Bye Miss Kitty

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

So for a while I’ve been joking with friends about how my life feels like a TV show. I had been saying it was like a sitcom — there were two sets (The Scrap Exchange and Duke Gardens) and everyone on the show had to be somehow related to everyone else. Lately there’s been more drama so I’ve moved on to saying it’s more of a telenovela. I send updates to my friends entitled “Don’t Miss This Week’s Exciting Episode!”

Of course most of the drama has been coming from work. I know that many people might question my decision to spend $35,000+ on a graduate degree and then take a part-time job making less than $25,000 a year, but I get to sleep late (my work schedule starts at 1 p.m.) and, for better or worse, there is never a dull moment.

We have a weekly executive committee meeting where the admin folks can touch base on whatever important things have come up. This meeting happens at 1 o’clock on Tuesdays.

The Tuesday before last (5/16) I walked in to a discussion of the current employee drama which we had been dealing with for a few weeks. We have an employee who has been suffering through a series of seriously terrible life complications, the latest of which involved her losing her apartment. That day’s development was that she had secured a place to stay but her cat couldn’t stay there. She was upset. The cat was upstairs. We discussed options, one of which was for the cat to live at The Scrap Exchange. (Executive Director: “No.”) The next was for someone to take the cat. Deputy Director lives in very small house and already has cats. Operations Manager has two kids, including a 6-month-old baby, and is allergic to cats. Retail Manager and Executive Director both have multiple pets. Apparently all other possibilities that have been considered have pets or allergies — it turns out that I am the only person at The Scrap Exchange with neither.

I say, “Okay, that’s fine. I can take the cat.”

Have I ever had a cat? No, I have not. But I have lots of friends with cats and it doesn’t seem that complicated. I feel confident that I can handle this.

Now the cat that I was thinking the employee had was a cat that kept sneaking in to The Scrap Exchange and hanging out; on multiple occasions it was found in the Hall of Affordable Art (everyone’s favorite location at The Scrap Exchange). The employee now dealing with serial crises fell in love with the cat and took it home with her. This was a few months ago, pre-crises. It was a pretty sweet cat, and seemed chill, so it seemed like it would be fine for me to take it for a bit until the housing situation shook out.

After the meeting, Deputy Director tells Employee that I will take the cat, so they come down to the office with the cat and it turns out it is not the cat I was thinking of, a grown, chill, fully functioning cat. It is a little bitty kitten. Employee is like, “Thank you so much! Here she is,” and hands over the kitten. She tells me its name is Erica, named after her brother who was killed exactly a month before the kitten came into her life. In my head, I am thinking (a) man, that is a lot to put on a tiny little kitten, naming it after your dead brother and (b) I am not calling this kitten Erica.

[Side note: Somewhat unclear what happened to the other cat, its disappearance seemingly connected to recent breakup with boyfriend, I decided to not ask too many questions. The new cat apparently came in with a donation — details also unclear and I decided to not ask too many questions. Welcome to The Scrap Exchange. And welcome to my world where you go to work and come home with a kitten. This is definitely a sitcom episode.]

We got a box for the kitten to hang out in. We attached a string to the side of the box so we could distract her as needed while I tried to finish the work day. She slept for a while in the box, then realized she could climb out of the box, so she was able to explore the wide world of the office, then she curled up on the chair next to the desk I was working at and slept some more.

When it was time to go home I got her back in the box and took the box out to my car and was faced with the first challenge of figuring out how to get a box with a kitten in it into my car. I have a Miata. This was not a trivial task. But the box did fit once I angled it properly and I started to drive home and the kitten pretty much immediately figured out how to get out of the box. But there isn’t really anywhere to go in a Miata and she wasn’t freaking out or anything so I just let her wander around. Seemed safer than trying to figure out how to get her to stay in the box while I was driving.

We got home and I probably should have gone to get her food but I didn’t want to go out again and I’d cooked a chicken that weekend so I fed her some of that and she seemed to be okay so I decided that would be good enough for now. I also didn’t have a litter box and I had no idea how that was going to work, but she was so little that I figured if she did make a mess somewhere, it wouldn’t be that much of a mess, and I would just deal with it then.

She explored the house while I sat at the dining room table eating dinner and reading the paper. She liked jumping up on the somewhat unstable bookshelf I have attached to the wall, and at first I tried to get her to stop but I realized that wasn’t going to work so I took the books off. I could just imagine myself telling Employee that her kitten was crushed to death in tragic cookbook accident. Death by Julia Child. Not pretty.

