We’ve got a couple cats. You know, because they’re so useful.
Panya is the girl cat. Panya means “rat” in Swahili. We got her during the Infestation. We had hopes she’d be a deterrent. She’s a torty, otherwise a regular American shorthair. Her fur is a little greasy, as Lana would be quick to point out. We don’t call her Panya. We call her Kitty.
Dill is the boy cat. He is good-looking; he’s got a rich grey coat, an oversized schnoz. He’s maybe not the brightest but really what constitutes a smart cat? Party tricks? We mostly call him Dill. I sometimes call him Mister. I try not to call him Dummy.
The cats were, of course, lobbied hard for by the children of the house. But once they each grew out of their kitten stage, kids and cats pretty much ignored each other. That left me, the feeder, the poop collector, the nighttime snuggler.
Dill, since he’s passed his two-year mark, has become affectionate. He used to be too interested in what was going on outside, in terrorizing Kitty (he still does that some, jerk), in napping just out of petting distance. But lately, when I bring my coffee back to bed in the morning, he climbs in with me. Once I’m settled, coffee on handy self-made shelf, pillows propped behind me, covers pulled back up, he plops himself on my lap. “Plop” is perhaps not quite the right verb. It’s more like he’s a baseball player sliding into home. Or a gymnast sticking a landing. It’s pretty un-catlike - I don’t think he’s fully learned yet what it is to be a feline.
Dill is satisfying to pet, both because of his silken fur and also because of his ferocious purr. Kitty doesn’t purr. She’s so sweet - she spends a lot of time on my lap - but, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s less satisfying to pet a cat that doesn’t purr. Sometimes when I’m petting a dog, I’m like, why isn’t it purring?
Kitty, poor girl, has resting bitch face. Mae is convinced Kitty hates her. I keep telling her no, it’s just her face. “But look at the way she’s looking at me!” she’ll yell, pointing at the cat as Kitty’s ears go back in alarm. This morning Mae said Kitty looked sad - like all her kittens had been killed. She took a picture and showed me. It was the exact same Kitty expression as always.
The downside of Dill’s new-found affection is that he’s possessive of me. Kitty generally sleeps on my shoulder, Dill at my feet. Usually though, lately anyway, around 3:00 am Dill will decide he needs more body heat. He attacks Kitty (who, again, is on my shoulder). They have a brief fight (on my shoulder) in which he bites and she hisses and I yell “god damn it” and push them both off me and Kitty runs for the couch and then finally Dill settles against my back. Bully. And then I, at 3:05 am, start thinking about how this dynamic is emblematic of the culture at large, men bullying women, la la la, and I’m wide awake.
Kitty likes to claw the couch. She also an expert huntress. She likes to bring live lizards, mice and birds into the house - gifts for me that I then have to capture and return outside or sometimes to the wildlife rescue. It’s delightful.
Dill, when he doesn’t eat enough wet cat food, gets crystals in his urine and pees on the couch. Or on my bed. It hasn’t happened for awhile (he gets a lot of wet food now) but it doesn’t really recommend him. Sinking into the couch at the end of the day and getting a sharp whiff of cat urine can make me feel desperate like almost nothing else.
He also tends to get into fights. He’ll come in for dinner with clumps of fur missing. Sometimes I hear him yowling and hissing with one cat or another in the canyon below our house. Dummy.
They are a pain in the ass, really, these cats. But when I stop to dissect it, I guess I must love them. I mean, you know. I spend a lot of my downtime with a cat on my lap. Or on my shoulder. I sort of chose them, in the way you allow a choice your children want. I don’t adore them with the passion I had for my cat in my twenties. But I didn’t have kids then. Now I have so many creatures to feed and house and adore. The cats are for sure at the bottom of the totem pole. But on nights when the kids are with their dad, the rain pelting the skylight above my bed, I’m happy for their warmth, their purring and non-purring. We have an understanding.