That time we got Cats

IMG_0334There is a mammal worse than the aye-aye lemur and it could be in your own home!

At age 26 I was impulsive and naïve. I did not consider the long-term consequences of my actions. And as result, I got Cats.

Everyone said, “She’s so young. How can she have Cats?”

It’s a common misconception that only single, older women—spinsters—are at risk of Cats. The truth is Cats can happen to anyone at any point in life. Fortunately, my case was curable. Within six months I was Cat-free. This is my survivor story.

December 4, 2011:

My roommate Lauren and I needed to find a third roommate. We interviewed a series of candidates from Craigslist and friends of friends of coworkers of friends. We had no experience assessing potential roommates and really should have read some useful article like, “Ten Questions to Ask Potential Roommates.”

But we were young, with the foolhardy confidence of the clueless.

The first girl, Julie, seemed nice. She was in her second year of architecture school. She had been living with her parents in Arlington and was ready to move in with fellow young people. She wanted to be friends… like friendship bracelet wearing, traveling pants, best friends.

Julie: “And it’d be really fun to come home on Fridays and cook together and watch a movie. And we could take turns cooking every week. And we could call it Family Dinner or Food & Film Fridays. Do you guys do that? Do you watch movies? Do you take turns cooking?”

Me: “Ummm, sometimes we watch movies…”

Lauren: “But it’s more of a spontaneous thing.”

Julie: “Oh well I could make a chart or a big wall calendar so it wouldn’t have to be spontaneous.”

The next interview was with Chris, an indisputably attractive guy. After he left…

Me: “I love him.”

Lauren: “I love him too.”

Me: “Okay he can’t live here.”

Lauren: “No way.”

Kendall was fresh out of college.

Kendall: “I’m like really excited to live in a real apartment. I mean, I lived in a real apartment, like we had to pay rent and take out the trash and stuff. But it wasn’t like really real because it was a college apartment, do you know what I mean?”

After six interviews we were discouraged and bored and then we interviewed Amy. She described herself as, “quiet, clean, and busy with work.” She was a Physics PhD student who was “always in the lab” and just needed an apartment for sleeping.

Lauren and I had lived together long enough to develop telepathy, so we agreed by ESP that Amy was perfect. Quiet, clean, and hardly ever home! The only better roommate would be no roommate (who still magically pays rent). We enthusiastically offered her the spot. As we walked her to the door…

Amy: “Oh there’s one more thing…”

Meth habit? Jealous pyromaniac exboyfriend? Scientologist? Acapella-ist?

“…I have cats.”

Cats. Cats. I scanned my brain for any strong reaction or memory. Mammal pets that are worse than dogs, but better than hamsters. I had never considered cats and decided that I was neutral towards them. Lauren appeared equally agnostic.

IMG_4367The only cats I knew were dead ones that I’ve dug up on archaeology excavations.

Lauren: “Well how many cats?”

Amy: “Oh just two… Maxwell and Le Châtelier.”

Me: “Well in our lease it says that we can’t have pets…”

Lauren: “But it’s not like the landlord ever comes by. No one would know if we had cats…”

Me: “I guess that’s fine with me…”

Lauren: “Yeah, I guess that’s fine with me too.”

 IMG_4019I knew that dogs are wonderful, so I thought cats couldn’t be so different. Here’s my loving and noble childhood dog all tuckered out from reading Wall Street Journal.

December 11, 2011:

One week later they moved in. I expected them to be like furry, animate houseplants. Innocuous creatures who’d pass the days arching their backs in a ray of sunlight or snuggling with me on the couch.

I was wrong. It turns out cats are repulsive, capricious sociopaths. They’re like serpents with fur. Vermin. They slink and leer, yawning sensually as they plot acts of terrorism. Their only motive is to apathetically ruin your life.

I started realize this about cats on their very first night in our apartment when they tried to murder me. As soon as I got into bed a cat leaped up and sat on my face, suffocating me. I pushed it off. The other cat clawed at my hair. I shoved him. I covered my face with the sheet. One of them pawed at my throat through the sheet, choking me. I tried to throw them out of my bedroom, but they would squirm through my grasp and retreat under the bed, just out of reach. I would return to bed and moments later they would jump up and try to murder me.

And trying to murder me was just the first straw.

IMG_2675Minion of Satan under my bed.

