An Address from the Queen

Hello readers. This is Snickers, the adorable feisty cat that Allison hardly ever mentions in this journal. I know this is probably because a large segment of you humans think dogs lead more interesting lives than cats, so she wants to cater to the largest audience possible. But since she and Gilbert have had more of an eventful week than they had hoped to have because they have been asked to work longer hours to help train new employees leaving them too tired to find the inspiration to write, and since Allison felt bad about how much more Gilbert was mentioned in this journal compared to me, especially when she realized that last Friday marked the tenth anniversary of the day I was brought home from the humane society when Gilbert has only lived here two years, she decided it was time I had a chance to write an entry expressing my true feelings. For all you dog lovers and cat haters, if you choose not to read the rest of this entry, fine! But be warned that us cats know who you are, so if you don’t read this entry and acknowledge that we still have feelings even if we are not as cool as dogs, I will be sure to communicate this telepathically with a stray cat, or the cat of the next friend or relative you visit so he can crawl in to your lap and trigger your allergies, or jump on the table and add some spit or hair to your coffee.

     Anyway, since I am getting old and this chance to express my true feelings may not come around again, I am sure not going to waste this opportunity. On that note, I should start by clarifying that I don’t consider Allison my mom like Gilbert does because though she is happy to feed Gilbert every day, she always grumbles about having to feed me because she claims my food is disgusting and gets all over her hands no matter how carefully she tries to open the package. To this I would love to tell her “Fine then! Just let me outside and I will kill a mouse or a bird and make sure to come back and devour it, leaving its guts right where you would step in it, since I already get the same enjoyment from puking up fur balls right in the walking path, or as a nice surprise on your bedspread!” Ah, I just love living with a blind human! Anyway, my point is that the humans who feed me most often are more deserving of my affection.

     Also, although she says she loves me, Gilbert is clearly the favored child since he gets to go places and I am stuck in this boring house all the time. Of course, when I do leave the house once a year to go to the vet, I cry pitifully because I am scared. But have you humans ever considered that if us cats could go out more often, maybe we would get used to it and not be scared, or the fact that we cannot see anything out of those cramped cardboard boxes you make us travel in for our “safety”? Personally, I think this supposed concern for our safety is just a conspiracy started by you humans to imprison us and make our lives miserable because if these boxes were really about safety, you would show this same concern for your dogs and make them travel in boxes too. But Gilbert just struts out of the house every day all happy with no restraint but a thin leash which Allison holds with a loose relaxed grip, and sometimes, he is allowed to play in the yard without even wearing a leash! I have staged several rebellions protesting this inequality where I hide and wait for a human to open a door and then make a run for it. One time, I even climbed twenty feet up in to a pine tree and laughed as Allison’s sister and mom had to set up a ladder and climb up to get me down. But a successful rebellion is disappointingly rare nowadays since those humans have gotten smart over the years and make sure I am not around before opening doors, and if they have to open a door for long periods of time to move furniture or something like that, they even lock me in a bedroom or the basement with my litter box. But make no mistake. Even though I don’t consider Allison my mommy, I still love her, and last week when she picked me up and recalled the Cinderella story about my rescue from the humane society in the sweet baby voice she always uses with me unless I have just bitten her, I purred with delight.

     Before Allison was born, her older sister had a cat named Star whom the whole family loved. But when this cat passed away unexpectedly, Mom and Dad couldn’t bear to adopt another cat. Actually, when Allison was about six years old, they did adopt another cat named Smokey from a neighbor who had a lot of cats, but I heard this cat had to be returned after only three days because while she seemed sweet when the neighbor brought her over, it turned out she was a feral cat with such evil intentions that the whole family was afraid of her and Mom could not go to sleep in peace at night until the cat was found and locked up. Of course, I have done my fair share of evil deeds too, but I do them in a sweet feisty way so the family knows I am just playing with them. But apparently, Smokey’s evil intentions were serious, and the combination of the family’s bad experience with Smokey, which made Allison especially nervous about having a cat since Smokey was her first impression of cats and the fact that four kids and a huge german shepherd in the house with both parents working full-time made life chaotic enough, meant they didn’t know if it would be a good idea to add a cat to the mix. But while the whole family loved Indy, she was so big that Dad was really the only person who could handle her, so she was essentially Dad’s dog. But Allison’s sister desperately wanted a cat, and convinced Mom and Dad by pointing out that the whole family could enjoy a sweet little kitty like me who would find a lap to curl up in every evening when the family sat down to watch television, and I would be much less high maintenance compared to the dog. I am kind of insulted that they talked about me like I was a car before they adopted me, but I guess this kind of talk worked because I was adopted, so I won’t complain.

