Working from home during the pandemic has meant spending a lot more time with the family pets.
For the record, about three years ago I reluctantly agreed to getting my daughter one cat. One . . . cat.
Almost instantaneously my wife, Christine, and daughter, Samantha, arrived back at the house with two gray kittens.
“I know you said one cat, but they are siblings, and we met the man in the line, and he couldn’t keep them, and it just seemed like fate, you know, us there at the shelter to get a cat, him dropping them off. And we couldn’t separate them!”
Yes, very mystical.
The result is yowling every morning outside my son’s room. The male cat, Nemo, hollers and hollers and hollers until Wesley opens his door and shouts, “What?” Wesley is 19 and likes to sleep in.
Nemo doesn’t really seem to want anything. He just stares back at Wesley and then wanders off or does a quick circle around the boy’s room before returning to his other duties of sleeping and licking his exit hatch.
That’s one of the annoying things about cats. They screech at their empty bowl. You fill it. They sniff. They do not eat. They want to get into a room. You open the door for them. They don’t come in. Pet relationships are by their very nature unhealthy co-dependencies.
The other cat is Luna. She is smaller and has something wrong with her throat, so she cannot screech. Instead, she emits a strange radio-static crackle. She loves to cuddle, except when she doesn’t, and then she will thoughtfully let you know by hissing, scratching, and biting the . . . stuff out of you.
I respect Luna in exactly the way that I do not respect Nemo.
Luna has given me a new job, that of CSI Rockland. When I come downstairs in the morning, I find crime scenes.
I tape off the area, call in forensics.
“You can see the spatter pattern here on the base molding.”
“Oh yeah, definitely clipped an artery.”
Sometimes I find a whole mouse. One morning I found half a mouse, which meant that we had to begin a search for the other half.
My wife is not a fan of dead mice, but I always praise Luna for these kills. These rodents thought our house might be a nice place to come in out of the cold. They thought wrong.
Luna, of course, doesn’t care if I’m happy with what she has done. She doesn’t care if I’m sad, or angry, or dead.
If Luna is a stone-cold killer, Nemo is an addict. He seeks one thing and one thing only: treats.
Treats are these little squares that come in a plastic container that you can rattle if you want to see Nemo come running. They come in a variety of flavors and apparently differ in some way from the cat’s regular food because he will actually eat them. I’m not sure why his regular food couldn’t just be a bag of treats, but I don’t make the rules.
At one point, Christine bought him treats that contained catnip. His pupils dilated and he has never been the same since. Now, he comes and stares at us, day and night, and the message is clear. “Give me treats!”
I’ve seen a cat brain at the Boston Museum of Science. It’s a little bigger than a walnut and devoid of color. I would liken it to an 8-bit operating system. This is Atari, and the human brain is a Sony Playstation.
Christine tells me not to say the word “treats” around Nemo. I am unconvinced, having seen the biology we are dealing with. I say, “Treats.” Nemo blinks. I say, “Nemo.” Nemo does not turn toward me. He stares at a blank wall.
Nemo does not know who he is, where he is, or why he is. He knows only that there are treats anywhere you hear the telltale rattle.
The kids seem to like them (the cats, not the treats). The other day, Samantha came downstairs and proudly announced, “I built a cat house.”
Putting my badge in my belt, I said, “I’ll deal with that later. Right now, I’ve got a Code M in the living room to investigate. I have it narrowed down to the usual suspect, but even so, keep the coffee hot. We might be here a while.”