Saturday, June 15, 2013

Getting the Cat into the Bag and the Story into the Narrative

You do not anthropomorphize animals.  You do have frequent conversations with them, most of them in the spirit of conveying some sense of your feelings and attitudes toward the animal, a sharing as it were of your mood and regard for the animal.  In return, you hope for some reciprocal sense that the animal is sharing some sentiments and personalized presence with you.

Thus the word conversation should be rendered in quotation marks, an additional sign that you do not consider the exchange to be the same kind of exchange you'd have with another human, nor that you anticipate or expect the same kind of communication.  Most of these "conversations" were with dogs or cats, an occasional bird, one or two rats, and a squadron of squirrels.

You are well into conversations with Goldfarb, the cat who has roomed with you since the 29th of April.  Goldfarb is by no means the first cat in your life; there have been Sam, Maud, Vincent, Morris, Armand, and a cadre of offspring from a feral mother you dubbed Madam Ovary.  Of them all, Goldfarb is more outgoing in his affectionate nature.  He is also the first the matter of a carrying case has become an issue.

For reasons you cannot hope to explain, Sam was disposed to take walks with you and allowed himself to be taken in the car, on a number of occasions on rather prolonged vacations.  When he required visits to a veterinarian, you simply lifted him, told him we were about to visit Dr. Altman, then off we went to Studio City, which was home base for Dr. Altman.

One or two interim cats between Sam and Goldfarb required standard kitty litter box facilities, but Goldfarb is the first cat who requires litter box, indoor scratch pads, and a carrying case.  The others were able to see to their own sanitation and scratching needs.  Although Goldfarb spends a good deal of his time out of doors, he, unlike many of the cats in your life, has yet to offer to contribute the short hair domestic equivalent of rent in the form of birds, lizards, rats, voles, or gophers.  You are happy with this status because you already know more about the inner physiology of such life forms than you wish to know.

Because you had fifteen or sixteen years with your late dog, Sally, the conversations ranged over a spectrum of subjects including your inner debates about whether to go to a particular event, whether she was comfortable with where you'd left her in a parked car, if she were hungry or thirsty or wished to rid herself of some waste.  As a consequence of these varied dialogues, you developed a growing sense of her tastes to the point where you could pretty well anticipate her current preference for, say, the albacore tuna sandwich over the double cheese burger at The Habit.

Even though this borders on your fanciful interpretation of the transaction, there were in fact times when you'd bring her the albacore which she would not eat or the cheeseburger, which she also spurned, indicating with her behavior that she either was not hungry when you thought she was or that you misread her preferences.

At home, she was pretty good at communicating with eye contact and body language a range of requests and preferences.  Even when you had the sense from her behavior that she wanted something and you had no clear what, you nevertheless had the distinct impression she was trying to communicate something.

Your long history of conversation was not only a bonding experience but an immediate communication of some intent or some sharing of mood.

A portion of your conversation with Goldfarb has to do with your wish to acclimate him with the carrying case in order for him to have a check up and receive any necessary shots from Bonnie Franklin, who will become Goldfarb's de facto veterinarian, even to the point where, should he go missing, then be found, the Home Again medallion which refers to his embedded microchip, will supply your phone number and the number of Dr. Franklin's Your Pals Pet Hospital.

You've already blown two appointments with Dr. Franklin because Goldfarb is adept at avoiding allowing himself to be placed in a rather expensive, padded, multi-zippered carrying case.  Your first venture was to lace the interior of the carrying case with catnip and indeed, he once went inside it to get at the source.  When it was time to leave for the vet, Goldfarb successfully defended his wishes to remain outside the carrying case.

You've subsequently tried luring him into the case with treats and catnip, dropping a towel over him, and trying to life him, as per instructions on a YouTube video presented by a vet, into a pillow case.

Friends have suggested oven mitts, leather gloves, and large boxes.  Goldfarb seems equal in his resistance to all these and his eagerness to be close to you to the point of soliciting contact.  Brian Fagan, the no-nonsense archaeologist, who happens to be a Brit, has suggested you simply approach the cat, tell him stiff upper lip and tally ho, and into the cage.  This is no idle speculation; Fagan has dedicated his most recent book, The Attacking Sea, to Atticus Catticus Moose.  But even Fagan has said that the matter often requires two persons, perhaps one to life, the other to hold the carrier at the ready.

Your observation from your cat carrier experiences is that Goldfarb remains eager for contact and affection and is steadfast in his wish to avoid any contacts with the carrying case.

In many ways, getting Goldfarb into his comfortable, lined, washable, zippered carrying case is of a piece with trying to get an idea into the semblance of a story.  A cat, sensing a destination of a carrying case, tends to extend his legs, making him or her larger than the opening of the carrying case.  In addition, it is your observation that the cat will wriggle, extend claws, perhaps bite, certainly cry out in some form of protest.  A dramatic concept will sometimes extend its legs or adopt other resisting maneuvers.

You are left with a number of scratch marks, a wary cat, a stubborn story, and plenty to talk about.

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