The first thing I did when I moved off the college campus in LA was get a cat. No, actually, the first thing I did was find an apartment that allowed pets. I hadn’t even been moved in for a day before I adopted a tiny black rescue kitten. She had minimal fur and giant bat ears, and she could escape anything – including the box I put her in for the drive to my apartment. Bat Cat decided the coziest spot was under the brake pedal. While I was going 35 MPH. I had to use the emergency brake to stop. I do not recommend this.
Despite Bat Cat’s attempts to kill us both, she was my baby. She slept in the crook of my arm at night. When she got bored and I hit the REM portion of my sleep cycle, she would attack my rippling eyelids until I woke up. She sat in my lap when a box wasn’t available, and refused to be locked out when I had boyfriends over. Bat Cat learned how to open doors. I was impressed. Boyfriends weren’t.
One even had the temerity to say, “Well, I’m allergic to cats. What would you do if we ever got married?”
I snorted. “I wouldn’t do anything. You’d get shots.” Not hard to guess how that one ended.
My girlfriend JM – not to be confused with my friend M, as M is allergic to cats – soon arrived to share my apartment. JM also brought her cat. JM’s cat had been discovered in her dorm room and sent to live with her mother. JM’s mother overfed that black and white kitty something awful. When he arrived at our place, he was 26 pounds. I nicknamed him Shamu. He’d cuddle with four-pound Bat Cat, and she’d practically disappear.
We put Shamu on a diet. It wasn’t hard. He couldn’t jump up on the counter to get Bat Cat’s kitten food. He couldn’t even jump out of the bathtub when JM gave him a bath. He just sat in the tub and mewed piteously. And you know how when cats get wet, they look all scrawny and rat-like? Shamu didn’t. He looked exactly the same. Huge.
He couldn’t even jump on a bed. JM had to get a low futon.
I took both cats to the vet. I was subjected to all kinds of well-meaning advice: “Did it ever occur to you that the big cat might be eating the little cat’s food?” “Have you tried diet food?” “Do you know how much stress that kind of weight puts on a cat’s joints?”
And that was just the waiting room.
We eventually got Shamu down to seventeen pounds. He was still pretty darn big. One day I couldn’t find my black shoes. Shamu sat by the couch, cocking his head and watching me hunt through the apartment. I finally stopped, stared at him, and said, “Get up!” He refused. I picked him up – with a grunt – and discovered my flats. Shamu had covered both of them completely. They were size eleven.
With cats, unfortunately, came fleas. (Fun Factoid: All fleas in LA are actually cat fleas, even when they are on dogs.) We decided to flea bomb our apartment. (This was just before those fabulous products that turn your cats into flea-killing machines were invented.) But what to do with the cats? Being young and especially brilliant, we thought, “No problem. We will hang with them on the balcony for 2 hours.”
I don’t recommend this, either. We lasted two minutes. Shamu got spooked. Really spooked. He somehow hurled his massive body four feet up onto the top of the balcony wall. And jumped. We were two stories up. JM screamed, threw open the door to the apartment, ran through the poison gas, and down several flights of stairs.
Meanwhile, Bat Cat decided that if her friend jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, she would, too. She leapt up to top of the balcony wall effortlessly, and glanced once at me as I dove forward, desperate to stop what I saw as certain kitty suicide.
“No! Don’t do it!”
Bat Cat jumped. Well, more like ran down the length of the balcony and then jumped.
I followed JM through the haze of flea bombs, down the stairs, and found everyone by the grating that led to the parking garage. The cats appeared intact, though Shamu had tried to run through the grating and gotten stuck. Bat Cat loyally circled her friend. For once we were grateful Shamu was so fat. Otherwise we might never have caught them. Both cats had bloody chins.
Once JM got Shamu out of the grate, she scooped him up, wrapped him up in a towel, and got him into the car. Bat Cat was more difficult. She clawed, bit, and shit all over me when I tried to catch her and get her in her pet carrier. In retrospect, this should have clued me in that she was FINE. Which she was. The vet said all she would need was a little Neosporin on her chin. That Neosporin cost two dollars. The vet visit was twenty-five times that. My Emergency Room bill…well, that is another post.*
Shamu was a much bigger worry at the time than little Bat Cat. His chin bled heavily. The vet looked him over, his face quite serious. Then he stepped back and shook his head.
JM was sobbing, so I did the asking: “Is he gonna be okay?”
The vet said, “Oh, of course. It’s not even worth a stitch on his chin.” He went into a lengthy explanation of how cats spread out when they jump, how they have a floating collarbone, and how they can fall tremendous distances. He said he’d seen lots of cats jump multiple stories and still be fine.
Then he looked at Shamu again, shook his head, and said dubiously, “But never one quite so big!”
I held Shamu in the waiting room while JM paid her bill. Most pet owners averted their eyes from us. Which was only right, because our group was a teary, bloody, be-fecaled mess.
But there’s ALWAYS one. A petite, underfed, over-tanned woman clucked her tongue and shook her head at Shamu. “You really need to put that cat on a diet. His joints—”
I interrupted with a snarl. “His joints are fine. He just handled a two-story drop like a pro. And you know what? His weight saved him. There’s no doubt in my mind that he freakin’ bounced!”
The woman recoiled. (I am sure it was from the smell of cat poop and not from my tone.)
I shifted Shamu’s weight, smothered a grunt, and said, “Now, if you’ll excuse us, he’s had a rough day, and you know what? We’re going to take him home and feed him some BACON.”
Pretty sure Shamu thought the drop was TOTALLY worth the bacon.
* Let me just say, to all the justly outraged cat lovers out there, that I paid for my “let’s hang on the balcony” stupidity many, many times over. In blood and money. I undoubtedly deserved to suffer. I promise you, I did.