We have a new cat living at our house. Could be permanent, could be temporary, I don’t know. One might say she’s auditioning for the role of our new house pet.
We do have a cat already, a 10-year-old grey cat named Macey. Macey cannot read, so I feel OK saying this in my column: she is not a good cat. Actually, she’s kind of an awful cat, as far as pet cats go.
First off, she doesn’t like children. This is unfortunate when living in a house with four kids, ranging in ages 1-8. There were no kids here when we adopted her 10 years ago, so she seemed fine and social enough. I mean, she wasn’t joining us for dinner parties or anything, but like we were throwing those anyway. (“We’ll need a formal dining room so we can throw dinner parties!” I said all those years ago when building this house. Ha. Dinner parties. Hahaha.)
But then the kids came, and she got weird and started doing the thing every cat owner dreads–not using her litter box.
“New baby in the house! Peace out, Fresh Step, I’m stepping outside the box for this one!” I’m pretty sure that’s what she was thinking.
Also, we had an older cat who was kind of a jerk (God rest his soul). He would sit on top of her litter box while she was doing her business, and then he’d smack her in the face when she hopped out. This did not make Macey excited about using her litter box, and one can’t blame her. I mean, if somebody punched me in the face every time I exited the bathroom, I might find someplace else to go. Probably not the corner of the dining room, but that’s because I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself at all those dinner parties I was never having. For Macey, the dining room was great.
If you’ve ever had a cat who quit using its litter box, you know how awful it is. I scrubbed and bought gallons of Nature’s Miracle and cursed the cat every day of her life. I don’t know what worked–maybe it was the cursing–but eventually she started using her box again. Also, I put a litter box right in the middle of the dining room (the final nail in the coffin of my dinner party dreams), so maybe that helped.
Poor decorating choice aside, the litter box in the dining room/now playroom (hahaha dinner parties hahahaha) was a good thing, because her previous bad manners nearly landed her on Craigslist: “I have available one grey cat. Plus $75. Pick up in Mandeville.” Thankfully, it never came to that.
We all lived together peacefully, sort of, except the babies grew into toddlers, and toddlers like to follow cats and yank handfuls of their fur and squeal with glee while doing it. Cats do not like this.
So Macey went under our bed some time around 2007, emerging only after the children are asleep, when it’s dark out. She’s like a vampire.
Our old Tad Smith, while a jerk to his cat roommate, was relatively friendly (ahem, tolerant) with the children, and they enjoyed his company. My daughter was forever picking him up and moving him from room to room, and he never seemed to mind. He died last December, and it’s been pretty sad ever since.
The kids miss having a cat they can actually see, and because her appearances are so rare, they swarm her on the rare occasion she ventures out in the daytime.
“Macey’s out! Macey’s out!”
Macey does not like to be swarmed by children, so back under the bed she goes. The kids try to coax her out, but it doesn’t work because, well, she hates them.
Which brings us to our foster cat, Ellie. Ellie is here to hopefully take over where Tad Smith left off–we just want her to tolerate the kids. Sit in the same room with them, that sort of thing. Is it so much to ask? I have no idea because while Ellie has been at our house three days, she’s spent most of that time sequestered in our master bathroom/closet away from the children and Macey. The Internet told me to do this so she can get used to our house and not totally flip out. She might have to stay in the bathroom for a whole month, the internet says, but I’m ignoring the Internet and will probably encourage her to come out sooner, like tomorrow. Because if this cat is going to live her life in my closet, what’s the point? We already have one cat in hiding; we certainly don’t need two.
So cross your fingers this cat will warm up to my four munchkins, who are absolutely desperate for a pet to, well…pet. And say a prayer for little Ellie-cat, that she might be generous in tolerance and bravery, and that the toddler might stay away from her.
I suppose this column is…to be continued.
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)