Scaredy Cat II

July 14th, 2003 by

I know I said I wouldn’t do this again since my come-uppance last year, but it happened. I fell off the wagon and scared my cat. Why are we drawn to do this? Is it the agonizing aloofness with which a cat conducts itself that makes it pants-wettingly hilarious to see them jump four feet straight up and flail around for a few precious milliseconds? We act totally differently with dogs, and it is because we know a dog wouldn’t want to see us all afraid.

Example. Cats and dogs are both scared of thunder in some cases. Let’s say you have a cat and a dog who both freak out in a thunderstorm, and there is a loud clap of thunder and your dog jumps up and runs to hide in the bathtub, shaking visibly. You might laugh a little, but it is more of an “Aww, poor little guy. I need to give him a hug.” kind of laugh, like the Ladyfriend uses every time I staple my tongue to the refrigerator. Humans have a need to comfort dogs and people who shouldn’t own staplers.

In the same situation with a cat in the room, the cat goes from dead asleep to levitating eighteen inches off the ground flipping around and thrashing away at empty space. The cat runs and hides under something, and is just as scared as the dog was, but we can’t go hug the cat because we have fallen over backwards in our recliner and are wedged against the wall, weakened with laughter.

My cat couldn’t care less about thunder. She is, however, terrified of anything that looks like a vacuum. This includes mops, push brooms, those swiffer things, and even my foot if I drag it across the carpet in a vacuum-like way. I have no idea at what point in the evolution of the feline they were hunted to near extinction by a flat rectangular beast with a vertical tail and spinning teeth (that would be one cool looking dinosaur), but it is an instinctive fear that they cannot seem to shake. I spent a while thinking about a good way to duplicate in humans the kind of panic that I think a cat must feel, and this is the best I could come up with-

Imagine you are lying in your bed, right at the edge of a good dream, and suddenly your pillow starts to gyrate wildly beneath your head as if there is a large trout in it. You would scream like a little bitch and you know it. You’d probably break at least one bone trying to put distance between you and said pillow, too. That kind of fear is an almost daily occurence for a cat. That is why they need nine lives.

On to how my cat freaked out- she was sprawled out in the living room on her back, trying to look like a throw rug, and snoring like a lumberjack. I was planning on vacuuming, so I got out the vacuum and brought it into the living room. Instead of waking the cat up by turning it on, I left it off and set it down right next to the slumbering asscat. It was actually touching her, it was so close, and she didn’t even know it. If she opened her eyes, she would realize that she is closer to a vacuum than she had ever been.

I took a seat on a barstool and waited…

Eventually she did that big long stretch thing that cats do while they’re sleeping. The one that makes you wish you were a cat because it looks like it feels so good. She halfway opened her eyes and slowly noticed that there was something next to her. It actually took her a while to realize what it was, but it was worth the wait. I wish like hell I had thought to fire up the video camera. It happened so fast it might not have shown up on film, but I think I recall all of it- Cat body tenses for a fraction of a second in the “fight or flight” response. I’m still not sure which one she chose or if she was still making up her cat mind as she left the ground. She did a sort of double toeloop triple lutz maneuver, but botched the landing because of a collision with the blinds on the back door. The blinds made a noise that scared her even more, and she used the blinds to continue her ascent, topping out at between three and four feet, where she stalled into a left hammerhead, twisted her body so her front legs were pointing down, her head was facing where (I assume) she wanted to go, her tail was rotating like a propeller, and her hind legs were sideways, kicking madly at nothing. Meanwhile, the vacuum sits there like an unplugged vacuum, and I am completely helpless with laughter. On the way down she could not avoid landing on the base of the vacuum, and launched herself in an arbitrary direction that was supposed to put her somewhere where there were no vacuums. Instead of vacuums, there was an entertainment center, and she sort of ran along the side of it like a scene from the matrix. I really wanted to pan around her in slow motion, but I doubt she’ll let me set up the shot and do it again. At the end of the entertainment center was the door to my room that always closes itself, but doesn’t quite latch. In the past, she has sat outside that door and meowed at me like a helpless cat until I opened the door so she could go into my closet and take a nap. I thought she didn’t have the strength to open the door, but it turns out she just wasn’t properly motivated at those times. Now, she had all of the motivation she needed. She nearly ripped the door off its hinges getting in there. She seriously didn’t even slow down as she went for what she hoped was an open door. If cats could reason (which I doubt), I would guess her mind was in the same state people’s minds get into when they are in a situation that is so dire that they have to risk their life on the outside chance that they can save it. “If that door is locked, I will split my cat head open or break my neck running into it, but that beats the hell out of being eaten by a vacuum.” I tried to follow her in to my room, but I couldn’t walk or see through the tears. I found her a few minutes later in a tiny space in my bathroom between the cabinet and the wall. She looked at me like “DOOOD! Did you see how that goddamn vacuum sneaked up on me while I was sleeping?! You have to warn me about that shit, man! I ALMOST DIED!”

So did I.

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