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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pregnancy: The Cat Harness Effect

When I was 21 and living alone, I had one of those moments that most single women have.  I wanted a companion, but one that I could be sure would not get overly attached, care about me traveling 2-3 weeks out of every month for work, or get on my damn nerves.  Clearly a human male was not going to work.

So I got the next best thing.  A cat.  I realize how cliche that is, but in my defense I'm really a dog person.  Even I was not that selfish, though, given the fact that I would almost never be home.  In my experience, cats barely notice if you exist or not, as long as they have food, a place to crap, and plenty of blinds and carpet to destroy.  Fortunately, my Merrick Place townhouse was wall to wall carpeting, and I had plenty of friends who would cat-sit (stop by every three days to make sure it was still alive) for beer.

So around Halloween, I went to an adoption fair being held at Petsmart and found myself staring at an entire crate of solid black fuzzballs.  The adoption lady majorly oversold the adorable litter on the basis that it was almost Halloween and if they weren't adopted soon they would almost surely perish in some sort of satanic sacrifice ritual.  I picked up one or two, which promptly began to purr and snuggle their little faces into my neck.  About the third one I picked up narrowed its tiny yellow eyes at me and strained with all its might against my chest trying to get away from me.

I had found my non-committal companion.  And I named her Boo.

Boo did not act like a normal kitten when I got her home.  Instead of doing the usual careful sniffing and sneaking about her new environment, when I opened the crate door Boo took off on a 90mph sprint through the entire townhouse, upstairs and downstairs.  She stopped only a few times to gratuitously arch her back and hiss at me, before tearing off again.

I was in love.

Boo was a great roommate at that time in my life.  Had she had opposable thumbs, she would have been entirely self sufficient.  Because of her level of independence and her desire for near solitude, I never let her outside, as I was sure I would never see her again.  Plus, I didn't want her used in a satanic ritual.  She was happy to slink around the townhouse, alternating between rubbing up against my legs and hissing at me while swatting at my ankles.  She never let on for a minute that she missed me when I was out of town, which allowed me to live guilt free in spite of having a pet that I hardly ever saw.

A couple of years later, I allowed myself to be coaxed into buying my first house.  So I packed up my townhouse and my non co-dependent little eight pound roomie and headed into my future of practically non-existent tax breaks and having to pay for all my own repairs.

As soon as I opened the crate at the new house, I knew something was terribly wrong.  Boo would not come out.  I thought she was just being stubborn, or perhaps thought we had switched veterinary clinics to one with hardly any furniture or signs of other people and animals.  So I dumped her out on the floor.

What followed was five agonizing days of watching my independent, tough as nails, Halloween surviving black cat crawl around the house on her belly refusing to be consoled.  Night time became unbearable as she would lay under the bed and cry into the black Kentucky night, as though she had no idea who she was, why she was here, or how to escape the nightmarish hell that her life had now become.

In hindsight, day six was the day she got over it.  She started walking on all fours again.  She began exploring all the window boxes, which were something she never had at Merrick.  She found new hiding places to crawl into in order to launch surprise attacks against me.  She even managed to destroy a leather coat hanging in a closet that was shut.

Perhaps, it was my own misgivings about the move.

Or the feeling that maybe I needed a companion with a little less body hair.

Or some other emotion I was projecting onto my little roommate.

But rather than seeing a cat that had finally realized that life was not over, what I saw was a cat whose spirit had been broken and who was in need of major rehabilitation were she to ever be normal again.  What could I give her that would raise her independent little spirit from the dead?  The answer was clear.

I could give her the outside world.

Sort of.

So I bought a cat harness.

You've probably never seen a cat being walked on a cat harness.  There is a reason.


All the cat harnesses at the pet store had pictures of happy cats.  Cats standing proudly at the end of a leash, leading their owners on journies through the picturesque suburbs.  Cats stalking through yards, all the while carefully contained by 6-8 feet of nylon.  Cats that were proud to be outside, seemingly oblivious to having a harness strapped around their chest and belly.  I chose a harness in a brilliant shade of red.  Red for victory.

