My Family and Other Animals
April 13, 2008

All cat owners out there will agree: you can spend hours discussing your cats. Their facial expressions, meows, whiskers, and favored destructive habits. Hours. And only another cat owner will both tolerate and enjoy it.

My sister and I do this. Bunting and I do this, and now, my parents and I do this.

A few months ago, the last cat from my childhood passed away. My parents were pretty grief-stricken, but they were also temporarily fostering two girl kitties whose owner was in Mongolia on a Fulbright, so the blow was somewhat softened. Enter Marvin. Marvin needed a home, my parents needed a cat of their own, I put the two together. However, before Marvin lived with my parents, who were anxious about how the two foster cats would react, he lived with my little sister.

And her cats.

Her four cats.

And dog.

Marvin was fine there for a while. So fine, in fact, that Nessa started wondering if she would even let my parents have him. But then one of her cats, Wooster, became so upset by Marvin's presence -- yet not by the presence of three other cats and a dog -- that she started pooing herself. So, Marvin had to go. Over Christmas, Marvin moved in with my parents and the foster cats, and everyone got along pretty well. After the foster cats went back to their original owner, my parents -- who are now completely in love with Marvin -- finally listened to the pushings and naggings of their two daughters and agreed that Marvin needed a companion.

Yesterday afternoon I placed one of my usual phone calls home, prepared to discuss Jane Austen, PBS, and other random happenings, but my mom greeted me with, "Is this the cat consultant?" Having been to the humane society the day before, my parents were now embroiled in deep discussions about adoptables and I was being conferenced in via speakerphone. (Doing her part, Nessa will accompany Mom and Dad when they go back to the humane society today.)

My father got fixated on this one particular cat, Gatto. She's a fluffy, orange and white five-year-old, and as Dad got her out of her cage, she started growling. In fact, she continued growling and even added a few snarls while Dad sat down with her in the common room. They drew stares.

"I don't want a problem cat," my mother interrupted at this point. "But she was fine on my lap!" Dad insisted, "I think we should name her Crabby." "We're not giving her a negative name," Mom informed him. "Besides, 'Cranky' is a better name." (This from the woman who had cats named "Nutsy" and "Dummy.") "Your grandfather did that!" Mom insisted.

In the middle of all of this, Nessa and I were IMing about the situation. I explained to her about Gatto and how Dad felt sorry for her. "I think Dad feels a weird kinship because the cat is antisocial and no one likes it," I typed. Nessa agreed but also thought my parents should adopt Gatto. I pointed out that Mom wasn't really in favor of having a crabby cat, so if Gatto didn't get along with Marvin right away, we would never hear the end of how she was always against the adoption in the first place.

Meanwhile, since we were both on the humane society page, Mom walked me through all the cats they had seen and what they thought of them. There was a really sweet looking one who had only one ear, which the staff thinks she lost to frostbite. Mom also told me what the comment card attached to each cage said about their occupants.

"I want to go back to the shelter today and see Gekko," Dad said. "Her name is 'GATTO,' not GEKKO!" Mom reminded him loudly and clearly not for the first time. "Her name is going to be 'Crabby,' apparently," I added. "Your father and I are getting a cat we BOTH like," Mom informed us. "Gekko's cage didn't have a comment card at all," Dad mused, "I wonder if that's a bad thing."

Eventually, Mom and I had to cut the rest of our conversation short because Dad may or may not have broken their brand-new flat screen television, but about an hour later she called back to tell me that Gatto had been adopted. "But there's another cat there that looks like Gatto. His name is Mr. Boots and he BIT Dad!"

I think Dad wants to adopt him now.

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