I wasn’t paying all that much attention and she seemed to be staying out of trouble. Eventually I notice that behind me I am hearing paper rustling noises. I figure this is the cat checking out the pile of newspaper on the floor and the paper bag with papers ready to go to the recycle bin. But the paper rustling noises go on and on. Finally I turn around to see what’s going on and the kitten is working on making a little indentation in the bag, like a little nest. She finishes with that and curls up in it and goes to sleep. And I’m like okay that does not look comfortable. Is that really the best my house has to offer? Sliding off the side of a paper bag with newspaper in it?

cat sleeping on bag

Paper Bed

But whatever. To each his own. I let her be.

After I finished eating, I moved over to the armchair that lives in the corner of the dining room, where I often work with my computer on my lap. Miss Kitty wakes up and starts running around again. She likes to make a circuit around the room — up the chair, across the empty bookshelf, over to the papers, up the shelf, back to me and around the room again. This would be fine if the circuit didn’t involve running directly across my keyboard. Sometimes she would stop to hang out.

cat in front of computer

Lots of CTRL-Z action that night.

She eventually stopped the circuit and slept for a while on the shelf, then moved on to the back of the chair where she slept with her paw on my shoulder.

I got up to go to bed and wasn’t sure what I was going to do with her, I didn’t have a kitty bed or anything set up. I also wasn’t sure what she was expecting since I had no idea what she had been doing previously. Or even what you’re supposed to do with a kitten. Where do kittens spend the night? I guess I would find out.

She followed me into the bedroom and I got in bed and turned off the light and after about a minute I heard a little “Meow? …. Meow?” Which even I, a feline neophyte, could translate: “Where are you?”

I picked her up and put her on the bed. She curled up next to me and we went to sleep.

She pretty much left me alone the first night. She thought it was time to get up when it got  light out but I was like no we’ve only been in bed a few hours, it’s not time to get up yet. She went back to sleep.

I got up a little before my usual time and I played with her a little bit then tried to finish the editing work I’d been doing the night before. I called the office and said I’d be in late, I was trying to finish my edits, and I knew I would never get to them once I got to the office. Some things are just impossible to do there.

I went in around 2 p.m. and hoped for the best with Kitty by herself in the house.

I talked to Ann about trying to figure out what I needed for litter box. Fortunately we work in the Land of Abundance, so we went in to the retail store and Ann found a container that would work and gave me some tips on where to put it, etc. Total cost: $2.35.

I left work a little earlier than usual and came home to see how she did. Everything seemed fine.

I fed her some more of the chicken and she did the same thing she’d done the night before. She’d snatch a piece out of my hand and run across the room and huddle in a corner, eating it before anyone could come and take it away from her. She’d come back when she was finished and get another piece and run back to the corner. After the first few pieces she was calmer when getting more, but she still kept going across the room to eat it.

I took  her out on the porch to see if she wanted to explore, and she was happy to check out the porch but was not interested in the wider world.

I talked a friend who has cats into going to the grocery store with me. She came over and we went off and did battle with the pet aisle. Talk about paradox of choice, holy cow. But we picked out food and kitty litter and went home and got the litter box set up.

My friend was like okay now you put her in it. So we put her in the litter box and she stands completely still for about 5 seconds then starts scratching and puts out this HUGE poop. I was like man I wonder how long she was holding that for. Poor thing.

So now we had food and a litter box. We were set.

I was prepared to have her for a few days, maybe a week. On Thursday 5/18, I talked to Employee who said she should be able to take her back between June 1 and June 19. I was like “Oh! Okay.”

That is more than a week. I had to change my mindset a bit.

I quickly learned that kitties like to play. A lot. Her favorite activity was playing with a string (the one we taped to the box at work) or a shoelace. Endlessly fascinating! I would dangle it; she would attack. My favorite part was when she’d flip herself over trying to jump up and grab it.

She liked to play hide and seek, and to have me chase her. When I’d walk into my bedroom, she’d run ahead of me and run under the bed, then stick her head out from behind the blanket chest that sits at the foot of the bed. She’d sit at the corner of the bed, in the nook made by the chest, and wait for me to walk past, then run to the other side of the room, then back under the bed. Like playing peek-a-boo.

When I’d walk toward the bathroom, Miss Kitty would come with me. She’d wait for me in the hall, crouching against the wall just outside the door, and when I walked out she’d pounce at my feet, then run in front of me down the hallway.

