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Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005 02:59 pm

Practice cat and sidekick cat

Every successful relationship requires compromise

Seven years ago. Cats are OK, as long as one doesn’t humanize them. I believe a cat would make a fine pet if it spent 10 minutes a day doing “frisky tricks,” then left immediately to work a double shift at Bob’s Package Liquor to earn enough to reimburse me for its room and board.
My wife is pro-cat. All good relationships require compromise, so we bring in a “practice cat.” If it doesn’t work out, we’ll “discuss it.” Within a day, Mr. Chuckles recognizes the test situation and feigns interest in humans-not-me. A few days later, still not sure he’s winning, he fakes a digestive problem and schedules surgery. I vote against surgery, pointing out that for the cost of the operation, we could buy 31 other cats and give ’em all away to pet-deprived cherubic orphans. After the surgery, it’s decided by not-me that Mr. Chuckles must follow the exact same diet as the British royal family for the rest of his natural life. With a surgery and dietary investment exceeding the cost of a new pickup truck, Mr. Chuckles knows he’s here for the duration. Now it’s only a matter of staking out territory. I strike first, reasoning that because Mr. Chuckles considers a litter box optional, he should be an “outside” cat. Mr. Chuckles appears from nowhere, does his cute snuggle-purr trick in a lap-not-mine, then turns and — he smirks me! Seven years later, Mr. Chuckles has yet to touch paw to ground. Mr. Chuckles responds to my weak first strike by trying to kill me. He stacks slobber-poisoned cat toys on the steps leading downstairs. When stair-mining causes only a sprained ankle, he retreats to his hiding place to plot a better way. Just to let him know that the game is far from over, I counter with irrefutable logic. Because Mr. Chuckles is 100 percent indoors, it’s declaw time. Mr. Chuckles overhears the suggestion and shreds the left arm of my favorite chair to leather confetti. Then he repeats the lap trick and . . . the smirk! Seven years later, with claws equal in size to an alpha male Kodiak bear’s, Mr. Chuckles selects all our furniture by maiming pieces not befitting his taste.

Six years ago, a standoff. He’s not the only night stalker in this game: I sneak-watch him. Our house is of reasonable size, but it’s not one with nooks and crannies. Nonetheless, I suspect Mr. Chuckles of not only having a “nook” but also of having a “cranny” — I just can’t find ’em. On second thought, why search? Mr. Chuckles, now dropping all pretense of tolerating human beings, stays hidden almost full-time, coming out only to check my savings-account book to see whether I have enough to buy the new pickup. When I’m close, he schedules more unnecessary surgery as a means of eating away the savings. The standoff: I can delay the pickup purchase if Mr. Chuckles stays “nooked away.”

Five years ago, Mr. Chuckles makes a mistake. Feeling no need to even acknowledge the lap-not-mine, Mr. Chuckles spends all nonsurgery time in his cranny, reading the royal-family wine list. After consultation with someone-not-me, it’s decided that the reason Mr. Chuckles stays hidden is because he needs a companion, another cat. For once Mr. Chuckles and I agree; I vote no, and Mr. Chuckles shoots from his cranny and tries the most intense lap-snuggle-purr trick ever pretended. Too late. Enter . . . Ed the Sidekick Cat.
A few sniffs, the smirk, and Mr. Chuckles huffs away from the interloper — to purchase a bag of street catnip from a feral cat drug dealer who sneaks into our garage on Tuesdays. Late that night I watch Mr. Chuckles trail catnip from Sidekick’s box to the garbage disposal. And there’s that smirk again as he dumps catnip down the drain and hides, paw on the switch, waiting! I rescue Ed just as his paw touches the top of the drain and — he purrs me! Not only purrs but also climbs my pajama sleeve, parks on my shoulder, and — nuzzles me! 

Today. Ed and I live mostly in the basement; we like the people here. We’ve enough money now for a new pickup, but Ed likes the old truck — he’s ripped out a hole in the front seat where
he settles in next to me — so we’ll keep the
old truck.

We could have a new favorite chair if we wanted, but Ed likes the old shredded-arm chair, so we’ll just leave it be and take long naps in it. And in the evening, even though I prefer classical music, we listen to the country music Ed so enjoys — because all good relationships require compromise.