In early 2007, during a fit of extreme emotional vulnerability, I walked into an animal shelter on Chicago’s near North side. Two hours later, I was driving home with a very angry cat with only one fang and a stump where her tail should be in a carrying case on the passenger seat, my hands clenched on the wheel in a sort of pet-obtaining mania. The ensuing eight years have been spent trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to make her like me.
I should point out that she’s a pretty good cat. She does cute stuff like sleep upside down on the second pillow on my bed, make a little trilled meow noise when I pet her and she isn’t expecting it. She chirps at birds and crawls under the covers and is generally a friendly companion-type animal. She looks good in Instagram photos. She immediately took a shine to my coworker Bobby Finger and annoys the shit out of Kate Dries, so: good judge of character.
Which makes the impossible pursuit of making her “happy” even more absurd; she’s an walnut-brained animal and she seems fine, but my guilty conscience dictates that I am never a sufficient caretaker (or person). As such, I’ve purchased the following items for her over the past 8.5 years, and have rated them, for you, on whether or not my cat gave a shit.
Why: Because the cardboard crate the shelter attempted to put her in for transit home enraged her, the first thing I bought was a soft-sided carrier similar to this one.
Cat reaction: Hates it.
Why: Thought we could bond over it, maybe.
Cat reaction: Driven to near-insanity with desire to kill laser. Eventually learned laser light was coming from thing I was holding in my hand, and attacked my hand.
Why: I thought that if I bought my middle-aged cat fancy food, she’d live longer and love me more. Now I have to keep buying it because she expects it.
Cat reaction: It is the only thing she lives for.
Why: She seemed depressed.
Cat reaction: Interest, followed by fear, followed by hanging around it like it was her friend. When the batteries ran out, I was too sad to replace them. She seemed to blame me. She was right.
Why: So she’d love me.
Cat reaction: Mild interest, followed by annoyance. Gave it to my boyfriend’s gregarious and playful 1-year-old cat (we live separately); cat ate one of its legs off and we had to take it away. Not entirely sure if the leg was pooped out.
Why: So she’d love me.
Cat reaction: Much preferred the oversized shipping box in which it arrived. Gave it to my boyfriend’s cat and we went away for a short hiking trip. Returned 24 hours later to find his cat had eaten the hedgehog’s face off. The entire face.
Why: Dental health.
Cat reaction: Avoidance. Boyfriend’s cat completely destroyed both of them over the course of a weekend.
Why: I wanted her to get more exercise and love me.
Cat reaction: Disdainful indifference. Boyfriend’s cat ate half of it and pooped it out.
Cat reaction: She actually plays with these sometimes. Two of them are jammed underneath the stove and she spends hours staring at them, like they might come alive and hang out with her. The hope of hanging out with springs is more interesting to her than hanging out with me, a living, breathing human who just wants her to like me.
Why: Guilt over own inadequacy.
Cat reaction: Eats it with no sense whatsoever how fraught its purchase is—how I devote time to wondering whether or not she prefers chicken or salmon flavor, if she ever gets sick of it, if she ever gets sick of me.
Why: So she had a place to shit. I thought spending money on a fancy litter box would somehow make a difference to her, an animal who spent the first two weeks I had her running the length of my apartment and attempting, mostly unsuccessfully, to jump into a windowsill far too narrow for her to sit on comfortably. All day every day she would try to master this.
Cat reaction: Shits in it.
Why: She sheds a lot, all over everything.
Cat reaction: This cat brush is the current focus of all of her hate. It is her Lee Harvey Oswald. It is her Osama Bin Laden. It is her Entourage movie.
Why: So she’d love me.
Cat reaction: Will stand on hind legs for one, then drop it on the ground and walk away, disgusted. Just to make me feel bad.
Why: I thought that if she had more toys to play with, she’d get less fat. And love me.
Cat reaction: Disdainful indifference.
Why: It was well-reviewed and very expensive. Maybe, I thought, this will be what makes her love me.
Cat reaction: Buries her shit in it.
Why: Because my cat is a dick.
Cat reaction: Doesn’t care, is still a dick.
Why: Spending $50 on pet furniture is the epitome of things both of my admirably Midwestern late grandfathers would make vicious fun of (and rightly so), but they never got to know my cat. Two separate wicker hampers had failed to excite her. She’s nearly destroyed my door jamb and one specific leg of the Ikea kitchen island. Scratching posts can’t withstand the amount of sheer hateful force she puts into shredding things with her paws. I was at the end of my rope.
Cat reaction: The best $50 I’ve ever spent on an animal that will one day die and shatter my heart into a million pieces. The other morning, I woke up to her gently extending her claws into my scalp as I slept, as though to see if I was dead enough for her to safely strip the flesh from my face or to test my suitability as a scratching surface. As though checking to see if I could ever bring her joy like an infinity symbol-shaped loop of corrugated cardboard.
Why: I was moving.
Cat reaction: Sedative wore off while we were in the airport. Spent entire flight making eye contact with me through the mesh in the side of her $50 Pet Voyage carrying case and yowling.
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Images via Wag.com/Amazon.com. Top image via Hayley Karl.