Hi, I'm Calling About Your Cat, Again

January 22, 2013 — Miscellaneous

Not two hours after I came across the orange cat in the middle of the street he was asleep in my bed, under the covers, on his back, with his head sticking out like a person. However, that was the only human-like behavior he ever demonstrated. The rest of his behavior was atrocious.

I couldn't touch anything that moved without him swatting my hand away so he could touch it too. He went to sleep when I did but he woke up three hours later screaming until I let him outside, then two hours later he'd scream to be let back in.

He went on walks with me around the neighborhood, right next to me as if on a leash, and when he couldn't get me to walk he'd go find a neighbor who would. Everyone knew him. When I ran into him on the street hanging out with his other friends and told them he was my cat they'd just look at me patronizingly, as if I were a child claiming to be friends with the President. Nobody owned this cat. He did what he liked, where he liked.

And where he liked was the street. Red Bank, New Jersey isn't a city, but it's not the country and I lived two blocks from the center of downtown on an avenue with a healthy flow of one-way traffic. The cat was frequently sitting on the sewer cover in the exact center of the intersection of Wallace and Washington, licking himself. Cars would approach, slow, and stop. Once he had finished cleaning both ears he might get out of their way and move to the sidewalk before biting each of his rear claws and moving on to the tail.

He had more friends than I did. He hung out in everyone's house because he'd sit on their porch looking innocent and friendly until they let him in. Then he'd swing from the drapes, screaming like a maniac and I'd get phone calls to come get him.

I did put a tag on him with my phone number. Since I felt like I owned him I sort of had to. I had his balls cut off too which changed his behavior only for the three hours he was too drugged to walk without falling over.

My phone rang off the hook for him. It was "get him out of my house!" or "he's really cute but I'm sure you want him back" or "your cat is going to get himself killed out there." Of course I wanted to protect him. I tried keeping him indoors but he screamed for hours. I used earplugs and headphones but he clawed at me. I locked him in the bathroom, telling myself I was saving his life, but he outlasted me. It couldn't work. It was like telling Don Quixote to stay home and watch TV. You know how crazy he is, but you have to let him do it anyway.

I gave him a ridiculous name. I had a close male friend and roommate in college, a bisexual Bosnian poet who would come home from parties late at night, drunk, and try to make out with me, pleading "Come on, mister bister, you'll like it." I never made out with the Bosnian but I named the cat Mister Bister. His tag read "Mr. Bister" and I flat refused to explain it to the neighbors.

If you're bracing yourself for a sad ending you can relax. After a few months I decided to move back to New York and bringing the cat to a small Brooklyn apartment was not even close to a viable option. I plastered adoption posters on lamposts and bulletin boards in Red Bank and surrounding towns, drove out to Colts Neck to show the farmers photos of how healthy and spry he was, targeted parents walking their children home from the bus stop, but nobody would take him. It wasn't until two days before I left that a neighbor on Wallace Street said her parents had a small farm half an hour away and a cat who needed a friend. It sounded perfect, and it went down exactly as planned.

I saved a lot of the voicemail I received from concerned (and distraught) neighbors. Here are a few of them:


And, of course, photographs:


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Asleep, believe it or not.

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Same sleeping position, different angle.

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