Kumail and I are going to the home of a friend of his on Wednesday in order to look at this little thing, which is ours for the taking:
See, we’ve had a fantasy for a little while of getting a cat and naming it Bagel, but our first place in NYC was too small to accomodate a kitty cat.
If you know me at all, you know that I am obsessed with kitty cats, but try to pretend like that’s cool and not like I’m a weird cat lady. The past three years have been my first without an animal in my home. In contrast, Kumail has never had a pet in his home before, but did feed stray cats behind his childhood home in Pakistan.
Me: Did you name them?
Him: No, that’s weird.
Me: Sorry, but those weren’t pets.
When I was several months old, my parents got a cat. They had had several cats before this one, but they all kept disappearing because they were allowed to roam around outside, just like the five or so insane bloodthirsty dogs in the neighborhood. The cat was named Kitty, probably because they’d used up all the good names on the seven cats that came before.
Kitty proved that she was better than her name by surviving. She stared down the dogs in the neighborhood from atop the tool shed in our garage, hissing and spitting, and the dogs left her alone. My dad claimed that he hated all cats, but I caught him on numerous occasions sitting on the front stoop after he’d left for work in the morning, Kitty on his lap, just petting her. I would nod knowingly, understanding that this cat had the power to best both beast and man.
Dad ended up getting a dog at some point in my childhood and naming it Bobo.
Bobo was tied up with a long chain near his dog house in the backyard. As a child I would climb into his awesomely custom made and stinky house and shove the big shaggy black dog out so I could pretend it was my home. He would stand just outside his doghouse door, staring at me with what had to be confusion and pity.
Kitty got pregnant and had kittens, causing her name to become Mama Kitty. The kittens were adorable, and my sister and I were both allowed to keep one. I picked the runt, who had a large growth on his tummy, because I always liked to cheer for the underdog, and besides, his growth belly made him look adorably chubby. Since I picked the runt, my parents let me pick another kitten, already seeing how this would all play out. Within a month, all three kittens were gone. The runt died within a few days, one just disappeared, and one was hit by a car (a fact we were not told until about three years ago). This left us with Mama Kitty, and we were fine with that, although I did frequently encourage her to get pregnant again.
We got older and Mama Kitty got crankier, and petting her became a challenge. Bobo remained in the backyard, going on runs with my dad through the woods and just rolling around in dirt with the rest of his time. When my sister got to college, she ended up rescuing a full-breed Boston Terrier from a college friend who was just going to set the dog loose because she didn’t want it anymore. I had the fun job of explaining to my parents that the fussy and yappy little dog running through their home now belonged to them. They were furious, and then they promptly fell in love with her. Delicate Pookie was an inside dog, and ruled the home. Pookie thought of Mama Kitty as a toy with claws, and would frequently surface with brittle claws stuck in her snout. I had to silently cheer for the cat for defending her territory.
I came home from college one weekend and asked my dad what happened to Bobo, who I didn’t see in the backyard. “Bobo died a few months ago” he said, stonefaced, and I felt ashamed that I had abandoned that filthy hulking mutt for this tiny adorable full breed terrier, and now I’d lost him. For a few months, I felt terrible every time I went home, going to Bobo’s crumbling dog house and marveling at how much I loved it as a child. I was reminiscing in the backyard one weekend when I heard a dog barking. My grandmother lives about a half mile literally through the woods behind my parents’ house (another story altogether), and she has several dogs, so the barking wasn’t unusual, but it sounded……familiar. It sounded like Bobo. I asked my dad why I was hearing Bobo bark, and he said “well, oh yeah, Bobo lives with your grandmother now”.
Basically, my dad told me that our dog was dead when he actually just relocated to a place where he got more attention and had more friends, and so my parents could focus all their attention on Pookie and the cat. When asked why he lied to me, Dad just shrugged and laughed a little.
The cat, by the way, continued to get crankier and crankier while continuing her push to become the world’s oldest cat. Mama Kitty was 25 years old, the same age as myself, when she finally started showing her age. Her teeth fell out slowly, she became a skeleton covered in furballs, and her ears just drooped, but she was just as fiesty as ever. And I just adored her constantly. I was in college, and living with roommates with their own cats, so while I spent my weeks with young healthy cute playful cats like Doug or Toby or Lola, my weekends and holidays were spent with Mama Kitty, trying to coax her to let me pet her scrawny frame. When she died at age 26, I grieved.
At this point I have left three cats, all by moving out of the places where their owners lived, and I have had one cat taken away from me by death. Pookie passed away in 2007, breaking my parents’ hearts. It’s been about three years since I’ve had a pet in my home, and about 1 year since my parents have had a pet. I’m reduced to mildly freaking out when I visit friends’ houses with pets, spending all my time with them, scaring them with my over-excitedness and high pitched cooing.
It’s time for a new pet. It’s time for Bagel.