A lot of the mail I
get from you guys has to do with Ivan the Terrible. You all seem to love
him. Now that I’ve become less of a Luddite and Natalie is in the mood to
indulge me, I can actually post photos of him to augment the tales of his
When I first got Ivan
and Annie, they were about eight months old: http://www.heartless-bitches.com/morrigan/nb_jan_25_2003.shtml so they’re almost six
now. I’d never had long-haired cats before and if I’d known the amount of
debris they leave in their wake, I might have thought twice. I’m madly
attached to the little bastards now though, so I’ll just have to get over the
tumbleweeds of fur everywhere and the horror of spending more to get them
shaved (per cat) than I spend to get my own hair cut.
change. It’s a fact. They like to know where everything is and they
like to have things stay the same. Disrupting their routine spells
Mine are less fazed by
being uprooted than most felines – apart from their first few years, I’ve moved
them annually nearly all their lives and they’re used to the drill.
That doesn’t mean
they enjoy it. Once the empty boxes start to accumulate, they twig to the
fact that Something’s Up and begin to express their opinion.
How eloquent cats
manage to be despite their inability to speak. Some felines might express
their displeasure by yowling or knocking over fragile things. Others may
claw at expensive furniture or elaborately shun their owners.
Annie resorts to
thuggery. By nature, she’s got a violent streak in her a mile wide. I
know she loves me – I know this. She stops eating when I’m in hospital
and pines if I’m gone for more than a few days. Once she nearly starved
herself to death in grief. But she has trouble showing affection and prefers
to express her love by inflicting bodily harm. I’m not talking love bites
either. She’ll open me up with the gusto of Jack the Ripper if the mood
takes her. She’s so aggressive that even though she doesn’t hide at the
sight of strangers like Ivan does, I can’t allow children to pet her for fear
that she will attack them. At least once a day she’ll saunter up to
a sleeping Ivan and for no reason whatsoever and give him a beat down so brutal
that I’ll have to intervene. He’s almost twice her size but she’s got a
huge set of balls on her and an even bigger chip on her shoulder.
If you pay attention, you
can actually see her thought process right before the assault – she’ll
be sitting there in the sunshine when the idea occurs to her. She’ll
raise her head suddenly and slowly her ears will flatten until they’re flush
against her head. She’ll get up, have a languorous stretch and a yawn and
then start looking for Ivan, slinking around stealthily, peering around
corners. When she finds him, her eyes narrow and she’ll approach him cautiously
in ever-diminishing circles as Ivan sleeps on, oblivious to the threat.
She’ll spend a good 2 or 3 minutes considering her best angle of attack –
she’ll assess his possible routes of escape, figuring out if there’s any corner
she can back him into and the best way she can achieve that.
Then she pounces –
from overhead if she can manage it, but that rarely happens. Ivan isn’t
stupid. He’s taken to sleeping either right out in the open where he can
sense her coming or in some well-defended corner from which he can easily
flee. He won’t fight unless he’s forced to. On one occasion, he
leapt desperately into my arms to get away from her – she’s like a feline
hitman and she loves her work. There’s definitely at least one screw loose
with this cat.
When she wants to express
her displeasure, Annie begins by calling me out – she swaggers up to me and
hisses or appears an inch from my face in the dead of night and growls at me
with great menace in low and lingering tones. From there, she moves on to
random acts of violence. She’ll be sitting contentedly in my lap while I
pet her, all squinty-eyed and purring when suddenly she’ll gaze up at me
adoringly, extend a velvety paw and scratch me as hard as she can. If
there’s time before I leap up with a roar of shock, she might bite me
too. Either/or. She likes to mix it up.
Ivan is more
passive/aggressive. His weapon of choice is bodily waste. Urine and crap
– he’s got an endless supply of both and depending on his mood and his diet, I
might be treated to a collage.
I’ll never win – I’ve
resigned myself to that. He’s got nothing but time on his hands and a
very long memory. That cat can hold a grudge longer than my mother – and
I didn’t think that was even possible.
The only thing I’ve
got going for me is that he’s predictable. If I do certain specific
things, he’ll respond in certain specific ways. For example:
Get him shaved
Crap in my shoes and piss on the
Piss on the furniture and take a
dump in half packed boxes. Extra points if I don’t find it until I’m
unpacking at the new place
Have a male guest over
Crap in HIS shoes. Do
everything in his power to see the interloper off
Confine him, however briefly, to a
room with the door closed for being bad
Piss AND crap somewhere hidden in
the room, making sure I won’t find it for months. Extra points if it’s
under the radiator so the stench is intensified and its source is an enduring
Put him on a diet
Shatter fragile things by jumping up
onto counters/tables and knocking them onto the floor. Extra points if
this involves actually going into cupboards to do it
Go away and leave him alone
Piss on the bathmat.
