I have always loved animals. Not loved in the biblical sense, you understand, but in the "I love my pet" sense. From the time that I was very young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But somewhere along the way, I realized that Vets have to euthanize animals. I knew that I would never be able to do that, even if it were for the good of the animal. After that point, all career aspirations of any kind, pretty much died.
Throughout my first sixteen years of life, I had a menagerie of pets that would rival most pet shops; gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats, rabbits, parakeets, cats, dogs, turtles and fish. Not all at once, but some simultaneously. The number of times that I begged my mother for some new pet or another, is truly astronomical. For all the times she said yes (and she said yes a lot), she had already said no ten times prior. As I got older and our living arrangements changed, my pets got less exotic and less labor intensive, but there was always a dog and/or a cat in our household.
So why do I tell you this? Because as unfathomable as this is to me, I HATE my mother's cat. Not just a mild dislike of the animal, like it annoys me or shows cat-like indifference to me, so I could take it or leave it. No, I hate this little shit like nobodies business. How, you ask, could such an inveterate animal lover hate a cute and furry creature? Oh, I'll tell you why. This is the story of Tiger. . .
About two years ago, a couple of landscapers found a three day old kitten. Not knowing what to do with it, they knocked on my mother's door. The reason they chose her door is because, by the number of felines lazing about on her property, she was clearly a cat lady. Whether or not she was crazy was about to be proven out in their conversation.
They wanted to know if she knew what to do with an abandoned, new-born kitten. This thing was almost embryonic. Eyes still shut, pink and squirming. Because I had been a magnet for abandoned wildlife throughout my youth, she knew that it would need bottle feedings and a something warm to cuddle with. Against her better judgement (Crazy, party of one!), she took this helpless little creature in, and with the help of a local vet and some cat rescue people, she bottle fed this little kitty and he survived. Not only did he survive, he thrived and grew into the most magnificently beautiful grey on grey tabby cat that I had ever seen. The problem was, he didn't take kindly to anyone other than my mother.
My first meeting with the little fella was when he was a few weeks old. Because of his round the clock feedings, my mother carried him in a little travel cage wherever she went. Whenever anyone other than my mother approached the cage, he wigged out. Crying, hissing, backing up. My mother would immediately go and soothe him, talking sweetly to him until he calmed down. It was almost like he got rewarded for his anti-social behavior. Fast forward a few more months and he's out of his cage, but he's randomly attacking all the other cats AND the humans. Anyone who dared to walk past his perch on the kitchen chair would be hissed at and sliced to ribbons if within his razor clawed reach.
I tried to tell my mom that this was not normal and was not likely to get better with all the coddling and special attention that he got. He attacked everyone - men, women, children, other cats, the UPS man, strangers and friendlies. It got so bad that after a while, he had to be hidden in the basement like Sloth in the Goonies. He was our "special" cat that's not suitable for company. It was beyond my comprehension that an animal could so dislike people, yet greedily demand the affections and attention of my mother. And since when did a furry mammal not like me? I was the girl that rescued chained pit bulls in the rain and took them to doggy halfway houses for rehabilitation. I was the pied-bloody-piper dammit. What right did he have to not like ME?
This little effer clearly had my nose out of joint, but he also had me worried. How was she going to manage his bad behavior for the next 17 years? Cats aren't like goldfish. They have lifespan. What was she going to do, pass out a box of band aids and a tube of Neosporin to every visitor that came in the house? She'd never be able to go away because he was so imprinted on her and he didn't really tolerate her husband. The situation seemed unmanageable to me. In my mind this cat needed to be on kitty Prozac or (I still can't believe I said the word) euthanized. Once I said it, I knew I didn't mean it, but he did need a radical intervention.
I managed to convince my mother that she needed to talk to a vet about psych meds for this little demon spawn. But after a long conversation with the vet, my mom decided that she couldn't drug him. Of course I'm thinking, oh please, step aside and let me. But she wasn't having it.
It's two years later and Tiger has grown into a truly beautiful cat. He's a big ol tom cat, but damned if he isn't pretty. He is slightly more tolerant of people and less likely to swat at random, although she still has to lock him in the basement when she has company. I just admire him from a distance as I still get offended when I get too close to him and he hisses. Though I don't want to see him euthanized, there's still a little part of me that wants to wrap a ten milligram Valium in a hunk of tuna and spend an hour or so petting him. Because, not only would I like to love him, I'd love to pretend that he likes me. Even a little.