     Speaking of cars, while convincing Mom and Dad that the family would be more complete with a lap pet helped a little bit, I think ultimately, I ended up being adopted because the summer I was adopted was the first summer Allison’s sister had her drivers license, which allowed her to take her impressionable ten year old sister to the humane society regularly, where she quickly fell in love with all of the cats and realized our species isn’t as evil as Smokey led her to believe we were. Every older sibling learns that once you get the baby of the family on your side, it’s all over.

     The staff at the humane society wouldn’t let my sister fill out the adoption applications, but on Saturday August 19, 200, Mom finally agreed to go to the humane society with Allison and her sister, where they met a whole bunch of us cats in a viewing room, and made comments on our physical appearance and personality. They wanted a cat who was sweet tempered and would cuddle up in their lap, but also a cat with some spunk who would be playful too. At first, Mom wasn’t sure if she wanted a black kitten like me since she grew up with black cats and wanted a different color. For this reason, they debated adopting another kitten named Pebbles, but decided she was too timid. But I am proud to say I am not a scarity cat, and the family decided personality was more important than color. And thus, the decision was made to adopt me.

     I don’t remember how long I stayed at the humane society, or why I was brought there in the first place, but I must have been there a few weeks because the humane society estimated that I was about thirteen weeks old. A couple days after they brought me home, I was taken to the vet who thought I looked more like an eight week old kitten, so the family doesn’t know exactly how old I am and all the days and years blend together for me, so I don’t remember when I was born either. But I say, who cares? However old I was, I was an adorable kitten so tiny I practically fit in the palm of Allison’s hand, and the whole family came to love me.

     Anyway, I did not realize that Saturday night over ten years ago would be the last sleepless night in a tiny cage with rows of other bored, lonely kittens stacked above and below me, and I figured the next day would be yet another day sitting in our cages seeing who could let out the most sweet, pitiful meows that would attract humans to our cages and inspire them to adopt us, or at least take us to a viewing room for some individual attention and a change of scenery from our cages. I am sure I must have felt a little sad when kittens were taken out of cages never to return again. But I also envied them and wondered “What would it be like to have a forever family who gave their love and attention to me alone since they didn’t have hundreds of other cats to care for?” Humans talked to us with such love and joy in their voices that I longed desperately to be adopted, and knew whoever adopted me would give me a wonderful life in a loving home. A couple older cats tried to warn me not to get too excited because they were just as excited to be adopted as I was when they were kittens, only to discover shortly after adoption that the humans they were placed with didn’t want them after all, and abandoned them, or threw them on the street to fend for themselves. Some cats even advised us kittens to act disinterested in humans when they walk past because while life in the shelter might be boring, at least there, we were fed and cared for every day, protected from cars, harsh weather and attacks from wild animals, and though the shelter had too many cats to give a lot of individual attention, we always got a few loving words as the volunteers cared for us, which was more than we would get on the street. A wonderful human home would be awesome they said, but not worth the risk of being abandoned again. But I had also heard that many of these older cats came from pet stores who sell cats to anyone without the application process and background checks that this shelter required. So while there was still the possibility that the shelter could mistakenly place me with a family that could abandon me, I was young and full of optimism, and somehow knew this would not happen to me. And sure enough, in the ten years I have lived with this family, I have never been abandoned, and I can tell from all the love they give me every day that I never will be.