Take him at the vet
Don’t even ask – the last time he
got his temperature taken, the look of stunned violation on his face was
replaced a second later by a slit-eyed stare that assured me that we would be
revisiting this indignity sometime in the near future
Squirt him with the watergun for
clawing the furniture
Shred my pantyhose; crap in my shoes
This list is virtually
endless: he’s EVIL. Just evil would be bad enough but he’s
smart too so keeping one step ahead of him is a losing proposition.
This move was
bad. I was very sick throughout, inadvertently overdosing on topamax and
not in my right mind so instead of organizing things properly, I put everything
that began with the same letter of the alphabet into a box marked carefully
with that letter. Ergo, my tampons, teapot, tools, toaster, television
cables and toe nail clipper should all be together. I recall going out of
my way to do this and being quite proud of myself for my quick thinking.
It all made perfect sense at the time.
I told Natalie that I was
going to need a psychic to ever find anything again, but that’s not strictly
true – I’m going to need a dictionary and a thesaurus.
The place was a pit
when I began. Housework had not been a priority for some months – I was
concentrating on not dying so by the time I got down to it, I had my work cut
out for me.
Ivan was right in the
thick of things, being his usual helpful self by doing stuff like shoving my
keys under the fridge (another favourite pastime of his, but one I caught on to
years ago). Here he is amidst the squalor. I think this was Day
By Day Three, I’d moved on
to the bedroom and it was time to take the cats across the street to the
groomer. The only way I could get them to agree to take Annie was to
swear on a stack of bibles that I was actually moving out of town and I’d never
be bringing her back. She’s so ferocious and uncontrollable that she has
been barred from every single place I’ve had her groomed and she doesn’t react
well to being sedated. (An aside: I haven’t lived in the town I’m
in now for several years. When I phoned the groomer I used to use in
order to see if their prices had gone up, I gave my name as a former customer.
As soon as I did, the person on the other end of the phone interrupted me and
said “Oh yeah – your cat’s a black one called Annie, right?”)
Once the cage comes
out, the cats scatter to the four winds. I’ve learned to take it out days
prior to the appointment and leave it by the front door. In time, they
let their guard down so when the fateful day arrives I just grab them and shove
them into it. I’ve got a stellar cat carrier. It collapses to fold flat
(how cool is that?) and has hard plastic sides with fencing on the top and at
either end. You can open it at one end but it also opens on top so you
don’t have to try to wrestle them through horizontally. It is strong enough to
securely contain the most savage beast bent on escape and is the best design
I’ve ever come across. Because the top is fenced, you can see at a glance
what’s going on inside, though this is often a mixed blessing. Sadly,
they outgrew it several years ago, having become hideously overweight once Ivan
figured out how to open the fridge. They’ll both fit but it’s a tight
squeeze – there’s room for them to move around, but only a bit. And
because they’re both such porkers, I can’t lift the damn thing with the pair of
them in it – once they’re both in there, their combined weight is nearly half
of mine and it’s too heavy.
Prior to picking them
up after their haircuts, I covered the bed and the rest of the furniture in
plastic sheets and covered the plastic with old blankets. I know
Ivan. There was no way he was not going to make his point: all I
could do was try to minimize the damage.
This is a picture of
Ivan (and part of Annie) immediately after returning from the groomer that
day. Check out that paunch. See him slinking around like
that? He’s looking for something to piss on. (It wound up being a pillow,
the little bastard.)
The move itself was a
nightmare. Once the cats go into the carrier, the Armageddon clock starts
counting down. Normally, they’re only in there together for a few minutes
at the most – generally the time it takes to get them to the groomer and
back. Even then, I try to find a groomer in the area so I can take them
one at a time. They don’t get along when they’re in such close proximity,
you see. Annie goes nuts and Ivan’s got nowhere to run and is forced to
fight for his life.
It begins with what I
like to call “the exorcist noise”. This is an otherworldly sound – a
combination of a growl, a moan and a snarl. The exorcist noise part
lasts for about 5 minutes. Then it all goes quiet. Too quiet.
Then – suddenly – there’s a scream. The carrier erupts in a symphony of
yowls, yips and an odd keening noise and then all hell breaks loose. Ivan
invariably gets the short end of the bargain and if I’m able to (without injury
to myself) this is the point where I extract him. He spends the remainder
of the trip on my lap, shivering and hyperventilating, while Annie remains
locked securely in the carrier, simmering with rage and muttering the feline
version of “Redrum” to herself over and over.
If, on the other
hand, it would be suicidal to attempt to intervene (for example because Annie’s
eyes have rolled back in her head and/or I can see nothing but a writhing ball
of teeth, claws and blood and I cannot tell by looking where one cat ends and
the other begins) I dump approximately 2-3 cups of cold water directly on top
of the pair of them, which tends to settle the argument pretty quickly.
