Saturday, September 22, 2012

Time, Love and Catnip

For those of you who haven't read this blog previously, Bumblebee is a handsome yellow tabby that my ex rescued from the streets seven years ago. My ex worked away from home for weeks at a time, so I raised Bumblebee mostly by myself.  He's loving and affectionate while at the same time being the best predator I've ever seen. Bumblebee is as agile as he is affectionate. He can jump three feet straight up in the air to catch a fly, and can kill a mouse in less than five minutes. He's about fifteen pounds, but feels much heavier when he's sprawled all over my lap or laying on my chest when I wake up in the morning.  I call him my dog-in-a-catsuit because he follows me from room to room, and if he can't wangle his way onto my lap, he will find a comfortable spot as close to me as possible. Wonderful cat, you say? Sometimes yes, sometimes not-so-much.

Due to horrific financial circumstances, I had to let Bumblebee go for a time and luckily, my ex stepped up and took him in until I got my shit together.  We were separated for about a year and a half, although my ex sent pictures and I visited him from time to time. Now that Bumblebee and I are reunited on our journey, it's been both wonderful and incredibly frustrating at the same time.

My apartment has navy blue wall-to-wall carpet. I don't like wall-to-wall carpet at all but my budget was limited and with my credit rating trashed due to the aforementioned financial circumstances, I had to compromise on an ideal apartment. You probably know where I'm going with this..... In the time that we were separated, I had forgotten how much Bumblebee sheds. Like most indoor cats, he sheds year-round and in addition, he just happens to be a heavy shedder even though his hair isn't any longer than your average tabby.  Petting him for just a few minutes brings up a cloud of hair; if you even think about picking him up, have your lint roller at the ready.  On top of this, Bumblebee has this incredibly annoying habit known as "mowing". I've had cats almost my entire adult life but none of my former pets did this. When Bumblebee cleans himself, he sometimes pulls out large tufts of hair.

I first noticed this shortly after he reached adulthood. I'd come downstairs in the morning and find a pile of white and yellow fur in the middle of the floor, sometimes more than one pile.  He's had regular vet visits since we got him, so I know this isn't due to any kind of skin rash or problem, and I check him regularly for bald spots. There are none. After consulting a Facebook friend who is a vet and doing some research on the internet, I finally found out that this oddball behavior is called mowing and some cats do it.... just because. I suppose it's the equivalent of nail-biting or knuckle-cracking in humans.  Which would be okay, I guess, if it weren't so damned messy.  I don't have a vacuum cleaner -- yet -- so a few times a week, I walk around the apartment picking up groupings of 6 or 7 large tufts of cat hair. It's a constant battle, dampening the broom or a rag to pick up the copious amounts of hair that are already all over the carpet, and now this. Sigh.

Seems to me that the mowing is occurring a bit more frequently lately. Not enough to alarm me; just enough to annoy me since *I* am the one who has to clean it up. In addition, Bumblebee's affection meter has been off the chart since his return. If he isn't sleeping with me, he's on the floor right next to me. Hence, my sheets are covered in cat hair. When I get up to use the bathroom, he is right behind me,intent on rubbing my legs and actually trying to get up on my lap. Geez, Bumble, can't a woman even pee in peace?  Lately, I try to beat him to the bathroom and I shut the door behind me.  I usually brush him in the kitchen since there is no carpet there -- thank whatever god there is -- but that means whenever I go into the kitchen, I am accompanied by constant meowing. And it's kind of funny. When he wants food or treats, he lets out a standard "meeeoooow", but when he wants to be brushed or when I am ignoring him, his cry is a short, crisp, "MROW!" as if he's saying, "Um, what's your problem? I want to be brushed and I want some attention and you'd better get on it."  If I ignore him -- which I do when I really don't want to be bothered -- he'll keep at it for a few minutes, rubbing my legs incessantly and then finally, he'll lay down on the floor and stare at me.

Sigh. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I love Bumblebee with all my soul and we will never be apart again if I can help it. But the constant picking up after him and the incessant need for affection is wearing on me. I understand it, truly. It's evident that Bumblebee was as traumatized by our separation as I was. Anyone who says 'a cat is just a cat', or who thinks that cats are all alike has never been owned by one. But as much as I adore him, I find myself pushing him away as often as I pick him up because he's seriously getting on my nerves with this constant "love me!" behavior.

I need an occasional break and Bumblebee needs reassurance that I'm not going anywhere and something else to focus on, so what's the answer?  Here's what I came up with. I leave my window blinds up about three inches and I made a perch for him out of boxes that don't need to be unpacked so that he can see out of the window. Not much to see since there don't seem to be any squirrels in this part of Queens but there are birds occasionally. I made a cat toy out of twine that he could chase around when he gets bored and then I bought another shiny green cloth mouse toy for him.  Sidebar: I saw cat toys in the pet store made of gray or brown cloth that looked like real mice or rats. For the life of me, I do not get why anyone would buy such a thing. If I got up in the middle of the night to pee and saw that thing lying on the floor, I'd have a coronary. Already had the life drained out of me by having that exact experience in the past, more than once, with a real dead mouse. No need to repeat it with a fake one, thank you very much.

The toys have helped somewhat. When he's not sleeping or focusing on me, he will bat the toys around for a few minutes at a time.  On my next trip to the pet store, I may get him one of those feather toys on a long wire so that we can play together. Have to watch him closely with those sorts of toys, though. Some (stupid, uninformed) pet toy manufacturers put small bells or little embellishments on some of those toys which are choke hazards for a cat as aggressive as Bumblebee. Might be okay for a kitten or a less predatory cat, but my feline likes to make SURE whatever he's chasing is quite dead. I'd be wary of leaving him alone with anything that had a lot of loose feathers or bells that he might choke on.  At the very least, I'd have to spend nearly as much time cleaning up catsick as I do cleaning up after his mowing.

I also bought catnip the last time I went to the pet store. Not all cats respond to it, but for Bumblebee, it's like handing him a really good hit of Columbian Gold. (No need for alarm.  I haven't smoked weed in decades.... but I haven't forgotten). He'll eat it, roll in it, and then zone out for a few minutes. Sometimes he'll go to sleep. Do I feel bad "drugging" my cat when I need a break?  Nah. I only give it to him once a week or so, sprinkling it onto the cardboard scratching thing he likes. Makes him happy and gives me a few minutes or hours of peace that I sorely need.

I'm not unaware that bringing another cat in would probably be the best remedy for Bumblebee's restlessness but a) I can't afford it, and b) my landlord would have a conniption if there were two cats thundering over his mother's head. She lives downstairs. Bumblebee has only been back with me for about two months. My hope is that as time passes, he'll relax a bit and not feel the need to be underfoot every waking minute.

Where is Bumblebee right now, you ask? Sitting on my lap. I have to reach OVER him to type on the laptop. Sigh.

Wish us luck, ya'll.

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