It’s funny, the things we Google. Crazy-ass shit.
I made this observation an hour ago while my cat vigorously worked the draw strings of my house pants with his teeth, the fuzzy warm brown ones with skulls. The experience wasn’t very sexy from my perspective, mostly annoying, but it was certainly a good attempt by the Professor to get into my pants.
Of course, he likes string, so maybe that was the real appeal. But, I dunno. I’ve been getting some romantic signals lately.
I haven’t blogged in a while, so I haven’t officially announced this, but most everyone I know already knows: I now own a cat. He is Professor Waffles. We have a complicated relationship.
I want to be a dog person. Not a cat person.
When I told my best friend about my decision to get a small four-legged to share my home, I explained with some resignation all the reasons it was impractical for me to get a dog. I travel too much. I work weird hours. They’re too much effort for a single person. But, you know, they’re dogs, so they’re awesome. I said, “I’m getting a cat.” I’m sure my voice conveyed this as the second best option.
Ann sputtered a laugh and said, “Of course you are! Oh, how did I never notice this before? You’re totally a cat person.”
I was annoyed by this observation.
I want to be a dog person.
But the Professor and I became friends immediately. Within the first five minutes in my home, he confidently meowed his loud presence to every room on the first floor. He scaled the couch and howled his arrival at the summit. I loved his fearlessness. For the next month, he followed me everywhere. Demanded constant attention. I discovered he mewed incessantly. In fact, one summer night while enjoying a drink on the back porch with a friend, my pal interrupted our conversation to say, “Dude, what the hell is wrong with your cat? He talks nonstop!”
This friend happens to own two cats himself, so I was surprised by his surprise.
“Don’t all cats talk a lot?”
“No,” he said with some alarm in his voice, “Not like that. Is he dying? Have you taken him to a vet?”
He’s not dying.
He’s just the Professor. He talks a lot.
I get a lot of lectures in my home.
He is a typical cat, so I won’t say much about that. Aloof, commandeering, demanding. He bears the regal essence of catness. He jumps on counters, then pretends he didn’t. I have squirt bottles all over the house. That little fucker is not getting on my counters when I’m sitting right here. He manages the house all day while I’m gone, and I guess he can do as he pleases. But damn it, I don’t want to be a cat person.
Cat people always freaked me out, their blind devotion and insistence this crazy little feline was a pal, when clearly it was a resentful would-be predator in a body too small to take action. Whatever the cat did was absolutely fine, because, cat. They were mostly assholes. I remember going to particular friends’ home for dinner many years ago. Moments before we ate, their cat jumped on the dining room table where all our uncovered meal steamed in its warm glory.
My eyes bulged out.
“Get off the table,” our hostess said, shooing the cat who returned her insistence with a cool hard gaze. Cheerfully, she said, “Oh, you’re the worst.”
She swung into the kitchen to get the final items. While her husband chatted me up, I stared at that cat–still strolling the table–careful to note what it licked, brushed, and touched with its littler-box paws. The husband finally noticed my fixed gaze, and said, “Get off the table, c’mon.”
The cat never flinched.
He sighed and said, “Cats.”
If you come to my house and I’m making you dinner, the cat will not be involved in the touching of your food.
I am not a cat person.
But, I am a fan of Professor Waffles.
Despite having the aforementioned less-endearing cat qualities, he also owns an impossible sense of expansion, that all is his domain, and it really is. His confidence constantly impresses me, how a creature this small and dependent has the courage to be so grand, so beautiful in his demanding vulnerability. PW oozes cat presumption, and maybe it’s good for me to see that boldness on a daily basis.
He wants to play. With everyone. Every hand is equal because every hand might hold treats. A month ago, I took him to work for the day and restrained him on a twenty-foot leash. He was completely chill, exploring every cube within range and eventually napping for hours on an empty desk. Everyone petted him, scratched him, dangled shiny things for him to grab at. He didn’t just endure it all–he loved it.
I like his equanimity regarding age, race, and belief system: every hand might hold treats. Every hand is equal.
He doesn’t use his claws. Various friends have remarked on this, his patience and refusal to pull a Wolverine during aggressive cat play. He knows the damage his claws can do, but he chooses restraint. I like this quality of his.
Also, he never gives up.
Every single time I come in from the outside world, he tries to escape. I stop him. I nudge him with my boot until he gets the daily message, “Not today.” He scowls and wanders a few feet away, allowing me to come in, drop my belongings. I greet him in my special voice. “‘Alloooooo, Professore. Hows arez youz? You arrrre good, no?”
Waffles stretches for me, not-too-subtly reminding me how awesome it is to nap all day, and then he consents to petting. He mews, complaining about his lack of food. “Are youz reaaady for your rubssingz, Professor?”
In the last few weeks, he’s taken to jumping into my lap, climbing up my chest and staring deep into my eyes. He blinks slowly (which I now know means, “I love you” in cat communication) and kneads my upper chest while I stroke him from head to tail. He likes every part of him touched and rubbed, and after he’s exhausted this position, he rolls onto his belly so I can stroke his furry belly like a guitar. Touch means everything to him and he cannot get enough.
But this eye-staring business makes me nervous.
When he hikes his paws around my neck and comes at me like I’m his prom date, I feel like whispering, “I like you but as a friend.” He bumps my head and mine together a lot–and I mean, a lot–which makes me think this must be cat foreplay. His wet nose constantly nuzzling mine, purring softly the whole times.
C’mon, man. You’re weirding me out.
Nevertheless, I pet him and stroke his skull and then rake my fingers down his back while he tries to make out with me. I admit, I find his purring soothing after a long day. I find this dog-like welcome delightful. However, I am equally pleased on those other days when he sees me at the door and turns–tail pointing straight up–so I notice his casual dismissal of my arrival. I don’t always feel like being snuggly every day either, so fine by me.
We seem well-suited.
Last weekend, friends came over for dinner. One friend was allergic, so the Professor enjoyed some alone time in the den, complete with water fountain, scratching posts, a warm bed, multiple climbing surfaces, and, of course, a box for his turds. (Yup. Let’s just put it out there. I now clean turds out of a box.)
My new-parent friends brought their one-year-old, who conveniently napped in my guest room, giving them a welcome respite. We celebrated this break from grabbing hands and swatting paws by using wine glasses–actual wine glasses with stems–the kind that easily get knocked over. None of us were drinking wine. We laughed at how luxurious and foreign this felt, drinking out of an actual wine glasses without worrying about them being knocked to the floor.
I explained how I didn’t want to be one of those “cat people” who let their cat touch the food. I told about my ongoing battle to keep Prof Waff off my food-preparing counters and the dining room table. I explained what he eats, how often, how I had to learn about the right amount of food for him. But I worry I’m underfeeding him anyway, not from his size, but his constant complaining, whining about how I never feed him anything and he’s wasting away.
He talks less than he used to a few months ago, now that he knows I’m listening. At least he knows he is heard. I rub his face and pull his ears back while I say, “Noes, liddle kidden. No outsidez for youz today.”
At the dinner party, I suddenly realized I had been talking for almost twenty minutes about my relationship with my cat.
With that grim realization came another: it’s too late.
I’m already a cat person.