Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Cat that Shat

Back in the '90s and aughts, before Olga was a twinkle in anyone's eye, I had cats. This was before Dave, when I lived in Florida and then in New York, and my cats were named Howard and Armenia, after two busy parallel streets in South Tampa.

Well, Howard died a very old cat in the spring of 2004. That left Armenia, who was about half Howard's age, all alone. I decided later that year to adopt a kitten to give Armenia some company.

The plan went disastrously wrong. Armenia, always a bit high strung and feisty, hated that kitten. And the kitten, being young and energetic and insane like all kittens, was in Armenia's face all the time. Georgia (as I named her) chased Armenia, pounced on her, ate her food and pestered her incessantly. Most adult cats would simply lay the smackdown on the kitten and thus establish dominance, but Armenia, for some reason, could never bring herself to do so.

Georgia quickly came to rule the roost, and Armenia basically had a nervous breakdown. She stopped using the litter box and -- to put it delicately -- began relieving her bowels on my couch. And not just once, either. She did it over and over and over again.

(Fortunately, she continued peeing in the litter box. Why she could do that and not poop there, I have no idea. Cats!)

The couch (which of course was WHITE) remained relatively unscathed because after the first two times, I wrapped it in a layer of Hefty bags topped by towels and a bedsheet. It wasn't particularly pleasant to sit on -- even with me promptly doing laundry whenever needed -- but I figured it was all temporary, just an adjustment while Armenia worked through her kitten hatred and her revenge pooping.

But no. Armenia never adapted to the kitten. After several weeks, I returned Georgia to her original owners (who thankfully wanted her back anyway) and spent the next several months trying to get PTSD-stricken Armenia reacquainted with her litter box.

During this trying time, I joked that I was going to write a children's book called "The Cat that Shat." In a Seussian vein, of course. I even made a playful stab at it, which I faithfully recorded in my journal at the time:

The cat sat
Not thin and not fat.
Just the right size, this cat.

Suddenly wild,
It leapt and flew like a bat.
And then, it shat.

It hopped on the couch,
Went into a crouch
And out came its lunch.

Who needs litter?
Boxes don't matter
With a fine couch to splatter!

So the cat that shat
Sought more food like a rat,
Saying, "I'll have some of that!"

Thus fueling the engine,
She hissed and she spat,
Ran to the sofa,
Uncoiled her sphincter

"It'll make millions!" I wrote optimistically.

At the peak of the crisis, I was seriously afraid I might have to put Armenia to sleep. I lived in a studio apartment and I could not cope with a busy urban life, a full-time job and an incontinent cat.

But fortunately, "The Cat that Shat" has a happy ending! Over a period of months, Armenia gradually calmed down, her PTSD subsided, she renewed her relationship with her litter box and I was able to take all the protective layers off the couch except the bedsheet (just in case). She lived another four years before dying at age 14 in November 2009. (The couch lasted a few more years, until 2011, when we ditched it to move to London.)

So what do you think of my foray into children's literature? Should I hire an illustrator?

(Photo: Armenia by my side on the sheet-covered couch, May 2007.)


Yorkshire Pudding said...

You are a good writer Steve but I don't think that children's literature is your natural genre. Instead, I think you should write a novel that contains autobiographical elements about a boy who grew up in Florida. Alternatively, a more tense and exotic novel set in Morocco about a CIA agent who posed as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

...or a novel about a young journalist who relocates to New York City and uncovers a secret that ultimately brings down a wheeler-dealer property magnate who had become the 45th President - Ronald K. Chump.

Ms. Moon said...

Well. I like the title!
Poor kitty. She was shitting on that couch to communicate her displeasure. Pure and simple.
I think YP has some excellent writing suggestions.

Sharon said...

LOL...that poor cat. I think Ms. Moon is right. She was showing her displeasure the only way she knew how.

Linda Sue said...

BRILLIANT, Steve, That did make me laugh! a book with graphic , colorful illustrations of course would delight the whole world- god knows we need that about now. Children are not simple nor are they dumb but a lot of writers think they are and write accordingly- the cat that shat is perfect, my boys would have loved it!!
Your heart was in the right place getting a kitten and you did the needed thing to give it back to the other person. Well done, All of that to inspire the cat that shat! Just terrific. This post made me day!Thank you, Steve!

Anonymous said...

Cats are so smart! They know how to get your attention and do their bidding. Armenia's real intention was to get you to write a children's book about her. Such a powerful little furry girl she must have been. Great story.

ellen abbott said...

sure. why not. they can shelve it right next to Everybody Poops.

37paddington said...

Hire an illustrator!!!

And then write some of YP's suggested books, too.

Catalyst said...

A writer who sits on a white couch with his nervous cat between him and a glass of red wine doesn't need an illustrator. When that cat leaps off the couch and the red wine spills all over the couch, he'll have his illustration. Probably for longer than what the cat shat.

jenny_o said...

Like Ellen, I thought of Everybody Poops and how famous it became! So you never know, your poem made into a book might be the next big thing.

I'd like to see your take on YP's suggested books, too.

I think your assessment of PTSD was on the mark. Cats are notorious for not getting along unless they grow up together, and even then there is a pecking order. Our handsome black male cat that has gone to live with our son used to be dominated by our gray female and although we knew he wasn't happy about that, the extent of his stress wasn't clear until he was away from her. He stopped his incessant scratching and his bald spot grew back. (We had thought it was dry skin.) When our son brought him home for a few days at Christmas, he was on his way to a bald spot again in no time flat. Like you said: Cats!

Lesley UK said...

Steve, Every post you publish brings joy into my life. Now I have a full 24 hours ahead of me to contemplate Cat sh*t which, compared to the sweetness of hill of beans is really nothing (depending on the type of beans you feed your cats.) And please. don't play it again

angryparsnip said...

Just stopped by, I don't comment but I had to tell you how much I liked this post.

cheers, parsnip and badger

Alphie Soup said...

LOL. Are you trying to outdo Pudding, with a variation on a theme?

Elizabeth said...

Go for it.

Steve Reed said...

YP: Oh, but John D. MacDonald and Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen have all done Florida so much better than I ever could, and Paul Bowles has done Morocco. I'm not sure a book is in me, YP. I just don't have the power to concentrate that long.

Ms Moon: Yes, she was clearly letting me know that she was miserable.

Sharon: Well, message received!

Linda Sue: If I ever make a limited-run edition of The Cat that Shat, I will be sure to send you one. :)

Robin: She was wily. I wouldn't put it past her to have conceived this whole scenario, although she would clearly be disappointed that I did not find a publisher.

Ellen: They'll publish books about anything these days!

37P: Ha! You have more confidence in my book-writing abilities than I do!

Catalyst: Spoken like a true cat owner! I don't remember ever spilling wine on that couch, amazingly.

Jenny-O: Interesting story about your own experience with cat trauma. I could have lived with a balding/scratching cat. I wonder why mine chose such a DIRECT method of communicating her displeasure?

Lesley: Just consider me a ray of sunshine, and don't take a whiff of the accompanying scent. :)

Parsnip: Well, thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Alphie: I must point out that I wrote "The Cat that Shat" years before I ever encountered Mr. P, although it's entirely possible that he subconsciously inspired me to blog about it. :)

Elizabeth: Ha!

Ash Green said...

Thank you so much for such an informative piece of information :)
If anyone interested similar one's have a look here