Ceci N'est Pas Un Chat

Yesterday I was spending some quantity time in my favorite room, the bathroom, when I glanced over to see the fat, evil cat poking her head out of the bathtub with that guilty look that says either, I'm drinking out of the faucet or I just puked all over your sheets again but you'll have to get into bed in the dark and lie on it to find out where.

But for a brief moment her faced looked...well, nice. Oddly devoid of intent to do harm. Like a sooooo bershon teenager who suddenly reverts to your sweet little girl again when no one else is looking. And at once I was taken back to the early days of life with Desdemona, way back before Nate and I would lie around in bed wishing only half-jokingly that maybe if she really loved me, she'd kick it soon.

(Don't judge me too harshly, animal lovers. I will reiterate that this is a cat that inspires little compassion. I swear, PETA has a subdivision called PETA-EDWSU, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Except Desi Who Scares Us.)

1991. In the wake of the first post-college (and post-college boyfriend) breakup, I took Desi home to fill the void. She was a feisty little thing from the get-go, but loyal like nothing else. She followed me from room to room, even somehow managing to perch herself up on the narrow sliding glass door over the tub every time I showered. She nestled behind my neck in bed at nigh, suckling and keeping me awake with the lusty purring--something I only half-minded. I had more than my share of free weekends to compensate for the lost sleep back in those days.

Desi watched the first episodes of Seinfeld with me, chewed on ticket stubs from a matinee of Ghost, and heard me sob as I watched scud missiles fly through the air, painfully aware of witnessing real war for the first time in my lifetime. She saw my hair color change. Often. She mauled my first real piece of furniture. She hid in the bathroom while party guests crammed into my studio apartment, drank gallons of punch, and swayed woozily to mixed tapes belting out Lloyd Code and The Divynyls.

She watched me eat a lot of ramen noodles.

She moved with me out of state then back again. She cuddled with me as I collapsed with exhaustion from jobs that demanded my soul and my holiday weekends, all while my business cards were reprinted with increasingly longer titles. She saw my CD collection slowly outgrow the 6-inch gap between the TV and the disc player. She watched posters come down and artwork go up. She made a nest for herself on the closet floor among shoes that evolved from sales rack pleather to $300 kitten-heeled mules.

But what struck me most as I sat in the bathroom for the 18th time or so that hour is that Desi was there for the endless parade of ill-considered boyfriends, BFsF whose names I no longer recall, co-workers turned friends, hit-and-run suitors whose faces became blurry the morning after the drunken make-out session, and men who insisted "I'm just not ready to commit" when really they meant, "I'm just not ready to commit to you."

She saw me go from the me I was to the me I've become.

And that's when she met the man who didn't get away.

Soon came the dog. And the move. An office that became a nursery, and a baby that grew into a fur-grabbing, tail-pulling, aggressively cat-petting bundle of affection. Life as Desi knew it--as we knew it--was now something else entirely.

This crazed little black beast has been the one consistent thing in my life for 16 years, the one being who could tell the stories I've forgotten or wish I could. How could I even consider begging friends to keep her when we move later this summer? So what if she would eat them whole if given the chance; she was my companion for all these years and deserved better from me.

And just as my heart was swelling for this fat black furball and our decade and-a-half together, I walked back to the bedroom.

Where she had crapped all over the bed.


Blogger Jennifer said...

BWAH HA HA. I have a slight non-violent revulsion to cats. I just don't like them very much. Which is probably why I appreciate your cat posts.

4/13/07, 9:39 AM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

Oh my good god -- I KNEW there was a reason I didn't like cats.

This is a lovely tribute to a complicated?/difficult?/moody? cat. It's true -- if nothing else, she's been there through it all.

And there IS something to be said for that.

4/13/07, 9:47 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

I had a cat that grew up with me, from Kindergarten through college. She was even there on my wedding day. She was 23 years old. A true family member. Go, Desi, go!

4/13/07, 9:48 AM  
Blogger EE said...

ROFL...what a powerful tribute to Desi!!

4/13/07, 10:02 AM  
Blogger Patois said...

Very funny. What a closer.

You mean I've got at least another 12 years of this? Not a cat person, I got one when the kids really, really, really wanted a pet but I wasn't home enough to justify adding a dog to the equation. The Cat-Formerly-Known-as-Phoebe was rechristened Ruby. And she started so nice to us. Purring, wanting to be stroked. For a minute, maybe two, and then she'd bite you. Bitch. Became an outdoor/indoor cat in mere days -- screw the promises made to the Humane Society. When the puppy arrived this past August? Total outdoor cat. Still comes for food, for strokes, for flesh tasting.

4/13/07, 10:17 AM  
Blogger kristen said...

And that's why I hate cats. All those memories and FOR WHAT?!!!

At least dogs have the courtesy to ROLL in the shit they leave on your bed.

Damn bastards.