When I brought the harness home, I waited for Boo to get curious about where I had been.  Eventually she skulked around the corner and began sniffing the Petsmart sack, wondering what treat or toy I had brought her.  I pulled the harness out of the bag and held it out to her.

"Boo, how would you like to go outside?"

Her vacant expression did not contain quite the enthusiasm I had hoped for.  I, on the other hand, could barely contain my excitement.

What followed does not even bare description really, as anyone who has ever met, seen, or even heard of a cat can probably guess what happened when I tried to get the harness on.   After nearly having both arms severed, my face flayed off, and every ounce of dignity duly crushed by wrestling something that weighs 8 lbs, the point is that I finally DID manage to harness my cat.

Let me provide an illustration of what happens when one harnesses a cat.

Upon the final snap of the harness, Boo became, for lack of less of a pun, catatonic.  Legs stretched out, tail limp, eyes dilated, she simply lay on the ground and waited for sweet death.

Still undeterred, I dragged her out into the backyard like a brick on a leash, completely confident that once she got a taste of freedom, she would transform into the cats on the packaging.  A victorious cat.

She remained bricklike.

Every pet owner makes mistakes, but something about pets not being able to verbally say, "Hey, asshole.  This is the worst idea you've ever had," makes the mistakes drag out just long enough that you not only destroy the dignity of the animal, but you also lose a tiny part of your soul that you'll never get back, in the process.

I lost a piece of myself that day, as I desperately dragged my cat around the yard, watching as her pathetic face with gaping open mouth and erect legs made a sad, crushed path through the grass.  When I finally realized the extent of the damage I had done, I lifted her limp, lifeless body up into my arms and carried her back in the house.  

It was the only time to this day that the cat let me pick her up.

I removed the harness.

Several hours later, Boo finally pulled herself off the floor, cast me a look that clearly said, "We will never speak of this again," and retreated to the recesses of the house, not to be seen for several days.

Sometimes you don't fully appreciate the suffering of another creature, until you experience that same suffering yourself, even years later.

I am a black cat.

Pregnancy is my harness.

It's not that I don't love my children.  I do.

But pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a red harness that the world is trying to convince me is the greatest thing I will ever experience, when in reality it's a soul crushing tether which represents 9 months worth of me being dragged through the grass with my limbs limp and my mouth pathetically hanging open in a daze of horror.

Some women love being pregnant.  They are the happy, victorious cats on the packaging.

Some women would have been better to stay at the townhouse, never knowing a freedom outside the glorious freedom of being in charge of one's own body and destiny.  Never knowing a world of, hemorrhoids, dragon heartburn, kidney pain, muscle tears where muscle did not even exist, insomnia, imbalance, pitting edema, and enough of the color pink to send a Tibetan monk over the coo coo's nest.

Just as Boo is now allowed outside, without a leash, I have finally been granted immunity by my friends and family, who have promised to never again ask, "So are you going to try for another one?"

I have been wrestled into this harness.  Twice.  I have a week or two left.  Once those weeks are up, and I have my second little girl safely in my arms...

We will never speak of this again.


Heather said...

LOL, this had me rolling, girl. Hang in there. The amnio cometh soon!

Rob and Amber said...

HILARIOUS! As an also pregnant woman, who recently tried to put my 15lb (I prefer the term big-boned) cat in a harness... I could not contain my laughter! This was so spot on. All of it. Although with Baxter, we never made it out the door.

Alma said...

Ugh, thanks for the warning! I just got a kitty a couple weeks ago and I love her bunches. She is a bit more affectionate and sweet than your Boo but every cat is different just like people. I definitely felt an urge to have life around but not quite baby ready. I have NEVER EVER been excited about the idea of pregnancy. I think it's kinda gross actually, lol. Thanks of expressing yourself so freely on this topic. Well written!

Anonymous said...

My cat behaved very similar when harnessed. However, he did learn to tolerate the harness. After two years of going outside while wearing the harness, he still walks funny. You just have to take the time train the cat, and let the cat get used to the harness.