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Monday, March 11, 2013

Do You Feel Lucky?

Some years ago, I went to spend a week with my friend Julie and see some of the beautiful sights in the state of Utah. When we were on the way to her house, she told me about the kitten she had recently taken into her home. He was a bit wild, but she had high hopes that he would calm down into a loving cat. When I first saw Mister Butters, as she introduced him to me, I thought he was aptly named. He had light butterscotch and white stripes and was soft and fuzzy like kittens tend to be. Julie also told me that her grandson called the kitty Anakin. I thought that Mister Butters and Anakin were wildly different names, but hey, he wasn't my pet.

Imagine my surprise when I started to see what life was like with this kitten. He had moments when he was completely lovable. He would follow me into the bathroom and try to curl up for a nap inside my jeans when I was, ahem, occupied. He'd look up at me with those cute little kitty eyes and I would feel all gooshy. Then there was the showering drama. I didn't want him stuck in the bathroom while I was showering, so I would shut him out of the bathroom. As I was getting ready to get in the shower, I would see his little paw poke under the door as if he was trying to pull me out into the hall from across the bathroom. Just precious.

Then when I headed down the hall, the little beast would pounce on my feet like they were the tastiest of all mice. And not in a cute batting at your feet kitty way, either. It was all out claws and teeth and bloodletting. Playing with him was the same thing. He'd spend a few moments batting at the feather on a stick and then see if there were any fingers or toes he could rip apart, or perhaps a houseplant he could overturn. He sought death and destruction at the twitch of a whisker. Then he would lay on his back and say, "Love me, aren't I just the cutest thing?" If you fell for that act, he'd sink the claws from all four feet into your hand while biting as hard as he could with his razor-sharp teeth. And hold on tight enough that you could have carried him down the block that way. I quickly understood that Anakin was an appropriate name for this kitty. Anakin, after all, began as a sweet, adorable, and loving boy. Then he changed into the villainous Darth Vader. The only big difference was that the cat switched personas without waiting for his adulthood. He went from happy kitty to killer tiger at a moment's notice.

While I was visiting, we took Mister Butters to the vet for shots and to get his nails clipped. Julie explained the behavior problems and the vet said they could easily be ended. All that was necessary was to take some rolled-up paper and smack yourself near where the cat was biting. The sound would startle him and the biting would come to a quick end. There was also the option of using a spray bottle to give him a mist of water in the face when he was doing something undesirable.  We both though these ideas sounded simple, painless, and brilliant. Yeah, right. In a day or so, our hands and forearms were turning red from the constant beatings we were giving ourselves. And the cat didn't give a hoot. We switched to the water bottle method. It was just about as effective.

On the evening that I was packing up my suitcase to go home to my husband and my non toe-killing dog, Julie was in her home office on the computer. I'd pick something up and walk over to the suitcase, which I had set on the bed. This was a true delight for killer kitty. He was hiding under the bed and attacking my feet every time I came toward the bed. He seemed to sense that my hands were busy with the task at hand and therefore unable to hold the spray bottle. There were two things he didn't realize, though. I had the spray bottle next to my suitcase. And my patience was wearing a bit thin. 

After several bite-and-grabs, I reached for the bottle. Mister Anakin Butters was halfway out from under the bed when I had my Clint Eastwood moment. I picked up the bottle, shook it, and glared at him. "This is a spray bottle filled with cold water. Did I spray it six times or seven? What you've gotta ask yourself, cat, is this. Do you feel lucky, cat, do ya?"  Sensing my disgust, the cat decided to move on to some other form of entertainment. Julie was still in her office, but was having a good laugh at my Dirty Harry moment. I think she must have been replaying it in her mind, because she spontaneously burst into laughter several times.

Unfortunately, despite Julie's continued efforts to tame Anakin, she was unable to do so. So to protect herself, her grandchildren, and any other visitors to her home, she had to make the difficult decision to return him to the shelter from which she had adopted him. When she told the staff there about her problems, they said not to feel guilty. Some cats just can't be broken of their feral habits and behaviors. They said that they would have done the same thing, but would have given up on the cat much sooner. A few months later, Julie got a sweet and loving adult cat that everyone adores. But I still think she sometimes feels bad about Anakin Butters. That's when I want to say, "Julie, look at this sweet cat, Lily. Do you feel lucky, Julie, do ya?"