4/13/07, 10:47 AM  
Anonymous mrs. Q said...

I only met Des once, and she was, um, a bit standoffish. My sister had warned me not to try to pet her, for fear of losing a finger, or an eye-- I can't quite remember which. Bitch or not, she loves you. And seems to tolerate the rest of the family now. This was very touching... with a perfect ending.

4/13/07, 10:49 AM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

I know that cat. I had that cat (down to that last bed thing)! Mine got me through a lot, so I forgave a lot. He had 18 good years, so you may be cleaning up cat poop from the bed for a few more years!

4/13/07, 11:13 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Do they have an old cat home you can put her in to only visit on weekends?

4/13/07, 11:31 AM  
Blogger Stie said...

You are such a great writer and can make even cat crap sound funny and endearing.

4/13/07, 12:19 PM  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

He grew up with you, threw up with you and when you went to the bathroom he pooed up with you. I think he's just trying to show solidarity.

4/13/07, 12:34 PM  
Blogger something blue said...

I got Monty in 1991 too. I'm glad that he can't talk because he'd be all, "I told you so! In your face beeyatch. Now feed me."

4/13/07, 12:59 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

she's just trying to make it easier for you to leave. based on their recent behavior, our students seem to be trying to do the same thing for me...

4/13/07, 1:15 PM  
Blogger pixie sticks said...

I have a cat like that - Olive (minus the barf and poop - cause that right there would be the end for me). Just when I'm about to open the back door and let her fend for herself I remember all the changes she's seen us through. I recently came across a section of my big kid's baby book titled "Before You Were Born..." and the only thing we ever wrote in there says "We never thought we could love anything more than we love Olive." haha. Oh yes, perspective is a bitch.

4/13/07, 1:17 PM  
Anonymous MetroDad said...

Dude, of course your cat is evil. Her name is Desdemona! It was destined for her to be bad.

It's like naming your daughter Destiny or Houston...and then being surprised when she turns out to be a stripper!

Something to keep in mind as you struggle with that name thing.

4/13/07, 1:30 PM  
Anonymous the new girl said...

Oh, sweet, sweet, Desi.

That's a classic.

4/13/07, 1:41 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Ah, Metrodad, I believe you are forgetting that the literary Desdemona was FALSELY maligned.

This sounds so very much like my cat who passed away a couple of years ago. Feisty but lovable as a kitten; selfish and grumpy to the point of evil as an old lady. She was also my companion through years of change that I think in some ways were quite a bit harder on her than they were on me. *sigh*

4/13/07, 2:44 PM  
Blogger moodswingingmommy said...

Ha! I was just telling my husband that if the Pee Monster really cared about me, he'd decide he'd lived long enough. Cats inspire such a love/hate relationship don't they?

4/13/07, 2:51 PM  
Blogger Design Mom said...

Mental note: no pets allowed till baby number 5 is out of diapers.

4/13/07, 2:51 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

GREAT post! I have 2 cats & one of them - the oldest - is just like Desi. He's cantankerous, moody and demanding. He seems to be able to hack up a hairball on demand whenever one of us annoys him. He was NOT happy about the addition of another cat, a baby, and then ANOTHER baby.

I feel a bit for poor Desi. So much change must be hard.

4/13/07, 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Jen said...

We have one dog and one cat. Never had many issues with crappin' on the bed. However, just got the carpet cleaned and the cat threw up on it the next day and the dog did it a week later. Within inches of each other. RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FAMILY ROOM! Next time I think I may have to invest in YELLOW carpet!

4/13/07, 3:06 PM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

I just posted on my dog. Now I feel less lame.

That's a tough one--but her malodorous soul probably deserves a final inning in CA. And at least there she might be able to spend some time outside, chillin and shit. (or getting killed! there's always that to warm yourself with, right?)

you're actually moving this summer? how did I miss that one????

4/13/07, 3:06 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Oh, that Desi. hehe! If Daisy didn't sleep in our bed with us, she'd have shit in it (on J's pillow, probably) long, long ago.

4/13/07, 3:30 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I know so many otherwise loving cat owners who are waiting for their "problem kits" to kick the bucket. Of course it's always the sweet ones that don't crap on the bed that kicks first. ... But still the bad ones have SO much charisma, really it's hard to hate them to the core.

great post.

4/13/07, 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

Of course.

Cats just toy with us.

4/13/07, 3:36 PM  
Blogger Queen Haline said...

Everything you say about Desi is true. Even though she hisses evil darts of spit every time I see her, I can respect the role she has played in your life.

It's just... the next time I visit please keep her the fuck away from me. She scares the shit out of me.

4/13/07, 4:03 PM  
Blogger PDX Mama said...


Our friends have a cat that sounds similar to Desi - she'll turn on you just when you think she's being all lovey and scratch the heck out of you. Scary.

