what is a cat even

This morning, I woke up at 6:00 am to finish the last two pages of a paper I should have turned in last night. I finished it by 7:30 and sent it in, and was pleased to realize that I had another hour and a half to sleep; I shut my computer, rolled over, and promptly passed out.

Not thirty minutes later, my doorbell rang. I put my face in my pillow and swore; rolled over, hauled myself up, and stumbled to the door. I opened it without looking to see who it was, because if they had a reason to be at my door at 8:00 am on a Sunday, they would have to be okay with seeing me greasy-haired and braless.

It was my upstairs neighbor. “Good morning,” she said, and proffered a squirming kitten with both hands. “I have to leave for work in three minutes. Please take him.”

ImageThat is the story of how this happened.

This isn’t our first stray kitten. Our apartment complex is home to a lot of feral and near-feral cats; we rescued this guy’s littermate last weekend, though she died after two days of anemia caused by her absolutely horrifying flea problem. We were prepared– by 8:10, I had a litterbox, a wire crate, a pile of Fancy Feast, and three different kinds of flea spray in my apartment, and a new friend trying to hide under a pile of dirty towels in the bathroom.


The cello case did in a pinch.

Let me preface this with: I don’t know jack shit about cats. I have never in my life owned a cat, nor had any desire to do so; my parents are both allergic, and my father an ardent cat-hater besides. I never outright disliked them, but I also never really got the appeal. They were cool on a cat-by-cat basis, and occasionally kind of cute, but as a species, they just didn’t do much for me. I almost resent cats a little bit sometimes, honestly. People’s love of them always seemed to me a little oxymoronic. “Cats are so funny! They pretend they don’t care about humans and their actions are arbitrary and mysterious! They try to look dignified and fail! They’re smart because they shit inside! They’re so clean!” Well, I shit inside too, I always want to say, but I don’t walk in my shit immediately after, so I don’t think cats deserve all that much credit; and moreover, goldfishes’ actions are arbitrary and mysterious, too, but no one gets excited about them. And as someone who spends her life trying to look dignified and failing, I demand to know: Where is my internet fame? Where are the composite videos of my most endearing fuckups? Why don’t you think it’s cute when I fall off the couch??

–So, yeah, cats: What the fuck are cats. For the first few hours of his life here, I let the kitten sit in the crate, because I didn’t know what to do with him. I ran the shower so he could warm up, in his place under the bathroom sink; I left him water and Fancy Feast, and snatched him up long enough to hold him upside down and cover him in flea spray (which he bore with affront but no violence). Later, I grew bold enough to take him out of the crate and put him on the floor next to the couch where I was working, so he could explore.

This began my worryingly rapid transformation into something I barely recognize.

Watching the little shit clamber around, sniff things, and mew inquisitively at my shoes, it occurred to me that he always looked angry about something. It was hilarious. I retrieved him, turned him a few different ways, plopped him down in a few different places, left him to his own devices, and concluded: This kitten could be a goddamn Disney villain with all that cold malice folded into one tiny whiskerbutton.


Like, it was ridiculous.




He has no eye problems. He just does this, ostensibly to communicate his disdain.

And– well, yeah, it’s obvious, isn’t it? This is the point at which I started taking pictures. And putting them on the Internet.

This post is my last chance to tell the world what I am becoming before I forget the moments that led to this fundamental transfiguration of self. This is my last chance to explain how it came to this; why I, a functioning human who thought cats were pretty okay yesterday, spent thirty minutes this morning brainstorming names for an animal who is not going to live here next week. (I’m going with “Kazatya,” after a character in my girlfriend’s novel whose personality seems to have been grafted onto this kitten’s face; however, it looks like his working title among people who aren’t me will be “Whisky,” short for “Karl Ferdinand von Whiskers” and appropriate because he has a lazy eye that makes him look kind of drunk all the time.) With this post, someone, at least, will understand how it was before– why I became the kind of person who posed a kitten in front of my homework (Federalist Paper #78) and posted the photograph to the Internet.



My life is not my own anymore. He ate off of my fingers this evening, when this morning he hid behind my bicycle every time I got up to check my phone. He trembled and cried when I moved his crate into the bathroom at 8:11 am, but he fell asleep curled up against my side after lunchtime. I will let him go without sadness when it’s time for him to move into a larger house occupied by someone who can pay his vet bills and doesn’t plan to move twice in the next year, but I am living all seven stages of hardcore cat obsession in these whirlwind forty-eight hours. He will be here when I wake up in the morning, and I will feed him Fancy Feast off a spoon to remind him that it is food, and scratch under his chin (the deciding factor in his eventual resolution to accept humans in his life as a good thing) before I leave for class. I will massage his paws, to make trimming his claws easier for whoever ends up taking care of him after me, because I am invested in his future. I will do my homework with him sleeping on my stomach, and make meowing noises back at him when he wanders around and reports on my apartment in his squeaky way. These are inevitabilities, and that confounds the shit out of me. What are you, you mysterious and arbitrary creature? What are your paws? What is your weird, wiggly nose? What are your lopsided eyes and the fur that sticks off the tops of your ears and makes you look like a bat? What are you doing here?

He’s curled up next to the laptop vent with his head on his paws right now, looking murderous in his sleep, and I just don’t even know what to do about the little shit.



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