All of it reminded me of my niece when she was little; she loved it when I would pretend to be a monster and chase her around the house. I’m going to get you! I’m going to get you! As she ran and squealed, looking over her shoulder at me clomping behind her.

My nights of extended sleep didn’t go so well after the first few nights. Kitty figured out that she could jump up on the bed on her own — it was like someone scaling a cliff in the movies, she’d get the edge of her claws over the top and … unhh unhh …  pull herself the rest of the way up.

If I lay very still,  she would give up quickly after I turned out the light, but in the mornings that strategy didn’t work. She was like okay time to play! Sometimes I could get her to stop by covering up everything and not reacting at all as she poked and prodded me. But in a few minutes she’d try again, tapping my cheek with her little kitty paw. Kitty was sweet, but I don’t give up my sleep for anything. Once I realized she wasn’t going to let it go, I’d pick her up and put her out in the hallway and close the door. Zzzzzz.

The first few nights she played a little bit rough, she scratched up my legs and bit my hands and arms. I worked on behavior modification and it got better, but I feel like she couldn’t quite get what the problem was. She stopped putting out her claws when she played. She would gently grab my arm before she sunk her pointy little teeth into it. I would say NO! STOP! NO BITE! And she would look so confused: Why person no want play? Hm. Will try again.

She just couldn’t get what she was doing wrong.

I did manage to get her to stop jumping up on the dining room table with the help of a spray bottle filled with water. She jumped on the table, I squirted her. She shook her head, turned around, jumped back down on to the chair. A few minutes later, she jumped up again. I squirted, she fled. She tried again a few minutes later. I reached for the bottle and she hightailed it off of there.

FACT: Kitties do not like being sprayed with water.

Our basic routine was that I would chase her and play with her after I got up, while I took care of house things and ate breakfast and read the paper, and then again at night after I got home from work. She would hang out in the dining room with me while I ate or worked or studied. Then after I went to bed, she’d spend most of the night in my room; I’d put her out in the morning so I could get a few extra hours of sleep.

On Thursday 5/25 I took a day trip to High Point. I’d been planning on taking the train — I love the train — but then the power went out at work on Wednesday so I had many unfinished work items to take care of, and at the last minute I decided I should drive so I could come home earlier. I didn’t want to be gone all day and then work all night, leaving Miss Kitty home by herself for 18 hours.

I left around 7:15 a.m. and got home around 5 p.m. I played with kitty for a few minutes then took a nap. Kitty let me sleep but got up on the bed once I was awake and wanted to play. I  got up and ate and played with her for a few more minutes then headed to my office.

I worked for a few hours to try to get caught up from the power outage and the day out of town. I finished late, and came inside and went straight to bed. I was tired. Kitty was not sympathetic. Kitty was like I’m sorry but you have not met Kitty Play Quota today. You cannot sleep until Kitty Play Quota has been met!

I put the pillow over my head. She snuck under and around it, whiskers on my face. She would not take no for an answer. I removed her to the hallway. She figured out that the door didn’t latch and she could just push it open. Back on to the bed. Play! Play! Play! I put her out in to the hallway and put a pile of books in front of the door. Checkmate. Zzzzzz.

Phone rang at 10:30 a.m. No message. Rang again. No message. Rang again, I got up to answer. Opened the door and Kitty sitting there. Did she sit there all night, in the same spot in front of the door?

Phone was kitty mom saying she got a place to stay and she could take her baby back. I made arrangements to meet her at 1 o’clock, before I went to work.

Got back into bed to wake up and let kitty try to play with me, launching herself across the bed at my head.

Did my morning stuff — shower, newspaper, breakfast — then got kitty things together and put it all in the car. Put kitty in banker’s box, which fit better in my car than the box I brought her home in, but which she also did not want to stay in once I started driving. Met up with kitty mom.  Kitty was okay for most of it but got nervous when I tried to hand her over. I put her back in the box and we did the transfer that way.

After thinking I’d have her for a few days or a week, and then trying to prepare myself for a month, it turned out to be 10 days after all. Kittens are cute. It’s hard not to get attached.

And I know there’s plenty more where she came from, but I’m not sure if I liked the experience enough to want to go through it willingly (as opposed to having it foisted upon me). I think I might like to sleep too much to have a pet.

But anyway this is my tribute to Miss (Erica) Kitty. May she live long and prosper.