The houseguest hisses

This entry is a bit delayed, but it’s worth telling. All injuries have since healed.

Right now I’m cat sitting for a friend. As those of you who have been around for years know, Hambone is a lone cat. There was a stint where we had a cat named Ming, and those nine months were defined by Hambone’s ever-present pissy disposition.

He’d sit on my passenger pillow with a scowl, only coming off the bed to eat or to torment poor Ming. After witnessing him hiding behind my TV stand, jumping out, and biting her neck, I found Ming a new home. As soon as Ming headed to sunnier skies, Hambone was back to normal.

Besides Ming invading his turf for those months, I’ve only had one other chance to observe Hambone in the presence of another feline. One friend was moving and had a two-week gap in his leases, making it so he couch surfed for that time period. The friends nice enough to let him crash weren’t tolerant of having his flea bag in their home, so mine was offered up.

She made it exactly one night before I demanded that he come back for her. Within moments of being there, she took over my bed, and hissed and growled if any living thing got near her claimed territory. Hambone would merely look at her, and she’d go nuts with the hissing. He shot me a look that asked, “What the heck is her problem?” before we settled down on the couch for the night.

When asked if I’d take this current cat for a bit, I was hesitant. I had no gauge for how Hambone would react, so it really was a toss-up on how things would go. I figured they would eventually either get over it or retreat to different rooms, and my friend didn’t really have any other options for her cat over vacation.

The cat’s only got a couple days left with us, and things went okay. She’s not a fan of Hambone, so she growls a lot. She’s also not much of a fan of me, so I get bit a lot. Hambone and I have taken to her reactions differently: I have quit even trying to pet her, and he’s begun egging her on.

When I hear extended growling, I get up to check on the events unfolding. So long as there’s no fur flying, I take the Nature channel’s do-not-interfere stance on things. Usually I find the events unfolding quite amusing, so I don’t want to interfere anyway.

When Hambone gets near, she starts growling. He freezes, giving her a chance to chill out. As soon as the growling abates, he takes a single step forward to test her reaction. He’s got a good five pounds (read: half of her body weight) on her and plenty of moxie, so he knows she can’t really do anything in a fight.

Yes, my cat’s a bully. But I rationalize that since we live in a free will world, she can always choose to walk away.

Last weekend, though, I nearly kicked her out of frustration. However, that would have involved being able to stand on both feet to properly rear back for the punt.

(That, and, well, I’d rather not accidentally kill my friend’s beloved cat, no matter how close that cat came to killing me.)

The story begins with me sitting in my living room, enjoying some Olympics, when I hear a massive crash in the office. I rush in there to see that cat on the top free-hanging shelf. Sure, there are wall anchors to hold the shelf in, but they’re dinky Ikea shelves that can’t hold ten pounds of fleas and fur. The shelf is at an angle, and all of the photo frames have slid off that shelf. Kitty is clinging onto the shelf, apparently unaware that she’s the cause of the avalanche.

Not wanting to have to re-hang drywall because she rips the studs from the wall, I go in to shoo her from the top shelf. Instead of jumping completely down, she jumps to the lower shelf. The same action creates the same reaction, and there’s a mass tumbling of photos, a bent shelf, and a scared cat.

This time I don’t pansy-ass about the shooing, give her a proper toss onto a safe surface, and start picking up the frames in case there’s broken glass somewhere. In the shuffle, a dust cloud — nay, a dust tornado, since that sounds rougher and tougher — forms and hits my nostrils.

I get one of those sneeze-the-devil-out kinda sneezes, and my head goes all the way back before crashing down during its expelling. All would have been good and well with that, since I really love big sneezes. However, my elliptical machine is in the way and gives my forehead a massive smack.

This results in me lying on the floor, begging not to die in that manner. I might feel badly about returning my friend’s cat a bit damaged from a deserved kick or two, but that friend would feel badly if her cat killed me during my cat-sitting tenure.

It was then I realized that if I didn’t live to tell this story, she’d have no way of telling what caused my death. If her cat’s going to kill me, I want her to feel sufficiently badly about it. This and this alone was my motivation for crawling to the kitchen (I had to rest a few times on the way), so I could climb my way to the freezer to put a bag of something on my face.

Perhaps my Nature channel stance is more intentional than me merely wondering how things will turn out. Hambone can be a jerk to something two-thirds the size of him, but me being a jerk to something less than 10% my size is ridiculous.

Go ahead, Hambone. Take another step and see how much she hisses!


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