Since I was given my first cat at age seven, I have fancied myself an expert-in-training in regard to felines. I have had bad cats, not all of them male, and really extraordinarily loving cats, all of them female.
Cat people are strange, but they are strange in as many different ways as the cats themselves. When we lived next door to a serial killer, we learned first that he was a cat fan, and it’s possible that he only doted on cats for cover, but it’s more likely that he just loved cats. Cats are big time serial killers, and if they don’t express it, it’s only because they lack opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong, I love them in all the ways I can’t love dogs and vice versa. What?
Anyway, it came as a total surprise when Boo, the Maine Coon, attacked me.
She has been very needy through all of our long quarantine winter and spring. Her baseline is pretty needy, since she requires prescription food to prevent her peeing razor blades, and she requires daily brushing to prevent her copious fur from matting and forming nests for other smaller animals. She does not play, but instead has hobbies like yelling at water and sweeping tchotchkes off window sills. Cardboard is her friend and plastic tape is her favorite sticky snack. If we ever move again, I will hire her to unpack.
The night she attacked me was pretty typical, other than the attack. She spent the afternoon silently killing squirrels with her mind, and then napping in her too-small box when it became too much effort. Because I was on the couch, she came over to yell at me before claiming me and nesting in my legs. This is very standard stuff. She howls at me to declare that she is queen of the jungle and demands an invitation to own me, like some version of vampire etiquette.
Once settled, I decided that the cat who does not play should play with me. She is large and clumsy, as if she does not know exactly where he hind legs might be. There are reasons she does not play, and there are reasons I am still not a complete cat expert.
I ran my hands under the cover on the couch, creating a tried and true illusion that a rodent was getting away with something. Cats find mouse justice irresistible, as anyone who has ever seen a cartoon is well aware. Boo went instantly bananas. It was the most gratification I felt after a pretty gratifying day. Then, in a wholly unexpected twist, she caught the mouse, which was actually my hand.
Her longest claw punctured my longest finger and because she has not learned to retract, she pulled back and dug in. Keeping my composure for another time, I screamed and grabbed her paw with my free hand. It’s unclear if she felt more threatened by the hand or the scream, but she screamed back and began biting my hand between screams. By some instinctive geometry I didn’t know I had, I was able to free my clawed hand, after trying every possible angle in two seconds–or three screams, depending on how you measure time.
As I cleaned up, I found no bite damage, but a very alarming puncture from her claw. She followed me closely during the entire first-aid process. When I found the antibiotic, she was there, staring. When I exited the bathroom freshly bandaged, she was there again, staring. For a cat who has no expressions, she seemed very concerned.
The pain was sharp and throbbing, so I felt justified in further medicating with a glass of wine. As I exited the kitchen, she was there again. She yowled and then politely stress vomited. Clearly, this had all been too much for her.
Once I was back in my spot, she didn’t hesitate to reclaim my lap so that I could apologize for wrecking her routine. I did apologize, because even as I felt exquisitely sorry for myself I could feel an absurd kinship with Roy Horn, like that time he was nearly killed by a tiger. They just do what they do. It’s never their fault.
The tigers, that is.
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