The Cat That Said Slut
There was once a cat that talked. It was my cat. She was a fat tabby cat that I had adopted at the pound when I was a college student. She was a kitten then, small and full of precious sounds. The employee at the pound told me that my kitten was the runt of her litter and she was the only one that hadn’t been adopted.
“I think it’s the eyes,” she explained. “Notice how that cat’s always watching you disapprovingly.”
I spoiled her as any mother would and she made sweet babblings like any baby would. Her first word was “no.” Then she learned “stop that,” which she reserved for the moments I tried to scratch behind her ears. She grew up quickly—a chatty adolescent, a moody teenager—until she reached a mature age and chose her words with the precision of a judge.
In my mid-twenties, I experienced a quarter life crisis and dumped my boyfriend—a tiresome law student with a penchant for best-selling legal thrillers and my home cooking. I turned to my cat for comfort in my time of loneliness, but I received none of that.
She shook her head in disgust when I told her of the breakup. “Stupid human. You think you can follow your whims and everything will work out in the end. What if you never find someone again? What if you’re alone forever?”
“That has to be better than being with someone who looks at me like a stranger. Besides, we’re moving.”
“Moving? Why would we leave our apartment? Sure it’s small and ugly, but why would we want change?” My cat asked.
“We’re moving so I can finally go to culinary school.”
“Culinary school? Why would you leave your job for culinary school?” I had a very secure accounting job.
Lately, I had begun to think that “security” was not synonymous with “happiness.”
“You’ve always loved my cooking,” I reminded my cat. “You eat the scraps from every meal I cook.”
My cat put her paw on my hand. “Listen. Be careful not to confuse your passion with actual talent. Also, be careful not to take out thousands of dollars in loans in the process”
We moved anyway, because my cat was just at cat after all and she didn’t help with the rent. I started school and fell in love with the program. She enjoyed the fruits of my labors in as much as she enjoyed that my homework assignments resulted in leftovers. Her stomach was full and she was content, and yet I could never quite please her.
After the move, the new school, and the newly single life, I chopped my hair off as a symbol for all the change my life had recently taken. The hair stylist thought it was a great idea, full of context and completely on trend with the latest fashions. My cat did not agree.
“That haircut makes you look like a boy,” she sniped into her water dish when I came home from the salon.
“It’s a pixie cut,” I explained and nervously touched the back of my head, afraid the stylist’s work had become disheveled on my trip home.
“Well, it makes you look like Peter Pan.”
“There’s nothing wrong with an androgynous hairstyle. It’s very fashionable and besides, now it will make getting ready in the morning much easier.”
“Yes, but you’ll never find a husband looking like that.”
“Who said I was looking for a husband?”
Then I dated a boy who reminded me of summer—like swing sets and picnic blankets, like golden Junes.
Unfortunately, he was allergic to my cat and he never came over to the apartment.
I began spending more and more time sleeping at his apartment. I could tell that my cat was angry with me because it prevented her from eating as early as she liked. But one Saturday she took it too far.
It was late in the afternoon when I crept into the apartment. She waited for me on the couch, calmly smoothing the hair down on her paws. Without looking up, she said, “You’re wearing the clothes you left in last night.”
“Yeah, I didn’t expect to sleep over,” I said as I put my shoes away.
“If you want a man to take you seriously, you shouldn’t make it so easy for him.”
I laughed and said, “If I wanted that kind of advice, I’d have called mom.”
“If your mother had raised you better, you wouldn’t be in this situation,” my cat said.
“When did you become so judgmental?”
“When did you become a slut?”
That’s when I slapped her. I slapped my cat across her little face, but before I could pull my hand away, she reached her paws out and clawed me. I pulled my hand back and held it against my chest. I could feel blood boiling at the surface, pools forming in the tracks left behind.
“That’s it, cat, you are not sleeping in the bed tonight.” I slammed the door to my bedroom. She scratched at it for hours.
The next night I invited my boyfriend to my apartment for a home cooked meal. I promised him my food would win him over and assured him that the apartment was clean and free of cat hair.
When he walked through the door, my boyfriend sniffed uneasily around the apartment and smiled when his nostrils caught the smell of my cooking.
“What are you making tonight?”
“A very hearty stroganoff.”
We sat down to dinner. My boyfriend ate steadily, alternating between bites of salad and sips of wine, but he stopped abruptly after his first mouthful of stroganoff.
“This tastes different, like no other stroganoff I’ve had before. I can’t quite place my finger on it,” he said as he spun the tip of his fork on the plate.
“It’s a new recipe,” I explained.
“I like it, but I’m not quite sure I should. Forgive me if I offend you, but there is something off with the meat—a little too chewy, something that isn’t sitting right. Ha, it tastes like cat or something.” He laughed and went on eating.