The Extortionist (#281)

Our new cat didn’t just come with attitude. She also came with a serious weight problem. Boss Cat was big for a female cat, with large feet, a long body, and a very long tail. But you couldn’t say she was merely “big boned.” Like Garfield, her belly bulged over her feet. She could only play with a string for about 2 minutes before she got winded, even though she was only 2 years old.

We promised the rescue group we would put her on a diet. We bought  special “Fat Cat” food and doled it out by an eighth of a cup.  At the time, I wondered why her foster dad had let Boss get so fat.

After 2 days, I no longer wondered. If Boss Cat was hungry, she was relentless. She would jump up in front of the TV. If no one would feed her, she would fling remotes and speakers out of the entertainment center. If you tried to pick her up, she’d bite you before dashing behind the monitor in order to have a more advantageous ambush position.

She would only jump down if she saw you walking toward her food bowl.

Writing while the Boss was dieting? LOL. The hungry cat whacked all items off of my desk. If I still didn’t feed her, she’d attack my fingers.

Then she’d bolt behind the monitor. Boss Cat knew I wouldn’t risk squirting her with the spray bottle if she was shielded by electronics. She knew I’d eventually cave and put a little more kibble in her bowl.

The claws are blurry because they move so fast.

If we were trying to sleep? Everything on the bedside table must go!

If we closed our bedroom door? Everything on the kitchen counter must go! Preferably at 2 AM.

No food was safe from Boss Cat. Dinner prep was fraught. You couldn’t grate cheese without cat burglary. You dared not take your eyes off chicken or meat. In desperation we’d sometimes locked her in the bathroom.

When she broke out, she swatted two covered dishes off the counter and gobbled down butter amidst broken pottery.

We got a wooden bread box to protect our baked goods. She sat on it, broke it, and broke into it. We found only plastic packaging when we returned from a soccer game.

We got a stainless steel breadbox. We got an airtight, plastic butter dish.

As she lost weight, Boss Cat got meaner. And faster. She made off with egg yolks and ate holes in pies. She even chowed down on the brown rice and tofu I foolishly left on the counter. “What cat eats tofu?!” I railed at her as she smugly washed her face.

Boss Cat did. She ate broccoli, lettuce, and tortilla chips, too.

Until she found the most efficient way to extort food.

She ran outside.

Boss Cat was supposed to be an indoor cat. Between cars and coyotes, it’s not safe for cats outside in California. There are also raccoons and feral cats. Not to mention the fact that cats are an invasive species that has decimated the American songbird population. (Even the most inept housecat kills about 4 birds a year if allowed to roam.)

But it’s very, very hard to keep a bold cat inside, especially when you have dogs and a four-year-old boy. Baby D wasn’t always careful to check for the cat when he ran out the door to play.

Usually one of us could catch Boss Cat with a flying tackle. Until the night she got past us and straight up a tree.

We lured her down with chicken.

That may have been a mistake.

From that moment on, Boss Cat became a dedicated door dasher. Once she made it past the threshold, though, she would pause and pointedly look back at us: “Well, humans? Where is the chicken to which I have become accustomed?”

She was clever. Sometimes Boss Cat would hide on a dining room chair, hidden by a tablecloth, waiting for her chance to bolt through the front door.

Other days she’d stare out the window until she saw Andy coming home from work. Then she’d position herself behind a chest and zip through the door the second it opened. Andy learned to enter messenger bag first, holding it in front of him like a shield.

I learned to escape out the backdoor by blocking Boss Cat with my purse while she hissed protests.

Boss Cat retaliated with an Odysseus move, lurking under our ninety-pound dog Woofie’s belly when he wanted to go outside. We’d open the backdoor and Boss would be off like a shot. If you chased her, she’d head straight for a tree.

A housecat’s top speed is about 30 mph, in case you were wondering. Faster than Woofie, the Labrador mix. Far faster than non-Olympic calibre humans.

We gave into the inevitable and bought Costco’s six-pack of canned chicken. Then we bought her a little canned cat food, too.

After all, she’d lost about 3 pounds. Boss Cat deserved a little treat.

And her humans deserved a little peace.

COVID-19 Cassandra (#280)

In Greek mythology, Cassandra of Troy was gifted with the power of prophecy—and cursed that no one would believe her. She was a tragic figure, her wailings of death and destruction ignored even as they came to pass.

If you follow bloggers and news out of China, you are not surprised by the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. If you follow the news out of Italy and compare it with Taiwan and South Korea, you know that the United States health care system will be overrun in two weeks with COVID-19 cases—just like Italy.

As soon as you figure this out, you get on the phone or social media and tell everyone to stay home as much as possible. You share everything from charts to interactive data that can’t be denied. You argue with your dad when he won’t cancel a trip. You yell at your best friend M when she says flights are cheap and she wants to come visit. You warn folks that the more people who go out, the more people will die. You write angry, pleading letters to state officials and School Boards, asking them to close down everything.

You are NOT everyone’s favorite person. Continue reading COVID-19 Cassandra (#280)

Breadaggedon(#279)

Thanks to the inept Trump Administration, COVID-19 is popping up all over America. It’s going to get worse, too. SO MUCH WORSE.

America is sliding into full-on, toilet-paper-hoarding pandemic mode. Yay.

Andy texted me from Costco this weekend: “They’re rationing bottled water.”

Me: “Who cares? Be sure and get all the flour, sugar, and butter you can.”

After following Marta and Jocelyn through quarantines in China, I’ve figured out what quarantined folks really need:

Baking supplies and recipes. I’ve got both! Continue reading Breadaggedon(#279)

New Cat (#278)

When my husband mellowed on the subject of a new cat, I contacted the group that had rescued our dog Fey from the streets of Los Angeles.

“We have a big dog who tries to play with everyone and everything,” I explained. “We mostly trained him out of chasing our old cats, but Woofie’s not totally reliable. Do you have a cat that’s okay with dogs?”

The volunteer said, “Oh, do we have a cat for you!” Continue reading New Cat (#278)