While visiting my family for Christmas this year, I got to see Colby, the notoriously unpleasant cat.
Colby was once “my” cat, if one can ever claim to establish ownership over any descendents of Bast.
My parents claim that I “abandoned” him, which is not quite true. I couldn’t find affordable housing that allowed pets when circumstances made me need to find new housing and move with pretty limited time at the end of the semester, and Colby was already slated to stay at Chateau Brittingham for the summer while I was in Europe. It was understood that I would claim my cat and take him with me as soon as I could.
But my parents let him outside. As a previously indoor-only cat, this was the end for Colby, and he was clearly never going to leave his new abode where he could GO OUTSIDE AND KILL THINGS.
In some ways, this was a plus for the new Colby-caretakers, as this meant that he stopped the irritating and socially embarrassing habit of attacking the feet of any visitors who dared to take off their socks in the house.
Colby has become more social as he’s aged, and now allows you to pet him WHEN OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU DO IT, which previously, was a big no-no in his book.
He also made it abundantly clear that Chateau Brittingham (I bet my mother loves it when I call it that) is now Chateau Colby, and any intruders, especially that tiny human who makes noise and looks at him with “I want to touch that kitty” eyes, are particularly unwelcome.
As I was packing to leave, Colby popped up out of a pile of pillows and meowed at me as if to say, “aren’t you done yet? This is my room, and I want you and that stinky man out of it post-haste.”
You may be wondering why I hold such a candle for this mean cat. Well, back when he was a kitten…
I got home from class and had a late lunch. I had a performance that night of an opera scenes program, and it was the final performance. I’d just taken an exam, and had had multiple assignments due that week, so I was tired. I thought, I’ll just take an hour long nap, then clean and do a load of laundry before going back to school. I had a double shift the next day and my church job and another shift at work the Sunday of that weekend to make up for missing for rehearsals for the last week, so I wanted to get a lot done with my free afternoon.
Colby ignored me when I got into bed, and I fell asleep, setting the alarm for my hour nap.
When I awoke, the cat was on my face.
Seriously. If you’ve never woken up with a cat on your face, you don’t know what a great motivator to get out of bed it truly is. On a normal day, Colby would pounce on my chest, leaping from a nearby dresser to get the greatest amount of velocity and gravitational force to knock the wind out of me so I’d get up and feed him. And always five minutes before the alarm, no matter what time it was set for.
Now, I assumed this was just like normal—cat waking me up before the alarm. But as I came out of my sleep fog, with the cat batting at my face and constantly meowing the entire time, that’s when I realized that the alarm was going off. And that I had slept through the alarm for THREE HOURS.
That’s right, four hour nap.
I attributed this to my busy week, but I noticed that it was really difficult to get up and get moving. And that Colby followed me around, still meowing.
I went to the kitchen where my cell phone was charging, and saw that I’d missed a call. It was another performer in the scenes program, letting me know he’d stopped at the Panera on the other side of my house, and would I like to come get a bowl of soup with him, since he saw my car in the driveway.
I walked outside, called him back, and said I’d just woken up from a nap, waving to him as he got out of his car in the adjacent parking lot. Then I turned back to the house, and caught a whiff. I turned back to my friend, and told him I had a weird request, but could he please come over and smell my house?
He walked over and within seconds of walking into the house, said, “oh dear God, how can you breathe in here? It reeks of natural gas.”
So in the remaining time before our call time for the performance, we opened all the windows (this was November in West Virginia, so that meant it was pretty darn cold), called the gas company, and shut off the apparently VERY leaky heater in the basement with the promise that a gas company person would come to fix it first thing in the morning.
It wasn’t until we shut off the heater that Colby stopped crying.
That night, the cat slept on my bed for the first (and last!) time, curled up on my stomach.
So, even though the cat fusses at me for being gone too long from his new home, and for taking up his valuable room designated for mid-morning naps only, I know the cat really loves me, what with saving my life from death by gas poisoning.
But then I think, if I’d passed on in my sleep, who would feed the cat? And I bet he had been thinking that very same question.