     The first couple days after I was brought home, the family introduced me to the house slowly, limiting my exploration to a couple rooms at a time fearing that the sudden shift from a cage to a whole house would overwhelm me. But it wasn’t long at all before I had free reign, and declared myself queen of the house, a role which I still take very seriously. Of course, to be an affective queen, one must be the leading expert on the territory they occupy, which is why while I do pamper myself by lounging near an open window in summer to sunbathe, or sleeping the days away on a pillow, in a laundry basket full of fluffy towels, or even the cable box on top of the television which isn’t soft, but wonderfully warm in the winter, I also make sure to stay alert to any changes like the delivery of a new piece of furniture, and I am the first to greet people when the doorbell rings. I even stunned the humans two years ago by revealing that I had discovered a secret escape passage.

     I chose to make this revelation on what I sensed was a very eventful, and thus kind of stressful weekend for the humans who thought they could handle hosting a bridal shower and high school graduation party in the same weekend. But helping Allison’s older brother who moved far away the week before (a joyous day for me by the way since he took his dog Mojo, a dissident who did not honor my queen status with him), and an unplanned day in the emergency room left the humans scrambling to buy food and prepare the house for company. With all this stress, the last thing they needed was me jumping on the table and getting hair all over the food and fancy tablecloths. The humans tried everything, even spraying me with water as a kitten to try and train me not to jump on the table. But if I am to uphold my status as queen, I cannot let those humans boss me around, and I make this defiance known every day when a human will find me sprawled out on the table or sitting on it with my head held high, a perfect throne for the queen. And if anyone dares to pick me up thinking their larger size and the superior status they have given themselves means they can unseat me from my throne, I’ll bite them.

     Anyway, knowing that I am especially defiant when the family is hosting a party since parties are the perfect opportunity for me to proclaim myself queen to the extended family as well, the family decided to lock me in the basement right from the start before tables were even decorated. Unfortunately, a major limit to my power is my lack of thumbs to turn doorknobs and escape, although I still make my displeasure at being locked up known to those humans by meowing and pawing at the door, and then running off in a huff, biting anyone who tries to comfort me once I am released. But this particular weekend, instead of giving me the whole basement, which contained a basketball hoop and ping-pong table Mom and Dad thought the cousins would enjoy playing with, they locked me in the side storage room where my litter box is kept, and left the door to the rest of the basement wide open. But as I sat in this room bored and lonely, listening to the commotion of party preparation above me, it occurred to me that there were rafters that I could easily jump up to, and with a little more exploration, I realized if I walked on these rafters, they would go right above the door of the storage room, in to the open basement where I could simply jump down and prance up the stairs!

     After my first escape, it was so chaotic that Mom just put me back in the room thinking maybe she had just forgotten to lock me up in the first place with all the commotion. But just a few minutes later when I appeared again, I heard Mom say “who keeps letting the cat out?” with exasperation in her voice. When all the other humans denied letting me out, Dad launched an investigation, and saw how I was escaping. The jig was over and the door was closed on the whole basement which I haven’t figured out how to escape, at least not yet. But I enjoyed it and felt so clever and proud of myself when Dad regaled a stunned family with the cat escape route they had no idea existed despite living in the house ten years before I came along. But really, they shouldn’t be stunned because since I don’t go to school or work like the humans, the house is my little universe which I have all the time in the world to explore, so it only makes sense that I would know more about the house than they do.

     The other requirement for an affective queen that I take seriously is demanding the subjects of my territory cater to me. This means that if Mom or Dad get up and don’t feed me right away, I start meowing impatiently and rubbing against their legs. If this fails to get their attention, I jump on the table and find some plastic to chew on. If they still aren’t getting the hint that I’m hungry, I will have a drink of their coffee, or better yet, launch an uprising by trying to knock it over. And if they still don’t get the hint, the ultimate punishment is a nip on the ankle. And if they forget to feed me, I make sure to meow and find something obnoxious like a paper grocery bag to play with in their bedroom to keep them awake all night, a very effective punishment that results in the humans being much more diligent about feeding me for awhile.

