Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pet Sounds

Last night our remaining cat (who, in some Middle Kingdom heka-fueled cat-goddess way, is bound to outlive us all) woke me up repeatedly with her plaintive yowling. It’s a really eerie sound that I only recognize as coming from the cat after living with it for some time; it doesn’t really sound like a classic meow, it’s a lot throatier and lower-end. The first time that it startled me awake, I stumbled out of bed and downstairs to see what the fuss was all about. I couldn’t see where the cat was, exactly, but I noticed that the door to the basement stairs was closed, thus blocking access to the litterbox. Usually we crack the door after our tumble-prone little guy Nezumi has gone to bed for the night, but sometimes we forget, so I remedied the situation and went back to bed. I was awakened again a while later by the same feline keening as before, but I had already convinced myself that the cat had no legitimate complaints for me to address, so I rolled over and went back to sleep.

This morning once I made my way downstairs to start a pot of coffee I heard the cat once again bemoaning the cruelties of the universe and I realized that I was hearing those kitty ululations electronically amplified. They were coming out of the baby monitor in the den, which had accidentally been left plugged in all night. (Fine, my wife Marli and I were a bit slapdash in our pre-bedtime housetending rituals last night. There may or may not have been a bottle of cab-shiraz at the root of that.) I about-faced and went back upstairs, opened the door to Nezumi’s room, and let the cat out. How did she get in there to begin with, you ask? The bedtime for under-two-year-olds in our house is 7:30, but on Wednesdays Marli doesn’t get home until 9-ish, so she pops into Nezumi’s room at least once before we head to bed, just to see him and let herself know he’s all right. Last night the cat (for unknowable cat-reasons) silently followed Marli into the room, yet failed to follow her out again, and my wife closed the door and trapped the cat.

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to be a little disoriented and unsure of my decision-making processes when I’m awakened in the middle of the night, which is true, but also true is that my hearing is pretty bad (too much heavy metal in the headphones as a kid, doubtless) and identifying the directional source of a sound is not my forte. Hence, I didn’t realize the cat was on the other side of a door upstairs, and thought she was hiding downstairs.

The look of deific indifference
I spent most of my life as someone who liked dogs fine, didn’t care much for cats, and understood why some people have pets but didn’t see myself ever having many (or any) because they weren’t worth the time, energy, effort, money and trouble. Nowadays former roommates who used to get earfuls from me about their dumb cats give earfuls right back to me (and rightly) because I am married to a veterinarian and will for the rest of my life live with multiple pets. I am the last person many people would have expected to collect a trove of stories about wacky midnight animal hi-jinks, and yet the trove is growing. And I contribute to the wackiness myself by virtue of not yet being a particularly good pet owner because it’s still relatively new to me.

By the by, Nezumi slept like a champ last night, so I am going to officially announce my retirement from Ever Possibly Figuring Out What Gets Him Through The Night. The yowls coming from the other side of two doors and separated by a length of hallway were enough to wake me up last night, but Nezumi was so zonked that he didn’t so much as twitch while the caterwauling echoed around his room. He also did not suffer excessively from any attempts by the cat to smother him or steal his breath, which I’m sure she got up to in the intervals when she was bored with practicing her banshee impression. (I know the cats-kill-babies notion is pure wives-tale, but I swear to Bast that when Marli was pregnant my grandmother asked if we were going to get rid of the cats, and if not weren’t we worried about the smothering possibility? Old people are adorable.)

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