstacle, hit the floor on a skid, and race into the other room. The predator and his prey—caught every time, always escaping intact. Full sound effects.

It reminds me of Keats,

Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Not really. She’ll fade, he will too and I’ll pay the vet bills. But he’s having that chaotic, passionately frustrating life we all seem to want—one spent with our own kind. And her coat is getting much silkier from a good diet.

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