     Finally, I decided as a kitten that being queen also requires making sure even the 120 pound dog knows whose really in charge. If that german shepherd was all sprawled out in the kitchen looking too comfortable, I would sneak up and bite her, and she would immediately jump up and move somewhere else. Some of the humans called me foolish for doing this since the dog could have swallowed me whole if she wanted, but I have no fear, and was pleased to realize that if I already commanded respect from the big dog as a kitten, think what a powerful reign I would have over the house when I was older, bigger and stronger. Still to this day, I welcome any new dog to the house, by perching on my kitchen table throne and hissing at them, just to make sure there is no confusion about whose in charge around here.

     But while I am a powerful queen who is respected by my human subjects, I am also incredibly sweet, and Allison will say that what she loves most about me is my happy disposition. I do sleep a lot, but unlike a lot of cats my age, sleeping is not all I do. I can still leap gracefully to the top of the refrigerator, and absolutely love chasing Gilbert, or a bug all over the house, so even though I am ten years old, I don’t feel a day over six months. And in the evenings when the family sits down to read the newspaper or watch television, I find a lap to curl up in and purr so loud Allison has told me she can hear me clear across the room. The last two years, the vet has been concerned because I used to weigh around ten pounds, but now only weigh 8 pounds three ounces. Mom and the vet have made all kinds of speculations that Gilbert is stealing my food, or I don’t like the food I am given anymore. Gilbert is kind of sneaky and will steal my food occasionally, but not all the time, and maybe I am getting tired of eating the same food for ten years. But I think part of the reason for my weight loss is that I don’t want to become an old fat cat. I want to stay young and agile, so I can rule over this family with love for years to come.

     But while I have spent all this time talking about how I rule over the family, and though I complained about how Allison favors Gilbert and doesn’t like to feed me, we truly have a special relationship that has evolved through good times and bad, and grows deeper and more mature with every passing year. When I was first adopted, we were essentially both children. We had a blast together, and by the second day, she had trained me to follow a string she trailed behind her as she walked around the house, and I loved to chase the string around in circles until we were both exhausted. She also loved giving me thrill rides in laundry baskets. I didn’t like this so much, but got even by giving her plenty of nasty scratches as I jumped out of the basket. I also went through a phase where I had a blast waiting at the bottom of the stairs and scaring the daylights out of her, when she stepped on me and I would bite her ankles, a special surprise I never gave to anyone else. Did I mention how much I love living with a blind human?!

     But as we both became adults in our own ways over the years, our relationship has matured. Since she doesn’t like thrill rides herself anymore, she does not subject me to them, and string is something I find stupid and silly now. Oh don’t worry. We still love to play. In fact, just a couple days ago, I engaged her in a game of hide and seek, a game I am so skilled in that sometimes, Allison will just surrender and declare me the winner. In our version of the game, when she calls “here kitty kitty!” I enter the room she is in, and either meow, or make tiny slurping noises that only she can hear, so she knows I am there. But I always stay just out of her reach, so she cannot touch me. And if she is getting really warm and is about to touch me, I run! Wow what a fun game that transcends age and species boundaries, and a game which I can tell she loves too because she laughs, a reaction that I have learned is equivalent to purring. We don’t spend as much time together as we used to, partly because I still kind of hold a grudge against her for bringing Gilbert in to the family when I thought I was done dealing with dogs, but also because we both have different interests. She is less in to playing now, and more in to reading or writing on a stupid braille computer that she holds on her lap right where I used to sit, making me feel so unwelcome. But we have still had special memories together. I especially love the few minutes when Allison has put Gilbert to bed, making it safe for me to rub against her legs and beg for attention without Gilbert getting jealous and chasing me away. When she feels me rub on her legs, she will scoop me in to her arms like a baby, rub my soft silky fur against her cheek and talk to me, or carry me to the living room for some lap time before bed, while I purr with contentment the whole time, a clear indication that her love for me is as strong as ever.

     And as for Mom and Dad who weren’t sure if they really wanted me ten years ago, I heard them mention recently that when I pass away, they are not sure they will get another cat because they don’t think they could ever find one that would even come close to my adorable personality, a proclamation that gives me a wonderful feeling of satisfaction because it proves that I have not only lived the life of a queen, but have been guaranteed the legacy of a beloved queen immortal in the hearts of my loving human family.

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