High Prey Drive
This afternoon, I caught myself speaking to my toenails like they were somebody’s children.
“Look at you,” I said. “You’re getting so big. Grow any more, and I’m going to have to buy all new socks.”
I have conversations like this all the time these days: friendly morning chats with my slippers; terse debates with a roll of paper towels; involved melodramas in which the food in my fridge begs me not to eat it. I give inanimate objects hoarse Muppet voices, and we talk like family.
Obviously, I’m lonely again. With the exception of the occasional short-lived exchange tossed in here and there, I’m a perennially single guy. In fact, I did try to remedy this a while back by getting into a mature, committed relationship. But that didn’t work out, so I got a cat.
What I figured at the time was that a little unconditional love would do me some good. As luck would have it, my friend’s cat had just pooped out a batch of kittens, and she was nice enough to give me first pick. I chose the runt of the litter, as I’d read that runts– being small and comparatively weak– tend to be calmer and more even-tempered. In addition, this runt was female (or near as I could tell after Googling “cat vagina”), and as I’d also read that females tend to be quieter and more affectionate than males, this was a definite plus. I named her Rose and brought her home, this even-tempered, calm, quiet, and loving little girl.
Fast-forward to her first check-up. Here’s how it went down:
VET: I don’t see any problems. He’s very healthy.
ME (ASSERTIVELY): She.
VET: He. This is a boy.
ME (VERY FUCKING CERTAIN): No, she’s a girl.
VET: Definitely a boy.
ME (DUBIOUS): How do you know?
VET: Because of the penis.
ME (WITH NO TRACE OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE): This can’t be. She has nipples.
Turns out all cats have nipples. Also turns out it’s very difficult to determine the sex of a kitten based on a few Googled photos; when they’re very young, their little cotton ball scrotums and vaginal puffs are eerily similar. So I conceded to the vet (who I could only assume was an expert in these matters) and renamed the cat Louie and took him home with the hope that he would remain even-tempered, quiet, calm, and loving.
Louie has since destroyed half of everything I own. As it happens, he has something those in the know would call a “high prey drive”– an unrelenting compulsion to hunt, ravage and murder anything he sees. Bad news for any spiders in the house, but also bad news for anything not made of metal. The list of his victims includes: a couch; a love seat; an office chair; three dress shirts; two sets of headphones; twelve books (two hardcover); a duvet; every curtain in the house; two bath mats; and a bicycle helmet.
He is an unyielding machine. He rifles through my cabinets and swats glass items off of high surfaces. He bounds into the walls and shreds grocery bags before they’re unpacked. Every once in a while, he’ll take a running jump into my office chair with such speed that it ricochets from my desk into the file cabinet like an air hockey puck. Louie is basically a poltergeist that I can actually see.
Also, I would not use the word ‘affectionate‘ in describing this cat. He doesn’t sit in my lap, or rub up against my legs and purr. He is, however, extraordinarily playful. His favorite game goes something like this:
1. I try to pet him
2. He bites holes into my hand
3. I scream and bleed
Louie calls this ‘wrestling‘. I call it ‘the reason I own so much hydrogen peroxide‘.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my cat. Sometimes I think he has a better sense of humor than I do. He’s certainly smarter. But inasmuch as I was looking for even-tempered, calm, quiet, and loving, Louie has turned out to be an imperfect companion animal. If I can sing his praises at all, it’s because he makes a superior alarm clock. This, he demonstrates at 4:30 every morning by pressing his paw deep into my eyeball, if only to let me know he’s ready to bite some more holes into my hand.
So this is me at almost 40 years old: lonely; bleeding incessantly; and talking to my toenails while a hairy creature rampages through my house. It’s no wonder I’m single. These aren’t exactly the kinds of things I can include in the ‘About Me’ section of my internet dating profile. Let’s face it: there’s no even-temepered, calm, quiet, loving woman on the planet who would go for a guy like that.
You don’t need to agree with me. My toenails already have.