And Then There Were Three
Mabel, formerly "Mei-Mei," formerly "Betty," arrived at my house July 4th weekend as a foster cat, tiny, bitter, and silent. At first, she hid on a bathroom shelf, and tried to impersonate a Scrubbing Bubble (…successfully; like I said, tiny). Then she hid under the couch. I could only see tiny, bitter blinking, and the little priest-collar mark she has on her chest. She came out to have snacks and use the box, but only in the dark of night, grudgingly. (And tinily, and silently.)
That went on for two weeks. In the third week, she occasionally consented to "hide" "in" a dining-room chair during daylight hours, and to crunch kibble out loud, but eye contact sent her back under the couch, or into the bookcase, and by that point, I had given up hope of finding a home for her. I couldn't find her half the time, and the photographs I'd hoped would attract prospective parents largely consisted of a blurry, tiny, bitter, silent tail vanishing out of the frame.
I composed an email to the head of the foster-cat organization to inform her that the foster cat had, thanks to an effective counter-counter-insurgency campaign called Operation Enduring Invisibility, become merely "the cat." I hadn't really bargained for a third feline, but at that point, I didn't really have a third feline; I had two actual felines and half a ghost feline, and the little phantom used her litter like a good girl, so what the hell. I asked for Mabel's medical records, and hit send. Five minutes later, Mabel materialized and wove a quick figure eight around my ankles. Later that day, she let me pet her…one pat, and then the puff-of-smoke routine, but hey, progress. Maybe all she wanted was to know that she could stay.
Seven months later, matters have improved greatly. She is still tiny; I've fattened her up to fighting weight, but that's still only seven pounds. The bitterness, however, is gone. Well, gone from her. Someone whose name rhymes with "Brittle Foe" had gotten verrry used to being the baby of the family, and is really not all that excited about his little sister, or her habit of running under his chin (…tiny) to get to the fullest food bowl before he does, or how, no matter how tightly he snuggles in against me at night, she can always wedge in even tighter (…tiny), or her ability to hide behind (or in) (tiny) a single shoe and swipe him with her kitten-Ginsu claws (tiny). Joe has conveniently forgotten that he's pulled that kind of shit on Hobey for years — he rolled out the old "I'll just flop down right here next to Mom…oh heyyyyy Hobe I didn't seeeee you there" not ten minutes ago, and Hobey trudged off for the 484,195th time all "'didn't see me' — I AM ORANGE, Louis Braille" — and now he's ultra-offended that Mabel is getting away with it. But Mabel herself seems quite content.
And never more so than when she's performing high-decibel home-acoustics tests. The whole silence thing? A distant memory. Of Mabel's seven pounds, six and a half must consist of lung, because girlfriend likes to yell. God forbid she just come looking for me instead of bellowing from the other end of the house. "MOM, WHERE ARE YOU?" "Right here, Mabel." "MOM!" "Right here, Mabel." "MOOOOOOOOOOM." "Mabel, come here, little g–" "MOM-MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE." "OKAY, MABEL, JESUS CHRIST!" "MOM!" "SHUT UP, MABEL." "MOM." "SHUT UP, MABEL." I've sort of gotten used to it by now, but she also does it to houseguests, usually by padding right up close to them on her very little fog feet and then meow-tasering them: "OH HI I'M MABEL WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING OH 'SLEEPING' CAN I PLAY YEAH IT'S PRETTY LATE HUH HEY HAVE YOU SEEN MY MOM YOU KNOW MAYBE IF I KEEP YELLING IN YOUR FACE SHE'LL COME DOWN AND HANG OUT WITH US. HI. MOM!" What Al Lowe said: "It's just a-may-zing how much sound can come out of that teeny little body." What Al Lowe meant: "If that shouty little minnow weren't so speedy, I'd stomp her flat." Which…seriously.
So…she's an air horn with feet; she won't let me put her in a carrier (nor will her incisor "let" an oven mitt protect my thumb during the attempt); and I do not approve of her relationship with her pet tent. The pet tent — which, in my defense, came with her; I didn't buy it — is covered in a cheap-looking blue plaidy sort of fabric with brown teddy bears on it; it's hideous, and I could sew up a replacement cover for it in like ten minutes if Mabel would permit it. But every time I so much as pick it up to try to measure it, she gets really anxious that I might throw it away and she runs around and around in a…well, a very tiny circle, so a dot, I guess, and wants to climb my boot, howling like the world's bittiest coyote. It's…fucked up, which means she fits right into a household where the ancient orange cat will only drink out of the sink and has recently become obsessed with sleeping in my bedside table, and the slightly less ancient but fat cat recently sank a fang into my elbow when I refused to give him a gherkin.
And: she's really cute, you guys.
Tags: Al Lowe fat cats feline fun times orange cats random sibling cruelty shut up crappy pet owners so I says to Mabel I says The Damn Millionaires tiny grey cats