My days as a cat owner may be drawing to a close.
I've earlier written about Kitty Boots, my 13-year-old long-haired tom. He's been a sourpuss for a long time, ever since a car clipped him and he had to have his tail amputated as a kitten.
He's spent much of his life trying to end mine. After the cat-scratch fever he gave me left me partly blind but wasn't lethal, he started attempting to kill me by tripping me at every turn.
He gets an opportunistic gleam in his evil yellow eyes each time I lug a grocery bag or a load of laundry, as he wraps himself around me like a pro wrestler putting on a paralyzing lock.
He has lots of other annoying beastly behaviors, too: sharpening his claws on baseboards and furniture; pulling threads to ruin favorite sweaters; and slamming his body against my husband, Fred's, and my bedroom door a full hour before we actually have to get up in the morning. And if I enter the kitchen for any reason -- maybe just to spy on the neighbors, for instance -- Boots bolts in behind me, begins yowling and shifts into his food-on-demand mode.
But what I'm most tired of is my ever-present fear of trespassers coming through the cat door that opens from the garage to the first-floor hallway. Over the years in that garage, I've skirmished with an albino skunk, a garbage-gobbling possum and several feral felines, all of whom could have fit through Boots' door, should they have been inclined to check out the rest of the house.
For a great while, I've sworn that Boots will be the last in Fred's and my 41-year line of domestic animals. And he (Boots, not Fred) is starting to hint that he may soon be headed for pussycat paradise, or, more likely in his case, Pet Semetery. He's sleeping more, eating less and is beginning to make bleating sounds when he scratches himself, much like our previous cat did shortly before death.
I'd probably be doing my housework with one hand and holding a hammer in the other, ready to nail shut the cat door at a moment's notice, if it weren't for my granddaughter, age 3. Little Charley is crazy about Boots, frequently calls on the phone to find out what he's doing and spends all her time at our house feeding him treats, stroking his back or otherwise loving on him.
Without the lure of our cat, she might not come over to see her grandparents at all.
Plus, there's the matter of mice. Despite his disagreeable ways, Boots is doubtless responsible for keeping our residence rodent-free. In fact, the only time I've seen a mouse in the house during our 21 years of occupancy was when I bought a live one to bring home and feed to the red-tailed boa constrictor my older son kept in a fish tank in his room.
I was plenty glad to get that squeaking little snake meal inside the house because it had chewed its way through the pet store's paper sack and had been dashing around the car's interior during almost my entire 30-minute commute home from work in rush-hour traffic.
My best friend recently had an unsettling encounter with a live mouse. The ordeal involved food- and blood-drippings on the kitchen floor, a number of nasty-looking rat traps and some other business that's too disgusting to detail. It culminated in the creature's climbing up her pajama pants leg, where it got wedged under her waistband for some flesh-crawling of the most literal kind.
Her rodent-tale recap, coupled with the enticement of keeping my granddaughter visiting, has me thinking that maybe I can handle another cat, after all. The next one is bound to like me more than the present one does and if it doesn't, I'll scare it into submission by telling it that its forerunner's name, Boots, was bestowed because that's what he got for misbehaving.
Email Jan Galletta at jan firstname.lastname@example.org.