My cat eats candy corn. It’s one of those cute things I tell my friends because that’s what married couples without children do. They turn their pets into progeny, dressing them up in outfits, regaling people with stories about the silly things they’ve done, and bragging about their notable traits.
And why not. When you’ve got a cat as smart as our little Fish, it’s worth noting. Fish knows which items around the house we’re mostly likely to need –and lies down on top of them. For a while, she took to sleeping in the upstairs hallway just outside the baby’s room, as if she knows something important to us will soon occupy that space. Yesterday I caught her leaping a few feet into the air, trying to turn the handle on our screen door so that she could get outside. This morning as I emerged from my bedroom, instead of running down the stairs in anticipation that I will be following close behind, she went first into the bathroom because she’s learned that I go there first before going down the stairs. This is one smart kitty. And so with all that intelligence, she has somehow figured out that Bruce is the more lovable parent between the two of us.
It’s seems unfair. Working from home, I spend all day with her. Even if we’re not in the same room, we know where in the house the other is sitting — except if I’m in the kitchen. Then she’s right by my side. She’s like a child that way –obsessed with food. Put a bunch of kids in a room, and they’ll play. Open a candy wrapper in the corner, and they’ll all turn around to see who’s eating what. When I go into the kitchen, my cat is always close behind, standing at the base of the cutting board wanting to know what I’m chopping, and how it’s likely to affect her. I usually give her bits of whatever I’m cooking (she likes kale and yoghurt. She’s not keen on bananas).
I’m the one who makes sure her food bowl is full, and I pressure Bruce into cleaning her litter box when it begins to smell (now that I’m pregnant, I can’t do it myself). And yet as we all sit around the living room at night watching television and Fish wants a lap into which she can crawl, she jumps up onto Bruce and not me, and I have to sit and watch this lovefest from across the room. The unfiltered display of affection sickens me.
It’s not that the cat ignores me. She makes plenty of overtures, though they usually leave a bloody mark. I’ll be walking across the room, and she’ll take a flying leap from behind me like Tarzan and clamp onto my leg, claws out, mouth open, and then drop to the floor, leaving a bloody road map of where each paw had been. She did this to me yesterday afternoon, and I instinctively hit her on the back and then cried, partly because it hurt and partly because I felt bad for hitting her, but mostly because I don’t understand why she treats Bruce with such love and affection and me with such contempt. After I hit her, she laid down on her side and then rolled onto her back, and then back on her side. I wasn’t sure if it was an act of contrition of if she had an itch on her back.
I knelt down next to her and said, “Fishy! Why do you do that?!?” It seems no matter how hard I’ve worked, how much therapy and insight and reconciliation I’ve had, I’ve wound up in a relationship with my cat that is not unlike the relationship I had with my mother: scratching, retribution and then guilt.
We spent the next several hours in separate corners of the house, though by dinner time, she was back in the kitchen at the foot of the butcher block table wanting to know what I was chopping. Last night as I started to fall asleep, I felt the distinct bounce of my fat cat jumping onto our bed, and slowly, she walked up my leg and across my torso and settled onto my bulbous pregnant belly and began kneading my pajamas with her two paws like it was dough. She then put her head down on my chest, and I could hear her breathing like it was a motor running. And I thought, she must not see very well in the dark.