Why Cats Need Nine Lives

You might think if you can care for human children that you are qualified to care for a cat, but you would be wrong. Three children came to stay for part of the summer and brought their kitten with them. This feline was offered as a kind of bonus to the package deal—you take three, lovely children for a few weeks, and we’ll throw in a cute kitten—free. (Not that I paid to take the kids, nor should I add, was I being paid. In retrospect, I should have demanded remuneration in order to buy life insurance on that cat.)

Let me say that I like animals but prefer they live with other people. I have never cohabited with a cat, but millions of people do it and enjoy it. I refer you to all those proud cat videos on YouTube.

The kitty, the cuddly beast, the adorable fur ball with fangs (we would never call him “bad kitty” because there are no bad cats, only good cats who sometimes make bad choices) was granted his own bedroom and allowed to destroy the entire house for one half hour twice a day. In preparation, a quilt, two rugs, and a felt doll were removed.

Despite all the preparations, no one—not the cat videos, nor my cat-owning friends, nor the children’s mother prepared me for the fact that the kitty had an exuberant death wish.

First, he attempted exsanguination by breaking a ceramic lamp and wallowing in the sharp shards. He engaged in a failed electrocution, knocking a clock into the litter box so that he might chew and pee on the cord. During his house rampage, he crawled on his back under the rocker of my chair, his paws wrapped about the wood, and nearly became crushed cat under my weight. He tried to choke on the silvery ribbon dangling from a balloon.

In between these flirtations with death, the fanged fluff ball developed his repertoire of piteous cries at night. I would hear him mewing woefully at 3:00 in the morning, and imagining him in death throes, I would leave my bed to find he merely wanted to play, wanted his head stroked, wanted to run around the dark and sleeping house with me in pursuit. That cat was training me to fulfill his every whim.

Well, I would not be bullied by a kitten, no matter how adorable. Besides, I was losing sleep; therefore, one morning when the kids left for camp, I decided to nap. No sooner had I gone to bed then there was a horrible wail followed by intense silence. Enough was enough. I would not get up. From the depths of apathy, I reminded myself that I’d never be forgiven if that feline died on my watch.

When I opened the door, he didn’t pounce on my ankle. I looked around. That cute, furry, fanged feline had hung himself on the curtain cord. Given that the drapery cords have huge plastic pyramids on the ends, I had not anticipated the kitty’s ingenuity. The cord was asphyxiating him, so he couldn’t cry; the strings from the shredded curtain sheers were tangled about his body. He was utterly helpless, but still with the living.

I saved him—yet again. Please, no need to nominate me for any awards. Having the five year old, whose first act on entering the house was to rush upstairs and hug her beloved, warm and living kitty, instead of a cold corpse, was reward enough.

How many lives had this kitten used? More than nine? I could only count the close calls I’d witnessed. What attempts might have happened for which I had no evidence? The anxiety of keeping him alive was shortening my own life. At night, lying awake waiting for the next meow, I wondered if it was legal to bury a cat in the yard. I wondered how many years of therapy the children would need when he died at my house. I wondered if natural selection might not be the method by which species evolved because if it were, cats should have died off ages ago. Recently a friend confided that she worries she might turn into a cat lady. That will never happen to me.


Photo at the top of the page is “Trio” by Andri B is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.