I’ve had a few unfortunate run-ins with cat ladies — more, quite frankly, than a thirtysomething man deserves. The incidents in question have been so harrowing and traumatic that I have actually pined for an unfortunate run-in with a cat burglar, if only to draw a distinction between literal robbing and the very particular robbing of the soul that only cat ladies are capable of.
My first long-term experience with a cat lady occurred shortly after my apartment burned down — the very night that Republicans took both houses on a cold November night in 2002. I needed a room to rent. My charred out bedroom would not do. At least that’s what the Department of Health said.
In the course of flophousing, I became used to cats. At one point during my subsequent week of couch-crashing, one friend’s cat, one of the most enormous felines that I have ever encountered, had supplanted its torso upon my legs over night. When I awoke the next morning, it took ten minutes for the blood to rush to my legs. And it was impossible for me to stand. It took ten minutes of strenuous punching upon various leg patches above my knee to walk like all the other humans. Of course, I didn’t complain. Even when I spent much of that week hobbling, explaining my temporary physical affliction to prospective roommates.
I suppose this fantastic cat-clumping experience inured me momentarily to the threat of cat ladies. I was blinded by the prospect of having my own space again. So I moved in with a cat lady — or rather a cat lady in situ. I didn’t know it at the time. It was still in its early formation. She had two cats and spent most of her time inside. She would kiss the cats between the ears and tell them lengthy personal tales that went on for no less than three hours. Never mind that I always said hello when I came home. Apparently, two cats were worth more than one human.
Things reached an impasse when the cat lady claimed that she could “hear me typing through the walls” and when she started keeping track of when I would come home from a night out. What disturbed me was that she kept such precise figures. “You came home at 2:32 AM,” she’d say. And there was the time that I did this cat lady’s dishes to be nice. I heard a tiny rap upon my bedroom door and instead of a thank you, she asked in a barely audible voice if I could “just wring out the sponge a little more when I was done with it.”
I asked friends and family if this was normal behavior. And within months I departed, only to encounter another cat lady at a job I worked for a short time. This lady would avoid work whenever possible and she would spend most of her time calling random people on the phone, trying to find homes for her cats. She did this all in an adenoidal singsong voice. I wish her well, but needless to say, in six months, I only saw her smile once. And that was when I stubbed my toe.
The upshot of this is that I’m nervous around cat ladies. There is something about the accumulation of cats that causes the mind to turn into muesli.
But now it’s been reported that there are also cat gentlemen! This affliction is no longer gender-specific.