Two weekends ago we took a tour of the Cedar Creek Brewery when we were visiting relatives in east Texas, and we walked out with a souvenir mug and a one-eyed cat. This is an extremely surprising turn of events for a family that already has too many mugs and said they didn’t want a pet.
Joe in particular is not a cat person, and I think he’s still trying to process what happened.
There he was, sipping a Pale Ale, admiring the gleaming boil kettle, when the kids suddenly started clamoring about how he needed to come over to the owner’s office to see the cute four-month-old kitty. He walked back there with complete innocence, honestly thinking that he was going to do nothing more than see the cute kitty. Then, he walked through the door, and his “Reasons We Can’t Own a Cat” Defense Shield was slammed with one blow after another before he even knew what was happening: I’m allergic to cats. But this one has super-short hair! We can’t afford a big vet bill right now. It’s already had a checkup and all its shots! Someone else will adopt it. But the poor thing has a damaged eye that looks icky so nobody else will want it! I think Joe actually felt dizzy when he said, “Cats aren’t friendly, ” and then watched the cat jump into my son’s lap and start purring.
The owner said that they named the kitten Arnold, after the Terminator, because of his eye. When Joe realized that St. Arnold is also the patron saint of brewers, he knew that cosmic forces had aligned against him, and resigned himself to his new role as Cat Owner. As a brewery employee helped us load a littler box and scratching post into the back of the car, I saw Joe glance at his empty souvenir mug as if he suspected that this all may be a hallucination and was wondering what on earth they put in that beer.
We brought the cat back home to Austin a week and a half ago, and our trip up the feline-having learning curve began.
The second night the cat was here, Joe and I walked into the pantry and simultaneously froze in horror as we saw that litter had been scattered everywhere — and not by the cat.
I felt like I was in an episode of Sherlock when I spotted the telltale pacifier that the culprit left at the scene. And then I almost passed out, vomited and hyperventilated, all at the same time, when I put it together that this meant that my crazy two-year-old was playing in the cat’s box.
Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be the once-in-a-lifetime, utterly isolated event that I hoped it would be, and I’ve encountered the situation a few more times since then. I guess she’s confused since the contents of her sand table are of the same texture as the litter box (and the table even came with a toy that looks exactly like a pooper scooper, which I’m now convinced is a sick practical joke wrought by a villainous Mattel employee who hates cat owners and parents). Either that or she really is a robot programmed to wreak havoc in this house.
Meanwhile, Joe has had some confusion of his own, though mercifully of a different nature.
When he came home from work on Monday, he looked around in anticipation, evidently expecting the cat to come running up to him. “That’s a dog thing, ” I informed him. Joe then called Arnold’s name to summon him, and was surprised when he received only silence in response. “Also a dog thing, ” I said.
Joe asked how we’re supposed to know where the cat is at all times if it doesn’t come when we call, and I explained that that’s simply not part of the cat-owning experience. Sometimes you don’t know where your cat is. That’s how it goes.
Joe rejected the idea, and announced cheerfully that he’ll solve the problem by putting one of those beeping locator things on the cat’s collar. We have them attached to our car keys and remote controls, and it’s handy to be able to press a button when we’ve misplaced them and follow the beep-beep-beep sound to wherever they are. I told Joe that you can’t use those things for pets, and when he asked why not, I drew a blank. I don’t know. You just…can’t. I looked at him like he was crazy and he looked at me like I was crazy and we dropped the subject, but I have a feeling this is not over. I think Joe envisions that it will shortly become part of his after-work routine to walk in the front door, press the beeper remote, and locate his cat. If he can’t have a real pet like a dog that comes bounding up to him when he comes home, this is second best.
He has been enjoying having Arnold around, though — so much so that he enthusiastically suggested that we should start a campaign to help the ASPCA build breweries at their shelters. Since the fact that Joe had recently sampled a wide variety of brews was such a key factor in his own decision to adopt a cat, he estimates that animal shelters could increase their adoption rate by at least 60 percent if there were fresh beer made on the premises. He described it as a “win-win situation” where people would get to enjoy craft brews and would walk out with armfuls of animals in need of homes. I tried to explain that these facilities want qualified families who have put serious thought into their decisions to bring pets into their lives, but he dismissed me and any naysaying shelter owners as not being solution-oriented.
As for me, I am also enjoying my new life as a cat person. In fact, I’m enjoying it to a surprising extent. When we first drove away from the brewery with the meowing cardboard box in the back seat, I was a little worried about our decision. The kids have wanted a dog or a cat forever, and I’d been firmly resisting their pleas on the grounds that the carpet is peed on enough already without adding an animal into the mix. My resolve weakened after the time my daughters spent an entire evening chasing a mosquito around the house that they’d named Buzzy, but I still felt like we should hold off on getting a real pet.
We’re in a survival season. I am extremely maxed out. So when the kids jumped up and down in the owner’s office at the brewery and shouted at me about how fun it would be to have a cat, I thought about the piles of unfolded laundry and bottomless pits of clutter that awaited me back at the house and almost declared that “THERE IS NO FUN IN THIS FAMILY. ONLY TOIL.” (I get melodramatic when I’m tired). But then I looked down at the kitty pawing at my four-year-old’s hair as he purred in her lap, and I had a brief moment of clarity in which I realized that these tough years of having so many little ones really will pass, probably sooner than I expect. And it occurred to me that it might not be so bad to have a sweet one-eyed cat join the crazy crew that is our family, and be part of our memories of this wild and wonderful season of life.