Oskar, our new kitty, may not be Oskar for long. Oh, no. It has nothing to do with how we might send him to an early death or anything even close to that, because that would be so wrong, and I was raised a pacifist by Mennonites. No. Oskar, it turns out, is not a name that seems to fit him all that well, and then last night we hung a multi-coloured Hawaiian lei around his neck, and he looked like Ferdinand, the black bull from a storybook both the Fiery One and I remember fondly from childhood, The Story of Ferdinand. So, in the very near future, Oskar might become a Ferdinand, or Ferdie for short when he's being cute.
No matter what his name is, though, he will still be a fifteen-year old crotchety fusspot masquerading as a five-month-old kitten. I know that he is having a difficult time adjusting to his new life with us, but there is a look he gets on his face that has to be genetic. He gave it to me last night when he was snoozing on my lap and I mistakenly reached out to pet what I thought was his cute kitty head but turned out to be that of a junkyard semi-feral freakshow. I lightly scratched his forehead, which he normally likes, but this time he popped one of his eyes wide, left the other half shut, pulled his lips back to effect flea-bitten dehydration, and then he let out this long-winded yawl, keeping his one eye fixed on me in a nasty glare. Yoiks. I withdrew my hand hastily and questioned my safety. Oskar's eyes slowly fell shut again, and he once again looked like the sweet kitten we thought he was at the animal shelter. I marvelled at the swiftness of the transformation.
After my initial shock, I realized that this new revelation was quite in keeping with his behaviour over the several days that we have had him. He cries, he aggressively tries to steal food, he yowls, he keeps finding this strange black grime and spreading it all over the house, he mews, he actively shuns us when he doesn't get his way, he whines, he drinks from any water source except his own water dish, he bawls, he doesn't seem to know how to play like every other kitten I've ever known, and he laments, oh, he laments the unfairness of his existence every moment that he is not being pet or fed. The cat, he is vocal. He sits at our feet and CRIES like he is the saddest kitty in the whole world.
We are patient, though, because he is little and might have been through a lot before we brought him home. We do know that wherever he was before, his owners likely did not leave out food and water bowls but left him to his own devices. I gather this from the fact that he stubbornly tries to get at our food and acts like it's goddammed Christmas every time I go near the garbage can. So far, he has been found trying to ingest coffee, salsa, and habanero pepper sauce, so he's not picky. I think he's just used to eating anything out of desperation. Also, he makes the hard kitten food we bought him look darn near impossible to eat. During his first night with us, he would bite down on it once and then swallow it nearly whole, making this painful-looking effort to get it down by extending and contracting his neck. He is getting better at eating like a regular cat and ate a good deal last night, though, so don't worry: no cats are being starved in the making of this family.
As hard as his racket is to take at times, he can also be the sweetest little fellow. His demeanor, as I mentioned before, is much more like that of an older cat than a kitten, and he has this way of standing around with us when we're talking like he's a third grown-up person. He gets sleepy but doesn't want to miss anything and ends up sitting on a chair bobbing his head up and down as he drifts in and out of wakefulness. He has these manic streaks of activity that send him careening down the hallway, skimming the corners on his hind end when he loses traction on the hardwood. He is cuddly and personable and brave and learns quickly. When he's not yowling, he's one of my favourite kitties.....
BUT, OH, THE YOWLING. It can make even me, the one who was raised by a family of pacifists, imagine creative ways of getting rid of his little vocal chords. I understand that new kitchen bottle brushes come pretty cheap these days.
I am so, so kidding, people. I already own a bottle brush.
When I go home this evening, I will feed him cat treats, cuddle up with him on the sofa, and give him kisses on his head just how he likes it. And then he will eventually jump of the sofa and look up at me and HOWL, because that is just what he feels like doing right now. And at some point tonight, I will touch this crotchety old man of a kitten at the wrong moment, and he will make that bug-eyed, flea-bitten face. And then I will pick him up and kiss him anyway, because I am a sucker for the rejected, the ugly, the lame, and the fat of the pet world.
He may be a junkyard semi-feral freakshow, but he's our junkyard semi-feral freakshow, and we like his bawling, ugly-face-making, food-issued self.
Anybody have the number of a good cat therapist?