Monday, June 10, 2019

Soft kitty, warm kitty

Here at Wichmann’s Home for Wayward Felines, we offer regular meals, snug shelter from the elements, an inclusive medical plan and all the vermin you can catch. Or not. You can lay around on tractor hoods all day and be a furry freeloader. It’s up to you.

Either way, there’s one rule: ya gotta go to the vet for a little personal improvement.

This is a dicey proposition. Anyone who has barn cats is familiar with the “I paid $$$ to get that cat fixed, brought him home and never saw him again” scenario. I will admit to having encountered a few cats where that was money well spent.

Over the last few years, the critters that have wandered onto our farm and decided to call it home were Bonus Cat (miss you, you freaking weird, dog-chasing little buddy), Wild Cat (get the hell off my car!) and (No Such Thing As A) Free Cat. The latest transient beast is Drifter Cat. 

Drifter is a cement block of a tomcat, gray tiger striped with white paws and the bravado of Robert Conrad in the 1970s Eveready battery commercial. Come on. I dare ya.

It was a dare I was hesitant to take, which was probably why I put off scheduling that particular appointment. 

Drifter’s favorite thing in the world was to strut around the farm, yowling the song of his people to any available girl cats on the place. He never really figured out there weren’t any available girl cats here but that didn’t stop him.

His second favorite thing in the world was peeing on things. Tires. Buildings. Flowerbeds. Patio furniture. He peed on our gas grill. He even peed on a tractor seat once. I don’t think he ever knew how close he came to getting a permanent eviction notice for that one.

The Summer 2019 To Do list was looming large and dealing with Drifter was top of the list. I called the vet and scheduled the appointment. Then I decided it would be in everyone’s best interests if Drifter saw the inside of a crate before I had to stuff him into one on the morning of his big adventure.

Drift and I had progressed to the level of friendship that included head scratches, back rubs and being picked up and cuddled for about three seconds. I use that word loosely. Like you would cuddle any muscular animal with razor blades hidden in its toes and the ability to turn from a liquid to a solid with no prior notice.

I was pretty sure trying to stick him into a carrier was going to stretch the limits of our friendship. I made sure there was food in the crate. Scoop the cat up. Pop the cat in. Leap back six feet. Wish my junior high gym teacher could have seen me. I was damned athletic.

Scoop and pop. Scoop and pop. This went surprisingly well, once I figured out the correct placement of hands to ensure all of Drifter’s appendages (four legs, one head, one tail) were streamlined to ensure everything went in the crate with nothing left outside.

Then I set up a big wire crate in the garage and the night before the appointment, I put Drifter inside it with his supper, a water dish, a litter box and a nice comfy towel. Did I mention it was a big crate? A big, big crate. A bigly big crate.

“Eat your supper,” I said. “I’ll be back to get the bowl at 8 o’clock. No food for you after 8 o’clock.” 

He looked at me rather balefully but stuck his head in his supper dish. All was well. 

At some point between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., which I suspect was probably at 7:01 p.m., Drifter realized A) the crate door was shut and B) HE WAS GOING TO DIE!

When I returned at 8 p.m., he was sitting in the far back corner of the crate. The food bowl had been flipped. The water bowl had been flipped and kitty crunchies were floating about in the resultant pool. The towel had been flipped into the litter pan. Drifter was wet and covered with litter.

Well. Damn it. He’d taken so well to being stuck in the little carrying crate, I hadn’t anticipated cat-mageddon happening when I put him in roomier digs over night.

I removed the pans, sopped up the water and pulled the towel out of the litter box, all while keeping an eye on 10 pounds of farm-raised Iowa tomcat who was giving me the stink eye.

I straightened the litter box, gave Drifter a fresh towel and another bucket of water, the time carefully clipped to the side of the crate, wished him sweet dreams and went to bed. He’d chill by morning, right?

Wrong. Wrongly wrong. Bigly wrongly wrong.

In spite of my care, the next morning the water bucket had been flipped. The towel was back in the litter box. And the litter box had been flipped. Drifter was curled in the back of the crate, not moving.

For one horrible minute, I thought he’d succumbed to some feline heart condition brought on by the stress of being incarcerated. Then he turned his head and opened one eye just a slit.

Every cat owner on the planet knows that look.

I went back in the house and put on combat armor. Jeans. Long sleeved shirt. Hooded sweatshirt. My toughest gardening gloves. And a hat because even if you’re going to die a bloody death being mauled by a cat, there’s no need to do it with your hair looking an obvious mess.

Back in the garage, I found myself wishing for a pair of falconer’s gauntlets. I also thought a full-face welding helmet might be useful. Having neither at my disposal, I reassured myself I had excellent medical coverage and opened the crate door.

I expected an attempted jail break, during which I would grab the fleeing inmate and pop him into the travel crate before he knew what was happening.

Yeah. Like that.

 What I got was a cat sitting in the back corner of a crate in sullen, brooding silence. Thanks to the initial and subsequent water and litter box spills and a masterful attempt to claw his way through the crate wire, Drifter now looked something like the cat from Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, the main difference being he was actually alive. The matter of demon possession was still up in the air.

I called Drifter, using my best “Come on little buddy, let's go for a ride” voice.

Drifter did not want to go for a ride. I was a little afraid to think about what he did want.

I tried again, using my authoritarian “Get your butt up and moving, mister” voice.

The only thing that moved was that one eye, which opened and closed again, a harbinger of unknown intent.

Crap weasel.

I got down on my knees in front of the open door. I wondered if I should stop and just go back in the house and write the news story so some other poor schmuck didn’t have to figure it out after the fact.

“A Homestead woman was seriously injured Thursday morning while trying to remove a cat from a crate . . .”

I crawled into the crate. Did I mention it was a big crate? And this stinking pain in the ass cat was waaay at the back of it?

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur . . .

 Poor Drifter. The fight had gone out of him. At some point in the last 24 hours, he’d become resigned to his fate. I pulled him to me, slithered backward, stood up without banging my head and popped Drifter into the travel crate. It was rather anti-climactic but I was happy not to be the lead story on the 6 p.m. news.

He was delivered to the vet, neutered, vaccinated, treated for fleas and ticks, and was back home inside of six hours. I let him chill in the smaller crate while he finished coming around, then opened the door. 

As predicted, he bolted. Thankfully, he went in the opposite direction, not straight up my leg. 

It took about two days before I saw him again and another day or so before he wanted anything to do with me but I think we’re all good now.

And I haven’t seen him pee on anything. Yet.

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