I didn't have a cat until I was in my early 30s; my parents didn't like cats, and I was a reasonably good kid, and listened to my parents, and entered adulthood with some of the same values that my parents had. So, I had no real interest in cats. I figured, some day, if I had, you know, a farm, or something, maybe it would be cool to have a couple of cats kinda doing their own cat thing in the background of my life.
Then along came Monkey — she just showed up at work one day, back in 2000; she jumped up on my desk and gave me a headbutt, and everyone in the office decided she was mine. I was renting a small condo at the time, and I had done some major wheelin' and dealin' to convince my landlord to rent to me and Lacey. He was paranoid the dog would do something to his property, and so, we drew up a specific, Lacey-centric lease*, that mandated absolutely no other animals. Period.
Of course, I took Monkey in anyway.
Unrelated to the cat (or the dog), I moved into a small garden apartment when my lease was up, and during my interview with the property manager, she asked me if I had any pets. The property manager was a stern, young Russian woman who explained to me that it was important to "show the stapler who is boss," as she pounded the top of it with all her might, to make it do its job.
"Do you have pets?" she asked, "Maybe, you know, like dog?" Her accent was thick and her eyes were tough, icy blue, so prevalent among eastern Europeans.
"Yes," I said, "I have a dog..." I was about to add that I have a cat, too, but before I could do so, she interrupted.
"What is dog's name?" she asked.
"Lacey," I said, again, ready to confess about the cat. Even back then, even with just one, the cats seemed like a dirty secret to which I must confess. But I believe in transparency, and I didn't want to attempt to keep Monkey — the criminally insane among cats — hidden anymore. I couldn't.
"How you spell 'Lacey'?" she asked.
I spelled the dog's name.
"You have other pets? Maybe another dog?"
"No," I said, "but I have a cat."
"You have cat?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, worried there might already be a problem. Monkey was out of her mind, and, at the time, I assumed all cats were that way, and maybe this apartment complex wouldn't take the risk of renting to cat people.
She aligned several sheets of paper and placed the stapler so that the staple would make a perfect 45 degree angle at the corner, and then pounded the shit out of the head of the stapler. She gave me a proud look; she didn't need my approval of her stapling method, but I think she wanted my admiration.
"You sure know how to handle that stapler," I said.
"I know," she said, beaming. "Okay-dokie, back to business," she said. "You have cat?"
"Yes," I said.
"What is cat's name?" she asked.
"Monkey," I told her.
"Monkey?" She looked confused.
"Yep, Monkey," I said.
"You have monkey?" she asked, incredulously.
"No, no," I said, with a laugh, "I have a cat named Monkey."
I didn't think we had a translation issue, but apparently we did. Or maybe it was a cultural thing: maybe Russians don't name their pets after other animals? Her English wasn't bad, but she just couldn't understand that the cat was named Monkey. And articles were optional for her, as well.
Her voice got quiet, "We don't allow monkeys," she told me. "Too unpredictable."
"Oh, no," I said again. "I don't have a monkey. I have a cat named Monkey."
"You cannot have monkey here," she said sternly, but in a low voice, to not draw attention. But I could tell she liked me, and wanted to help me to keep my monkey. "I will not put monkey on application. Keep monkey quiet, and do not tell anyone."
I didn't know what to say, so I simply said, "Thanks."
"You have dog," she said in a normal tone, and that was final.
A few years went by, and Glen and I landed in East Trenton, which is overrun, at least in our neighborhood, by stray cats. I had reached a point where I liked cats better than I used to, but had always considered myself more of dog person. But through a series of events, the cat-to-other beings ratio flew completely out of proportion here. My sister-in-law, Clair, gave me the Crazy Cat Lady action figure to acknowledge our situation.The Crazy Cat Lady
I never really thought about how a Cat Lady becomes a Cat Lady until recently, but if asked, I would have assumed it involved some weird personality quirk, spinsterhood, a fondness for "Murder She Wrote," Carol Wright catologs, and tea. Not that there's anything wrong with those things, mind you. I may have a quirky personality, but not Cat Lady Quirky. I think.
But after living la vida gatto, I've come to the conclusion that it takes surprisingly little to become a Cat Lady. You don't need Carol Wright's products or evenings spent with Angela Landsbury. All you need is a fairly responsible, non-douchey personality. A tiny bit of extra space helps. And that's about it. I would have added a lack of allergies to that list, but I know several people who help cats who are allergic to them.
So, what happens when fairly early into your life as a Cat Lady, a ratty, chicken-bone eating, possum-lookin' dog shows up?
Maybe Steve is trying to send a message?
Steve was only interested in destroying the Cat Lady, not her pets, which may say something about his personality. And the fact that I have been documenting the Cat Lady's demise, probably says something about mine.
Also, recently, I discovered LOLCats, a cat photo sharing website where users come up with captions for the "kitteh" images, mostly clever, and grammatically-incorrect (on purpose, though: it's kittehspeak) captions. A few months ago, I spent nearly a whole week looking through almost every picture, unable to do anything else — I was addicted. I sent the links to several friends and family members; some just didn't get it, but a few of them did. One of my friends did the same as I did: spent nearly a whole week, at work, looking at the cats, and like me, often came close to wetting her pants with laughter.
I subscribe to the daily LOLCat (and suggest you sign up for it, too), and am going to share a few of my recent favorites. Glen thinks I'm I complete mongo for my affection for the LOLCats, but he checked my email while I was in labor with Matthew, and came across the image, below (of the cat in the pizza box), and he completely missed one of my bigger contractions, because he was laughing too hard.
So. I guess I am a cat lady. I don't live on a farm, and the cats are certainly not doing their own thing in the background of my life, and ultimately, it's okay. At least I don't have a monkey. Yet.
* Speaking of personality quirks, maybe it's one of mine, but I hate when people say they have to give up a pet because they're moving and the landlord doesn't allow pets. I moved around a lot in my 20s and early 30s, and never had a problem finding a place that would accept Lacey. It took a tiny bit of extra work, but she was well worth it. I'm a fairly non-confrontational sort of gal, and I generally follow the rules, and don't ask for special consideration, but I am committed to my animals (even now with a baby) and am willing to at least argue on their behalf. If you are moving and need tips to convince a potential landlord to allow your pet, drop me a note.