That Sneaky Feline | Our Town | Chicago Reader

That Sneaky Feline 

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Ed loves me. Totally. Ceaselessly. Abjectly. His love, I know, causes him pain. Because I cannot always be by his side. Because I also love another. Because I am careless in my attention to his litter box.

And in his pain, he cries out. Ed laments from the inner depths of his very being--the inner depths that should, rightfully speaking, be deposited in the litter box and not on the bed.

This is cause for concern.

Once I believed Ed's problem to be physical, as indeed several midnight trips to the kitty ER confirmed it was. But after a battery of exams, a variety of pharmaceuticals, and one appalling and appallingly expensive surgery (plus two mattresses consigned to landfill), Ed was cured.

Healthy and happy, Ed was free to pursue the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed: frequent trips to his handmade bowl (broad, low, properly weighted) to enjoy low-fat, low-magnesium meals; frequent trips to the frequently cleaned litter box; and 14 to 16 hours of quality snoozing. At night, following such a demanding schedule, he would leap to my side, lay his furry head upon a plump pillow, wrap one furry paw around my neck, and murmur sweet nothings into my ear for seven or eight hours at a stretch. There's a reason we call him Ed. Ed E. Puss.

By morning Ed would have edged his corpulent self nearer and nearer, I would have edged my fur-matted self farther and farther, and my human companion, left with the hard rind of the mattress, would have rolled out of bed in a huff. Ed considers my human companion his rival. My human companion considers Ed dog meat.

For a while this state of relative calm prevailed. Then the Problem began again. The first time it happened was our wedding day. My soon-to-be-husband phoned me at the soon-to-be honeymoon suite to deliver the bad news. I rushed home and, despite a delicate bridal manicure, rinsed and changed the litter box.

Months later, when it happened again, I was out of town. I returned to find the mattress in the alley, the husband in a state of purple rage, and the cat cowering under a pile of sweaters. I patted and petted and purged as best I could, hoping it was no more than a minor relapse.

In the weeks that followed I consulted higher authorities. I spoke with the vet, who advised adding to our growing litter box collection as well as providing a dark, quiet kitty refuge for stressful times. I turned to Cat Love, a book that recommended, among other things, steamed asparagus snacks. I leafed through Tiger Tribe, a bimonthly for New Age cats, which suggested acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, herbal teas, prayer, and frank discussions with my troubled tiger.

But the next time the Problem arose, I wasn't on hand to try tea or sympathy. I called home long-distance and received an ultimatum: man or beast. That's when the true nature of the Problem finally became clear. Ed, abandoned to his sworn enemy, was expressing his contempt, literally.

When our little family was reunited, we scheduled an appointment with the vet. There, in the sterile blue confines of a consultation room, she talked us through our misery. Eschewing behavior modification from the rub-nose-in-offending-matter school, she described a more enlightened technique. If practically applied, it would have involved my husband crouching in the bedroom closet armed with a pair of night-vision goggles and a water pistol. We ruled it out.

The good doctor suggested another line of reasoning: perhaps father and son needed to patch things up.

Thus the current state of affairs. Each evening Ed and Ed pere sit down together for ten minutes of man-to-man interaction. They are both bearing the burden stoically, and so far neither has suffered permanent injury. Each night Ed is also offered a bribe--a taste of chicken soup, a spoonful of brewer's yeast, a flake of tinned tuna--from his rival's hand.

None of us is sure this is going to work. But to date there've been no outbreaks. And just in case I have to go out of town anytime soon, we also have a kitty-size prescription for Valium. Fortunately, I won't be there to witness which of the two takes it.

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