Feline Rehab

January 31, 2010

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions—mostly because I never obey them beyond the requisite two weeks. But this year, I made a resolution that I intend to keep. One month down, infinity to go.

What’s this pledge I’ve made? Rehab. Not for myself, really, but for my cat Monti, who is hopelessly and incurably annoying. She’s been plaguing my heart out for seven years now, with a culmination of major offenses in 2009. Toward the end of December when work life and the holidays were inflicting their maximum stress load, I was ready to send her off for a dirt nap. I could take no more of her yowling, cold shouldering, scratching, barfing, skin twitching ways.

I am generally a cat lover, but Monti is the kind of cat who could test the patience of even the most devoted of feline fanatics. Here’s just a sampling of what she has put us through in the last six months alone:

• She brought a live snake into my kitchen. That should have been enough to sign her eviction notice on the spot. Picture this: I was home alone with the boys and had just put them both down for bed. I stumbled sleepily into the kitchen, ready for a nice little spot of dessert, and what should I find but Monti, growling in a low, guttural voice at a small, strange object under my cooking island. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the object to be a snake—granted, a garter snake, but a snake nonetheless and not a creature that belongs in my kitchen! I freaked, slapped a cup over the top of the coiled serpent, placed a tome of Edgar Allen Poe stories on top of the cup, covered all with an inverted Rubbermaid container, and placed two 8-pound dumbbells on top just for good measure. Then I gave Monti a good cussing and threw her unceremoniously out the door. Rotten cat.

• She barfs everywhere. Monti has the weakest stomach in creation, yet she will eat anything in sight. And whatever she takes down—cat food, milk, butter, pancake syrup, asparagus, etc.—usually comes back up about 15 seconds later. If she would limit her vomit to a confined space, that would be one thing. But she likes to ralph on the run, leaving a stream of yuck behind her. It’s super fun to clean up.

• She sneaks into the boys’ rooms and awakens them at night. I’ll take Graham into his room, read to him and sing him gently to sleep, unaware that she’s lurking under the bed. Then ten minutes later, he’s crying, and she’s hollering at the door to be let out. She does it on purpose, I swear.

• She has placed a ban on human interaction. She has no use for people and seems to take special delight in snubbing us. Try to touch her? You’ll get the stink eye and maybe even a bap. Beckon her toward your lap for some cuddling? Fuhgetaboutit. Call her name to invite her inside from the cold? Please. She likes the cold.

With all of these offenses in mind, I ended 2009 ready to send her off to the great pet shop in the sky. We couldn’t possibly give her away (though believe me, I’ve tried). With the economy in the dumps, the pounds are teeming with animals up for adoption, and we wouldn’t dream of adding to that problem. No, I was ready to take it a step further, and I know that sounds awful, but she had pushed me to the limit.

Fortunately for Monti, though, I paused for self-reflection as I welcomed in 2010. What I realized was that her nails-on-chalkboard personality is really not her fault. Part of it is just her unchangeable nature. And part of it is a reaction to the way I treat her. I don’t like her, and she doesn’t like me, and that’s just the way we have lived for many years. She’s mean, I’m mean back, and the cycle goes on. But what if I treated her like she was the most darling creature I’d ever clapped eyes on? Would she live up to a new set of expectations?

This is where my idea of Feline Rehab came in. I decided that, given her limited mental capacity, twelve steps would probably be over the top. But I could institute a three-step program in an effort to bring Monti back from the brink of certain doom. And my program was simple: Love her, love her, love her. Even when she tosses her cookies down the basement steps, be kind. Even when she looks at me like I’m a bug under her shoe, respond gently. Even when she has one of her hysterical moments and runs through the house meowing at phantoms, resist the urge to clothesline her. Just be nice.

This has been my approach for 31 days now, and I think we’re seeing some progress. Monti is not quite so unsocial, and on occasion, she’ll let me pet her for about seven seconds. She still barfs and continues to stir up trouble at bedtime, but I’m trying to take those issues in stride. Now, if we have another snake incident, all progress could be lost, but for now I feel that Monti and I have come to a meaningful truce—a model for peace the UN would approve. Today, an eight-pound cat. Tomorrow, the world!

Published in: on January 31, 2010 at 10:06 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Love it. I’m afraid this model might also be useful for when our children reach their teen years, and again when our husbands get old and crotchety.

  2. I feel your pain! I just read your blog and was cracking up about your puking cat and 10 minutes later my cat puked on the couch and the three blankets that were neatly folded on the end of the couch. It was super fun to clean up! 😦

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