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Yet another bad-boy has found his way into my bed: my kitten, Leo. I had vowed never to allow another cat to sleep with me after my first cat, Joey, went crazy at the age of nine and started peeing on everything in my house, including my own legs. I tried every available cure, but I could not stop him from spraying at will on whatever he wanted, including the bed we both slept in. So, um, I had to put him down. I will add that he’d also been stalking me and attacking me from behind, and he kept me hostage in bed sometimes by growling and huffing at me. I was afraid of Joey, but I loved him very much. I had to go to counseling for that.
Leo is nothing like Joey, outside of the fact that they were both found in sheds, inbred up to their eyeballs, little Jack Nicholson kittens born at the neighbors’. Leo landed in my bed early on because I had to bottle-feed him every few hours for the first few months, or as close as I could get to the directions from the volunteer lady who came over to help on the day I got him, Easter Sunday. He eventually graduated to being able to spend the night in the bedroom I have set up just for my cats, which up to recently my four-year-old girls have called their own. There’s a single bed in there that one of my boyfriends left behind, a rolling wooden microwave cart that another boyfriend gave me, and three boxes full of divorce papers in the closet, gathering used kitty litter dust.
When I was going through my divorce, a colleague whose hair had never relaxed after his own said to me, “KEEP THE DIVORCE PAPERS FOR AT LEAST TEN YEARS. DON’T THROW THEM OUT. DON’T THROW ANYTHING OUT.” The shelf over the litter boxes in the closet is the closest I can get to keeping these papers in a safe place but also a place that represents how I feel about them. They fill three medium-sized moving boxes and sit five feet above my current but much less dreaded ex-wifely duty, scooping out the litter.
Up until two days ago, there were two litter boxes in that closet: the big one for Sara and Lucy and the smaller one for Leo. It was everybody’s room where everybody ate, and everybody slept. Now it’s just the girls’ room because Sara suddenly developed a serious case of Get Out of the Nest Aggression Disorder (GONAD), and I am not kidding. I don’t think we have to guess which little bird she wanted out of her nest, either. After witnessing a few minor but graphic demonstrations of Sara’s new GONAD reaction to Leo’s play-mauling, I promptly moved his litter box, food and water into my room. GONAD made her very intolerant of Leo, to the point of wanting to kill him actually; she’s tried several times now. And twice, she has literally scared the crap out of him.
On the day this all started, I was minding my own business when I saw Leo streak by with Sara right on his heels, both of them hissing and yowling. By the time I was out of my chair, Sara had Leo cornered on top of the kitchen cabinets by the ceiling, where no cat had walked since crazy Joey. My girls respect me too much to go over my head like that; Leo, on the other hand, wants to work in Vegas. He told me that.
Sara sat on the floor and stared at him.
I got a stool out and climbed up to stand on the countertop to comfort Leo. What a view from up there, of everything really. After spotting in the dusty grime on top of the cabinets what I thought at first were dead roaches but what turned out to be two little pieces of fresh shit followed by a steaming tootsie roll, I picked it all up using a Kleenex I had in my pocket and carefully climbed back down. Only then did I notice clear droplets of something on the floor. I had just emptied the garbage because we had important company coming over for lunch. At first I figured the bag must have leaked. Well, it wasn’t the bag—it was pee from Leo, sprayed on the cabinet doors near the floor and pooled a little on the tile.
My heart couldn’t help itself but sink to the place where it had always gone during those long months of cleaning up after Joey after he’d pee on something. I’d come home from work, say a cheery “Hello!”, and he’d spray the vertical blinds. I remember being on the phone once with my sister, sobbing over the whole thing, when Joey rubbed up against my bare legs then lifted his tail and peed all over my calves.
But that was a long time ago, five years. The counseling I’ve had since then has helped me to understand why my newest baby—who really isn’t a baby anymore—would “express” in the kitchen on the first day that Sara displayed her GONAD. It was a different disorder called Submissive Urination and Defecation (SUD), and Leo was erupting with submission. I could certainly see Sara’s side of it too: she’d been putting up with Leo’s mauling her ever since he could walk, which was cute when he was a baby but isn’t anymore, now that he’s a nine-pound domestic black panther. I learned about that in therapy too: Sara’s freshly developed GONAD was not her fault. It was just the natural progression of things, like Leo’s SUD.
And I had a part in it too, I’m not denying that, but nothing was getting fixed before our special guest arrived, so on with the show. I rushed down the hall towards the back of our house, carrying the fresh steaming tootsie roll and little pieces of poo. I wish I could say I flushed it all down the toilet, or put it in Leo’s box. But to be honest, I dropped the whole smelly mess right into the girls’ litter box to reinforce the fact that Leo is here to stay, like it or not.
I was foot-mopping the kitchen floor and Leo was still cowering on top of the cabinets when the doorbell rang. Leo’s godfather, the man who had promised to raise his spirits in case of my untimely death—a retired and famous colleague, a genius poet all the way from San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato—was finally here to meet him for the first time.
I ushered the godfather in and he didn’t need to hear much before he was standing in the kitchen below the spot where Leo sat not far above, cooing to my ball of black fur with shiny black eyes. I hadn’t actually gotten to the specific SUD part of the story before Godfather did that, so I began to explain to him from the safety of the living room the somewhat toxic nature of the kitchen. He plunked the paper bag of sub sandwiches he’d brought over down on the kitchen island anyway, where I hadn't cleaned yet. He unrolled the sandwiches from their deli paper and popped open a bag of chips. I couldn’t be sure what was leaking through the napkins he had spread out for us to share, but there was no arguing with the pre-diabetic, hearing-impaired godfather because he was older and he knew best.
I confessed to him my aggressive and nature-interrupting act of dropping Leo’s poop into Sara and Lucy’s litter box. I told him I was going to put a litter box on top of the fridge, next to the cabinets. “It’s a mistake to put Leo's box on the fridge!” he blurted out. “You’re just enforcing the status quo.” Godfather quickly returned to devouring every carbohydrate he could get his hands on during this planned binge, counting them aloud as he ate, alternating between mumbling numbers and the words, “But who cares?”
This is the same man who told me to keep my divorce boxes for ten years. I wonder if he remembers that. His hair has finally relaxed, and he isn’t yelling everything anymore. He has ended up in a good spot, and is worth listening to.
I wonder what he’ll say when I tell him that I’m letting Leo sleep in my bed, only because he can’t sleep in the cat room right now with his sisters, and I don’t feel like making him sleep on the blow-up mattress in the library again, all alone.