I know this has been a stressful time. The holidays are fast approaching. There is the impeachment process. We have the climate change crisis, and now, with daylight saving time gone, it is dark. It is easy to get depressed and anxious.
But to help remind you that your life is not all bad, let me tell you about a recent week I had.
I had to cat-sit.
Yes, I had to take care of a cat all by myself for a week. Just the thought of that ought to put a spring back into your step.
I am not a cat person. I've never lived with a cat. So, when my daughter and her husband adopted a cat from the shelter, I was curious. Still, I also was led to believe that I would never have responsibility for said feline. I should have gotten that in writing.
For as I write this, my family is away at a wedding in Minnesota, and I am home for one week with three dogs and Clover. Clover is a 3-year-old orange tabby. She is loved, and the darling of my daughter's eyes.
But apparently, that love is not necessarily reciprocated to relatives.
I was given all the instructions in writing for how to care for Clover. But they left out — maybe on purpose — instructions on how to get along, how to live peacefully with a cat.
It began with Day 1. They dropped Clover off in the morning, and she instantly disappeared under the bed in my daughter's old room. This, I mistakenly thought, was going to be easy.
The night of Day 1. I patrol at night. So, I discovered, did Clover. At 3 a.m., I walked into the kitchen and found her on the counter, just sitting on her haunches. She didn't move. She just stared at me. It sent chills down my spine. I retreated to the bedroom.
Day 2: Clover had clearly decided that my daughter's bedroom was her territory. In a moment of kindness, I went in unannounced and tried to make friends. I tried to pet her, and bam!
She scratched me. I learned that being scratched by Clover was like being attacked by tiny swords. There was no feeling initially, but as I backed out, I noticed the little slice marks oozing blood. This is how they kill. ...
Day 3: I decided that our relationship was defined by the cold war standard of mutually assured destruction. The entrance to “her” bedroom was our Berlin Wall. I began to think of Clover as the East Germany of cats: suspicious, neurotic and often bad-tempered. I was allowed to bring in food and water, but then I had to leave immediately and make sure that no dogs wandered in. That would not go well. The dogs learned to give her a wide berth.
Day 4: I was nervous at night because Clover had started to patrol in our bedroom. I could never hear her approach. She would appear on the foot of our bed and stare. It was unnerving.
“What do you want?” I'd plead. And I got nothing back.
She’d stretch and then leap off the bed. But during the day, things had settled into a routine. Mostly me doing what she wanted and when she wanted it. Food and water on time, and keep the litter box clean!
Day 5: It was morning, and as I fed the dogs, who shows up in the hallway but Clover and ... she rubbed up against my leg! What did that mean?
I’ll tell you what it meant. First, it did not mean we were friends. Instead, it meant that Clover could rub up against my leg, or roll over on her back, but I was still not allowed to pet her. She had to come to me and never the other way around. Cats, I concluded, are complicated beings.
Day 6: The family returned. There is no happy ending to this story. No, “we became best friends.” It is, after all, November, the darkest month. My family came home, and my daughter scooped Clover up. Clover nestled into her arms but then gave me that same implacable cat stare. The stare that said, “Tiny human, you lost.”
And that is the moral of the story. We may think of ourselves as superior beings, but we can be laid low by one week with a cat.