I know the love hate relationship w/feline friends. Why can't they keep their bodily excretions confined to the litter box? If you don't clean the litter frequently enough to their liking, they just crap wherever they damn well please to spite you. And what is with all the frickin' throw up ALL THE TIME? I'm sick of it. E has tasted that damn stuff TWICE. So disgusting. Yet, I can't part with my bullimic George, who is actually quite a sweetheart. The other cat, Abby, who is not bullimic and is actually quite fat, is the stereotypical neurotic-scaredy-cat. I'd give her away if I didn't think it would leave George lonely.

So moving later this summer? I was wondering when that was going to happen. Big changes ahead!

4/13/07, 4:05 PM  
Blogger Arwen said...

at least you didn't have to pick up the poop since you are with child...Nate is supposed to so you don't get taxoplasmosis (I have been using that line with my husband for 6 years, he just recently realized I could clean the kitty litter again - heh heh).

4/13/07, 4:06 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Arwen - I do have toxoplasmosis.

So that excuse is out, unfortunately.

4/13/07, 4:27 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

I'm smacking my head for you.

4/13/07, 5:02 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Classic. Just... classic.

4/13/07, 6:58 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

Desi...such an ingrate.

4/13/07, 7:18 PM  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...


As I type, my three-year-old is looking at the picture of Thalia and saying, "Hey, look at that cute baby!"

4/13/07, 9:00 PM  
Blogger Anarchy in the OK said...

Thanks for the post; it really hit home for me. We just lost our problem kitty last month - my husband's college cat and oh the stories I'm sure she could tell. Around the age of three she stopped using a litter box entirely and she was thirteen when she died. Yeah... ten whole years of stepping in cat pee. We have left a string of angry landlords from coast to coast. But I'll tell ya - the day she died I was a WRECK. I stayed a wrech for a whole week which surprised the hell out of me. I always thought I'd throw a party when she kicked it.

4/14/07, 12:05 AM  
Blogger NG said...

I think I own your cat's sister. What is it about black cats?

4/14/07, 4:46 PM  
Blogger KTP said...

So, I'm a little freaked out right now. I just sat down to write a post about how much I hate our dog and our cat. But first I surfed the blogs for a while, and on Mandajuice I had the same thoughts you had. I posted them anyway, even though it was repetitive. I'll post about my damn animals, too, because nobody who reads your site reads mine.

Will you dish more about your move?

4/14/07, 9:27 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

We too have cat that has been kicking around for a while. Reading your post made me smile :)

4/14/07, 9:33 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

I was ready with a tear in my eye for sentimental cat thoughts . . . til your last line.

We have just acquired three goldfish. Our nanny arrived with them on Thursday and they are still alive, so I guess the little dude has pets now. Nanny J admonished us not to overfeed them, because "no one wants fat fish - they'll get sick."

4/14/07, 11:46 PM  
Blogger Pixie LaRouge said...

Oh. My. Hell. You have Faith! She's the demon spawn that sits in my kitchen and makes horrible noises at everyone. Although, now, three years into our relationship, she has taken to occassionally sitting on my lap and purring at me while I pet her until she gets sick of it and turns around to maul me, mid-purr.

I have to say, I might like my difficult cats best of all. But don't tell them that!

4/15/07, 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

Liz, you make me miss my evil little kitty.

She would poop on Boo while he slept and then come and cuddle with me on the other side of the bed.

She rocked.

Long Live Desi. May she find an abundance of kitty joy in CA.

4/15/07, 3:03 PM  
Blogger cce said...

My Better Half and I got Cato the male feline when we were in college. I can relate to just how much change in your life the cat's been privy to. It's just so much harder to love them and all their flaws when real humans in the form of children are added to the equation.

4/15/07, 3:24 PM  
Blogger Mary Tsao said...

Oh cats. They're kittens for about 2 weeks and then the're old for about 18 years.

Just wanted to let you know I'm on official Mom-101 baby alert. But no pressure or anything.

4/15/07, 9:47 PM  
Blogger adria said...

Your story reminds me of my Skoonus cat, who is also a black cat. We have been together for 13 years - much longer than the husband has been here. The things we have been through together blow my mind, and I truly cannot imagine life without her. I know she is "just a cat" but I love her so much. Even when she pukes all over the couch or bed.
Great story.

4/16/07, 1:06 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Just read this entry to my husband after a similar nostalgic cat moment. Then said cat took a giant steaming dump on the kitchen floor and hosed it down with urine. Being alone with a two-year old and a baby to be born in just 9 short days, I drew the short end of the stick with clean-up.

As an aside, when I told my husband he needed to take this cat to the vet next monday for a shaving, he asked if they would euthanise her instead. We used to be good people too.

4/16/07, 9:52 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

I've often heard its say that people own dogs but cats own people. I can't have a cat and a husband, too (allergies) and I am so envious. Desi may be difficult now but oh the memories you've made together.

4/17/07, 3:49 PM  

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