Each year during Oscar weekend, the Seattle Humane Society holds an “Acatemy Awards” adoption event it advertises with posters based on some of the nominated films. This year one of those posters was for “Cathood,” a take-off on “Boyhood,” a movie that was filmed a few days each year over a period of twelve years. Since I’ve had my cat TiVo for twelve years, I wondered what his “Cathood” movie would be like. I think it would go something like this.
January 2004: TiVo was originally known as “Kitten E,” and his paperwork at the Humane Society read: “[He is] definitely on the shy side and will require further socialization.” I can’t recall if I read that paperwork prior to adopting him, but if I did, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I would gradually learn what that really meant and how important early socialization is, but the speed of this narrative will make that obvious pretty quickly. As soon as I brought him home, TiVo ran under the couch, where he hid until the next day. If you look closely you can just make out his white nose under there.
He actually emerged once that first day. After several hours under the couch, he bolted out and climbed into the entertainment center, ending up right next to – you guessed it – the TiVo. His name was picked out before I got him, but he earned it that day.
March 2005: This was the first time I left TiVo with a pet sitter, three people from work who volunteered to come over every couple days to take care of him. These visits marked the first (and only) time he let someone other than me rub his belly as well as the first time (of many) he lunged at someone to attack them. These two events happened within 30 seconds of each other to the same person. My pet sitters mocked the extensively detailed list of instructions I gave them, but failure to follow one (don’t fill the automatic litter box past the line) resulted in a mechanical issue with the litter box that made it impossible for TiVo to use it. In TiVo’s world, the only other logical places to go when nature called were a large houseplant and my couch. Too bad it took me a day or two of sitting on the couch after returning from vacation to realize he had peed all over it. This was the plant he used; it died shortly thereafter.
March 2006: For the second time in six months, TiVo required hip surgery. My one-of-a-kind cat had a disease that is normally found only in dogs and humans – it’s the same disease that ended Bo Jackson’s athletic career according to my vet. After the first surgery I was warned the disease could move to the other hip, and sure enough, six months later it did. Sadly there wasn’t a “buy one hip surgery, get the second for half price” discount, but at least TiVo already knew how to navigate with the cone of shame the second time around.
November 2007: After TiVo had scared off all co-workers/friends/neighbors, I finally hired a professional pet sitter. When she came over to meet with me for the first time, she spent a lot of time going over her credentials, but all I really cared about was whether she was willing to take care of a cat who could potentially attack her. Over the years she developed a lot of coping mechanisms, including sweeping TiVo down the hall with a broom to lock him in the bedroom and wearing shin guards. She even tried an air horn once. She also left me (unintentionally) funny status reports after each visit. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorites: “I opened the door as I was leaving and I look back and he is just barreling down that little hallway at me. I screeched and ran out the door. I laughed when I closed the door, thinking I goofy I looked and how proud he was of himself. So I went on a mission to try and figure out how we could get along better.”
January 2008: The vet diagnosed TiVo as fat (18 pounds!) and had me put him on a diet. Apparently following the serving size guidelines on pet food bags leads to obesity.
November 2009: TiVo’s first outfit – a Snuggie! He didn’t like it very much.
December 2010: On a recommendation from my pet sitter, I hired a pet behavioral therapist to help with TiVo’s aggression. For reference, I believe the cost is higher than a therapist for humans, but the pet one isn’t covered by insurance. She quickly discovered TiVo is “food motivated,” so she taught me training exercises that rewarded good behavior with treats. She also encouraged me to buy some “enrichment toys” for him because she thought part of his problem boredom. It was about at this point that I wondered why I ever thought a cat would be an easy pet. Anyway, after a significant investment of time and money, my non-professional opinion is the pet shrink therapist didn’t help (and may have made things worse – see 2011 entry below), but at least TiVo got some new toys out of it.
May 2011: I was traveling when I received a message from my pet sitter that started with, “First of all, I went to the emergency room, but I’m okay.” TiVo thought he could keep her away by using her leg as a chew toy. Amazingly, this was NOT the last time she took care of him. That would come four months later when she finally decided she didn’t want to put her life (or at least limb) at risk each time she opened my door. She deserves sainthood for lasting almost four years.
March 2012: TiVo makes a new friend. I think he prefers inanimate objects.
November 2013: After we were fired by the pet sitter, I found a pet boarding place that was willing to take TiVo when I traveled – even after I disclosed all of his history. While he didn’t love going and he foamed at the mouth so much during the ten minute drive that he looked rabid by the time we got there, he did okay at first. Each visit got progressively worse, so I feared the shoe would eventually drop. It finally did when he eventually managed to scare every single person working at the boarding place. Five days into a two week vacation halfway across the world, I was told that would be his last stay there. For anyone with a sense of adventure and a good insurance policy, I’m now accepting pet sitting applications.
April 2014: In order to fully cement my crazy cat lady status, I noticed some changes in TiVo’s litter box habits, took him to the vet, discovered he lost an alarming amount of weight since his last check up and have been giving him laxatives with his food ever since.
January 2015: TiVo’s second outfit – go Hawks!