Meet the critters: Nigel

The red-headed stepchild. Aliases: Winston, The Fluffy One, Mr. Fluffypants.

Nigel is . . . special. He is what happens when you begin to muse aloud that maybe your solo Mortie Cat needs a friend with whom to spend those long workdays. “Wouldn’t that be nice?” you think, while drying your hands on an antique linen tea towel, surveying your peaceful domicile and possibly preparing to make very charming cupcakes. Little kitten friends, you imagine, quietly napping in fluffy heaps around the house. Grooming one another lovingly. Cleaning each other’s little kitten ears. A kitten friend to make snuggling so appealing that Mort no longer feels the need to trounce across your face at 3am. Oh yes. How lovely that would be!

Two days after you think that, colleagues bring to work the softest, fluffiest, strawberry blonde kitteh ever to walk the earth. He has the prettiest aqua eyes that peer out meekly from his travel bucket. Imploring you. Beseeching you. “Look at these adorable tufts of fur between my toes,” they say. “Have you ever seen anything so painfully adorable? Wouldn’t you like them to stroke your forehead gently on nights that sleep eludes you? Wouldn’t my fluffy apricot-ness contrast in just the most aesthetically pleasing way with your resident stripey cat? Am I not the most preternaturally calm kitten you have ever seen in a travel bucket?” Those eyes. They say so many things. Good things. Sweet things.

And then your colleagues tell you that they need to relocate the cat because he’s a crazy runaway that zips into their house like he owns the joint, they don’t like cats, and nobody in the neighborhood will claim him. And you dismiss the fleeting suspicion that maybe his eyes are fibbing just a little because ohmygodhe’sjustthecutestthing!

But you are not the only one smitten. Colleague One lives alone and maybe a cat would be good for him. So you demur, and he takes the cat. But you ask about the cat, and Colleague One gives strange, evasive answers. And he asks you if you’re still interested in having the cat because it’s maybe just not the right cat for him. And then he finally comes to you and confesses that, for two weeks, he’s been avoiding his house because when he’s there the cat is just. so. needy. Oppressively needy.

And then Colleague Two steps up and says that, if you don’t want the cat, she will happily take it because she lives in the country and her barn cat has just been eaten by a coyote and she could use a replacement.

So you take the cat, to save him from becoming a snack.

And you spend the next 9 months keeping your Mortie Cat and this cat, who you’ve named Nigel, separated because they hate each other with the fire of a thousand filthy litterboxes. You have innumerable vet consults because the Nigel Cat suddenly, randomly loses control of his back legs, and he falls off of things, and because oh, those fluffy paws you dreamt would pet you to sleep? He actually employs them to wrap himself around your head in order to try and chew out your eyeballs. But only when nobody else is around to see it. And only when you’re sleeping. So everyone begins to think that it’s you who suffers some sort of neurological impairment and not the damned cat.

The next two years of your life are napless and filled with cat fights all because of you and your tea towel daydreams.

And then, one day, it just stops. The crazy aggression just . . . goes away.

Or, rather, it turns into obsessive licking, and most of the charming grooming sessions you dreamt of are carried out on other humans or to the great detriment of your favorite sweaters and fleeces, but you don’t care because you no longer fear sleeping and, eventually, you catch the cats posing as The Rape of Europa on your papasan chair and all is somehow right with the world.

Meet The Critters: Mortimer

Mortimer is the Original Kitteh. A gateway critter. A furry Lay’s potato chip with legs. A cat before his time.

Mort the Concept was conceived in 2001, when Schmoopie and I crossed Mortimer Street. “Mortimer. That would be a good name for a cat. Let’s eventually have a cat named Mortimer.” Schmoopie either actively agreed or failed to disagree, I don’t specifically recall. Nor do I recall who actually suggested Mortimer, the street, as a potential catnym.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that, through one innocent utterance, wheels–great, crazy, cosmic wheels with giant gears and pulleys that make creaking noises–were summoned into action and a notion advanced by fate until, one morning in the early fall of 2004, a teeny, tiny striped kitten was discovered lying on his back in his litterbox at a PetCo adoption event. And in that wee kitten, so casual and comfy, was Mort the Concept realized in Mort the Cat.

We picked him rather like a produce novice picks a melon: “That one. We’ll take that one.” followed by the huckster’s–or, in this case, the cat rescue coordinator’s–strong suggestion that we, you know, pick him up. Maybe give him a squeeze. So we did. It was a very cursory affair. I held, I squeezed, I passed him over to Schmoopie who also held and squeezed, all while Mort the Cat seemed thoroughly unimpressed with his inevitability.

Us: Yes. Mortimer. *squish* It’s him. It’s him. *squeeze* Yes.
Mort: wtf? Put me back in my litterbox.

In what I now realize to be the World’s Most Expedient Adoption, Ever, our references were checked and we returned later that afternoon to procure Mortie and his necessaries, including a little stuffed lion-tiger hybrid that we named . . . Tiger (we were unprepared for him.)

And then we dropped off the kitten and, the following day, went out and picked up a surround sound system, which we tested. Exuberantly and extensively. With many action movies.

I mention this because of the kitteh Mortie has become. He is loud, aggressively affectionate, outgoing, loud, opinionated, comically dominant, and also loud. He runs the house, serves as a perpetual alarm clock, sets his own feeding schedule as it suits him, owns all of the critters like a boss, occasionally snatches spare ribs and giant chunks of Thanksgiving turkey directly from the plates of unsuspecting humans, and comes to Nigel’s rescue when he “mistakenly” allows Karmann too much familiarity. And I’m pretty sure it all has to do with settling in to new digs amidst the sounds of shit blowing up and people shouting from all directions. Poor thing probably thought we moved him to Sarajevo.

These days, Tiger’s cute little head is sort of squashed in and caked with dehydrated kitten spit, but Mortie faithfully totes him to bed every night while yelling to announce both that he has Tiger and that they are now proceeding to bed. Every morning, Tiger is carried lovingly into the living room and spat out somewhere Mort can keep an eye on him while he takes his daytime leisure. And I faithfully wash him when he gets too creepy. In Woolite. Fretting all the while that I will disrupt the heady stew of cat-spit-and-pheremones that I’m sure he’s worked really hard on crafting to just the right pungency. My greatest fear is that Mortie will one day shun Tiger as the result of a too-thorough cleaning. I can’t be responsible for breaking up that friendship.

Often, Tiger goes swimming in the dogs’ water bowl. I think it’s the kitteh equivalent of a dead fish on the their doorstep.