Friday, December 14, 2012

It's 3am...Don't Step on the Hairball

I am a deep sleeper. While living with my sister-in-law, she would joke about checking to make sure I was still breathing. I don't just sleep: I go into torpor.

Despite my corpse-like repose, there are some events that will wake me out of a dead sleep. A mouse gnawing on something in the field trailer. The occasional clap of thunder. A house exploding. And, my all-time favorite, my cat Maia retching up a hairball at 3am. If I was serious about waking up on time in the morning, I would record that sound for my alarm.

Yes, you. Don't look so content. I stepped in that hairball!
My family has been a family of cat people for as long as I can remember. Both my Granny and Great-Aunt had cats, and growing up there were always two to three cats in the house at any one time. Some of my earliest memories involve the family cats.

When I first started university I did not have an opportunity to have a mammalian pet, and I also thought I wouldn't have one for some time due to an inconsistent schedule and near-constant moving student. A pet was something that Future Lisa would get to have.

I was not even thinking of a pet when I came across a black and white kitten in the bushes outside of my apartment one December ten years ago. It was bloody cold, and I was just getting ready to undertake yet another big move. I thought "If this little guy is still here when I get home, I'll let it inside." I didn't want to let the kitten into the wrong apartment building if its owners were one of those people who let their cats outside.

I will never, ever understand why people let their cats outside in the city, or even in a small town. Check out the Indoor Cat Initiative - cats that remain indoors (or in cat-specific outdoor enclosed patios) live longer, healthier lives because they won't get run over, attacked by another animal, pick up some nasty disease, or get lost. Outdoor cats are also one of the primary predators for local wildlife, such as birds. In urban areas, cats are Public Enemy #1. Maia is a happy indoor cat that gets supervised outside time, and is merely content to make high-pitched squeaky noises at the birds visiting my feeders. Meanwhile, the neighborhood cats that are let outside to roam free by their careless owners have created a larder of sparrow corpses next to my mint patch.

Anyway, when I returned home that evening, I saw that the kitten was walking down the hallway like it owned the place. I picked it up (learned it was a her), and began knocking on doors. She had several mats in the fur around her neck that needed to be cut out. No, no one knew anything about this kitten. No, no one wanted a cat. I was beginning to feel a little desperate. I was moving across the country in a few days and had an orphan on my hands. I made inquiries at shelters, and then felt like the world's biggest turd right after. Shelters were accepting cats, alright, but they were putting them down as fast as they were letting them in.

That was it. I was a cat owner. Maia was named, and my parents (who were down to help with the move) lost no time in outfitting the "grand-cat" with all of the gear necessary for her new life.

Now all I had to do was move her. Anyone out there who has had to move a cat, or take one to the vet, is familiar with the following scenario: cat goes into carrier, carrier goes into car, car moves, soul-ripping yowls of anger and despair emit from carrier, driver goes insane and drives off road. Hyperbole and a Half describes the horror of moving pets more succinctly than I ever could.

Other than a rocky period where I had to leave grad school to work and I wasn't sure where I was going to live (Maia bunked with a couple of friends for the few months it took us to secure a place), Maia has been with me for 10 years.

The Queen.
I can't say that she particularly enjoys it when we travel. She has to go to our friend's house, and our friend has two cats of their own. Maia, you see, is an only child, and is not well socialized with other cats. I've watched her in action. At best she learns to tolerate the presence of another cat. Do not even ask about dogs.

Didn't you hear me? I said, "Don't ask!"
If co-authorships were granted just on the amount of time a person or object spent with you while working on the project, all of my papers would be co-authored by Maia the Cat and Earl Grey Tea. Maia's favorite time of the day is Writing Time. Wherever I happen to be working, Maia will be there with me, either snoozing on the seat next to me, or helping me hold my books open by lying on them.

This pose is most conducive to detecting Type II errors.
Time to get back to formatting figures for a rather large review paper. Maia is doing her part: she is lying of the dining room furnace register, making sure the dining room doesn't receive too much heat.

Until next time,
Strange Woman.

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