Winter of 2012:

Straw 2: They tried to make me ugly. Standing on hind legs, they would use their front paws to bat items off my vanity table. Any fallen mascara or lipstick they would snatch in their mouths, sprint away with, and then roll under some massive piece of furniture—the bookshelf or the couch—where they knew, they knew, that the effort of moving it was not worth the value of the makeup item to me. And so I’d go on my date mascara-less. And that’s why in winter of 2012, I did not find love… or get offered any modeling deals from suspicious men on the street.

IMG_2680Help! There’s a cat in my clothes!  And the other one’s about to eat my earplugs.

Straw 3: They tried to sabotage my research. I would be working at my desk. La de dah, typing in my data. Making graphs, la la la. One cat would distract me by, oh say, stealing my mascara and sprinting into the living room. While I was gone, the other cat would leap onto the desk, type gibberish data into Excel, and disappear like a fat furry ninja. I’d return and wonder why the weight of sample 25 was “]-o80uyb5redx3rdex” instead of 0.04 mg. A cat hair on my keyboard answered the mystery.

“Maxwell! Or Le Chart-e-la-air!”

I couldn’t tell the difference between them. And I couldn’t pronounce Le Châtelier. And who names cats after turn-of-the-century French physical chemists with no reasonable nicknames!?

Straw 4: They tried to starve me. I came home with a few bags of groceries and set them on the drop leaf kitchen table. A cat jumped on the table’s edge, offsetting the weight balance. The table toppled and groceries catastrophically spewed across the kitchen floor. Eggs broke, milk spilled, a glass salsa jar shattered. The cats nuzzled their heads in the milk puddle.

Straw 5: They inflicted psychological warfare. Of course we learned to shut our bedroom doors to prevent the cats from murdering us. In response, they scratched or head butted the door throughout the night. Not regularly so our senses could ignore it as white noise, but erratically—or deliberately at the exact moment that would be most disruptive to our sleep cycle because they knew, they knew, right when our REM cycles were starting.

They had to be stopped.

We tried to love them. There would be tender moments, when a purring cat snuggled on my lap. And suddenly, with no impetus, the cat would jump up, scratch me, and run away.

IMG_2840Stop squirming Cat. WE’RE TRYING TO LOVE YOU!

We tried to discipline them. We read that spraying cats in the face with water when they do something wrong is an effective way to train them not to do that thing. Surely cats named Maxwell and Le Châtelier could understand basic Skinner operant conditioning. No. They just stared at the spray of water as it assailed their faces. They were bored, or bemused at best, with our futile training attempt.

We tried internet blog homeopathic sorcery. Some blogs said that cats are averse to citrus. We squeezed orange and lemon on the thresholds of our doors. They licked the juice. Other blogs said that cats don’t like mothballs, so we adorned our rooms with mothballs. They batted and chased them like toys.

We tried to drug them. We gave them the finest grade catnip. They sniffed it once and walked away aloofly.

These were professional, undeterrable cat terrorists. We could not appease them. We could not negotiate with them. Their only motive was to ruin us and they were ruining us. We could not sleep or bring home groceries or advance in our careers or find love or own tube-shaped makeup!

And then we remembered, they’re fucking cats and we’re fucking humans. We don’t have to negotiate. We evicted them and their owner went too.

hob-cat-41We sent those cats to the streets.

March, 2012:

We learned two valuable lessons from getting cats.

1) Don’t get cats.

2) Ask thoughtful and important questions when interviewing potential roommates.

When the cats moved out, we were back to where we started: searching for a new roommate. First we interviewed Maggie, who was living in Backbay, but wanted to move to Cambridge.

Me: “So what do you do?”

Maggie: “I’m kind of between jobs, but I work in advertising.”

Lauren: “What’s your daily routine like.”

Maggie: “Um, I don’t really have one. I guess I’m a morning person, but sometimes I’ll like stay up until 2 am watching bad TV for no reason.”

Me: “Do you have a significant other who might be sleeping here a lot?”

Maggie: “Ah, yeah, kind of. I don’t know. We’re on a break but sometimes he just shows up.”

Lauren: “How do you feel about cats?”

Maggie: “They’re disgusting. I really hate them.”

And so she moved in.

Epilogue: Although cats have been eradicated from within my apartment, they continue to threaten us worldwide. We’re never safe from cats. Be careful.

IMG_4265Here a cat is trying to attack me at the ancient city of Petra.


A gang of cats plots my murder.

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