Because of Ivan’s
size and strength (and my lack of size and strength at the time), my ex
undertook the thankless task of depositing him in the carrier.
Uncharacteristically for Ivan – who is the Gandhi of the feline world and
normally eschews bloodshed in favour of the judicious use of feces as a form of
non-violent protest – he bit and scratched my ex REALLY badly.
Annie-style badly. “Maybe that ought to be looked at” badly.
The ex and Ivan never
got along and the blame for this falls squarely upon Ivan who is criminally
possessive. He is a student of the “If I can’t have her, nobody can”
school of devotion and is pathologically jealous of any male humanoid that
enters my orbit. (On the other hand,
this could also easily be revenge for having him neutered, more of a “If I
can’t have IT, nobody can.”) On one
memorable evening, he was being such a disruptive pain in the ass that I had to
lock him in the bathroom. It took an
hour of glass shattering, garbage shredding effort for him to free himself, and
upon his liberation, he bolted into the living room (where I was entertaining
my guest) with his ears twitching wildly, his tail fully inflated and a panty
liner stuck to his back. Yeah. I never saw THAT guy again.
But traveling with them is
a whole different ballgame. We had a
four-hour trip ahead of us and I had no reason to believe I could expect
anything less than a half day of world-class cage fighting, especially since
Ivan seemed to have grown a pair when nobody was looking.
I gave Annie a stern
talking to as the carrier was placed in the car and in response, she met my eyes
sullenly and flexed her claws. She was still pissed because of her recent
trip to the kitty salon, where by the looks of it, she had misbehaved to a
rather extreme degree. Look at the tip of her tail in the above picture.
See what I mean? You can tell how difficult she was by what musical era or band
she reminds you of when she returns. This time she looked like she’d been
auditioning for A Flock of Seagulls so things had clearly gotten pretty ugly.
We’d only been on the
road for about 10 minutes or so before the squealing and grunting began to
drown out the radio. I was sitting in the back seat beside the carrier in
a vain effort to Keep the Peace. On the theory that keeping it dark might
calm them down (or at least to keep the blood spatter contained), there was a
blanket draped over the carrier.
This was not going to
be pretty. Ivan had already tasted blood and Annie was loaded for
bear. The exorcist noise intensified and the carrier began to
tremble. I snatched the blanket off the top in an effort to defuse things
before it got past the point of no return. They both stopped growling and
circling each other just long enough for them to glare up at me in baleful
irritation -- two enraged sumo wrestlers in a shoebox. I brandished a
watergun at them and gave them each a pre-emptive squirt in the face.
Against all odds,
they settled down and slept for the whole trip. The WHOLE TRIP. Somebody
crapped but it was right at the end, so it almost doesn’t count.
I hate these long car
trips. I really wish I could devise some sort of Hannibal Lecter outfit for
Annie. With mittens.
This time they were
I’m not fooled
though. I know there will always be A Reckoning, first for the shave,
then for the trip. Although Ivan
invariably makes his point right after he’s home from the groomers, he
certainly doesn’t leave it at that.
For days after, he’ll shoot
me dirty looks whenever he passes and I just know he’s been dwelling on the
humiliation. They do the jewels and everything you know and this is an
affront to his dignity that nothing can assuage. If he could challenge me
to a duel he wouldn’t hesitate but since he lacks both the power of speech and
opposable thumbs, he settles for crapping in my shoes and grossing me
out. How? He plops himself down in front of me (the closer the
better; extra points if he’s actually touching me) and spreads his back
legs as wide as they’ll go. Using one front paw to balance, he uses the
other to hold the rolls of belly fat out of the way. At this point he
pauses to make sure I’m watching. He then glares at me emphatically
before he lovingly attends to his shorn testicles. He’ll spend a good 25
minutes elaborately licking his balls and if I leave the room in disgust, he’ll
follow me and repeat the process, making sure he’s directly in my line of
sight. It’s the single most disturbing thing he does.
This is a misleading
picture and a very flattering one. In real life, he’s barrel-bellied – go back
and check out his gut in the first picture. It’s enormous. He
weighs 18 pounds. He’s either wearing
Spanx under his fur or he’s figured out how photoshop works -- he looks
so slender here. And look at the schnoz on him, eh? In person, he
looks like an elephant seal – one of those
hugely obese things with the obscene noses you see lumbering around gracelessly
on nature programs. At least he’s not naked here but while his fur was
growing back in he had a ratty, mildewy look about him, almost as if somebody
had cobbled him together out of discarded bathmats. And that
expression! He looks like he’s been sitting on the stained and smelly
second hand couch of his double wide ever since that last shave, pounding back
beers and eating cheetos while watching Maury and plotting his revenge.
Just wait till he
realizes we’re moving again. OMFG.
Till next time,
Till next time,