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I Love You, Let's Meet » my cats are denatured

my cats are denatured

from living in New York. I’m referring to the two cats who live here now: I’ve only been here six years, and I’m already on cats 3 and 4 (though “dead” isn’t what I meant by New York denaturing cats. Death arguably is as natured as it gets).

The first was Spud (1986-2003), who lived only his last three, retirement, years in Brooklyn, after a life of hunting and brawling with possums, raccoons, dogs, cats, little kids, and other invaders of our yard in DC. He ran up hundreds of dollars of vet bills a year, always in and out of the Elizabethan cone, which he miserably dashed to the ground like Pete Townsend’s guitar. He hunted constantly, and sometimes snuck his kills into my house to complete the final torture. Usually I could hear in time that his let-me-in mew was muffled by the writhing baby squirrel or bird filling his mouth, and I wouldn’t open the door.

His life was violent and cruel, but it was his own. After work, when I got off my bus, he’d run down the sidewalk and then trot home next to me. I liked that he’d had his day of adventures independent of me, even though my vet always said, “If you love your cat, you’ll keep him inside.”

I moved to New York and kept him inside and he died anyway, and so did the kitten I got right after him, which is too sad to even think about. Now I have Tussy, my first emotionally withholding cat. Tussy never touches me except to slam a 6 a.m. paw in my face to demand food, and he slithers away from all petting attempts. To compensate I got Linus (in my author photo, though he’ll be cropped), a sweet-natured but nervous puker who leaps a foot in the air at any noise. I think they’re both lifetime indoor cats: Tussy stirs from his torpor only occasionally to smack Linus, trembling, into a corner.

OK, so the denatured part — Linus was just here on my lap while I typed, and a small bird with a brown mohawk and bright red beak landed on the fire escape just outside the window. Four feet away, just staring at us sideways.

It was a beautiful little punk-rock-looking bird, but feeling Linus’s muscles coil and twitch, I thought of Spud’s picaresque of a life, and I wanted to open the screen and let Linus stalk it. I wanted him out from behind the computer and out in the world, taking risks, mixing it up, killing if he must. If he could. I doubt he could even negotiate the fire escape.

It seemed like he wanted that too. His face twitched spasmodically and he made those horrible looking-at-bird squeaks (are those meant to mimic and lure?) But instead of moving toward the prey, he pressed himself down into my lap and shuddered as if in fear. I was disappointed. I admit I called him a pussy.
Then I quickly grew ashamed of my macho Great Santini-esque taunting and bloodlust. They’re city cats, and probably more civilized for it, and I like that the birds and squirrels feel safe on my fire escape. To atone, I’m going to go drag the feather-on-a-fishing-rod toy for Linus to chase (and Tussy too, if he can be bothered). If they must live in a false Matrix-like world, I can at least simulate natural, instinctual life for them.

Speaking of Keanuean dystopias, I can’t wait to see A Scanner Darkly.

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