Word on the Street

Personal essays from a young journalist in the Sunshine State.

Tag: Pets

Night in the Life of a Cat-Owning Writer

Paws of procrastination kept getting in my way the other night. I was up late working on a story at the foot of my bed with Clara the cat by my side. She kept swatting at my hands and walking all over my keyboard as I wrote, inserting typos and aklsjfklsdjfklsdjfldksjfsld neologisms into the story.

Everyone else seemed to be asleep as I wrote; my friends had signed off Gmail chat, Facebook and Twitter — sites I sign onto late at night to feel connected — and my neighbors’ lights were all off. So I liked having the company of my cat, her paw draped over my arm, her eyes half-closed, her purr as loud as a little motorboat. All the right ingredients for procrastination and distraction.

The motorboat eventually lost steam as Clara began to doze off. I kept writing and would stop every once in a while to take photos of her, trying not to get too distracted by her cuteness. The pictures are a good representation of what a typical night looks like when I’m up late writing, reading, etc.:

Photo 105

Photo 103

Photo 106

Photo 107

Photo 108

Photo 110

Cute Cat Sites

randomkitten.phpThe kitty lover that I am, I can’t help but appreciate watching videos and seeing photos of cats. Recently, I’ve come across some especially cute sites featuring the furry felines. Here are some of them:

The “world famous” (?) Random Kitty Generator — It’s easy to spend way too much time on this site …

Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat! — Who knew cats played the keyboard? So talented.

FUNderCats! — Cats caught on tape. They’re so mischievous (and innocently cute!)

What are some other sites to visit?

Clara the Cat Is Good Remedy for Loneliness

claraThis is by far my favorite photo of Clara. I took it with my laptop the same night that my grandmother and cousin left Florida to fly back home to Boston. It’s as though Clara knew I was feeling lonely after my company had left. Cats have a good way of sensing when humans are lonely, and they’re pretty darn good at remedying the problem!

Clara Gets Tangled Up in Fun, Mischief

Clara with my Gasparilla beads

Clara with my Gasparilla beads

Clara is much like a child who always has one paw in the cookie jar and the other on the counter, the laptop keyboard, or just the spot where you don’t want it to be.

She races around the apartment every morning after her internal alarm clock wakes her up at 6 a.m. Sometimes I wonder if my apartment floors are lined with catnip, given how much she runs, jumps and chases imaginary mice (or more likely dust balls) on the floor.

She has a nose for finding what she’s not supposed to, like the beaded necklaces from Tampa’s Gasparilla pirate festival, which took place a few weeks ago. For as much mischief as she gets into, though, she’s a joy. She frequently cuddles with me, folding her paws and closing her eyes as though peacefully praying.

Tonight before she settled down on my lap, she spent 15 minutes playing with her food. She managed to take individual pieces of it out of her bowl and scatter them around the kitchen floor instead of eating them. Then she knocked over her entire bowl of water. I told her not to so wasteful, but I’m fairly certain she didn’t understand. …

I decided to let her have fun. She’s often alone for 10 to 12 hours a day while I’m at work/the gym, so I want her to enjoy her time with me. She needs to have her “kitten time,” while keeping in mind her limits — no getting on the counter or the table, no biting, no chewing the blinds.

As she played with her food, I read an article about a 93-year-old cook named Clara, who posts YouTube videos of herself cooking and talking about the Great Depression. Clara the cat and Clara the cook. Maybe Clara junior could be a guest star on Clara senior’s YouTube cooking shows … or just become a YouTube sensation on her own.

The theme of her videos would no doubt be: How to find “toys” you’re not supposed to have (i.e. Gasparilla beads), and how to make the ones you love smile.

Clara’s First Kitty Play Date

Didn't get a picture of Clara and Gordon, but here's a recent photo of Clara ...

Didn't get a picture of Clara and Gordon together, but here's a recent photo of Clara...

Clara had lots of firsts this week, the most significant of which was a kitty play date Thursday night.

One of my friends just got a cat a few days before I did, and our other friend got a cat last summer. Hoping the cats will ultimately become the best of friends, we introduced two of them to each other.

My friends’ cats – Catalina and Gordon – met each other last Thursday but didn’t get along very well. So we tried introducing Clara to Gordon tonight. Before placing them in the same room, we put Gordon in my spare bedroom and closed the door as Clara sniffed the carpet and listened to Gordon cry in his attempt to be let out. Clara and Gordon got along a little better than Gordon and Catalina, though they were rambunctious and attacked each other a few times.

We figured that separating them at first would help them slowly get acquainted with each other. It worked to a certain extent, but Gordon, who is a relatively large but adorable kitten, often tried to throw some feline punches at Clara, who’s a pretty tiny kitty. Gordon meowed as Clara hissed and grumbled, her hair sticking straight up, her ears back, her tummy vibrating. Between the meows, the hisses, the grumbles and the noise they made when playing on Clara’s scratch post and eating, Gordon and Clara could have easily started their very own kitty garage band.

Speaking of eating, my friend warned me ahead of time that Gordon loves to eat and will do anything in his power to find food.

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll just put Clara’s food and water on top of the refrigerator.”

I learned all too quickly, though, that when it comes to food, you can’t pull anything past little Gordie. As my friends and I were watching the “Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice” cross-over episode, I heard chewing.

Not surprisingly, Gordon had climbed on top of the refrigerator and was eating Clara’s food. We then put it in the cabinet, but he climbed on the counter, opened the cabinet door and tried reaching for the food, which we had put on the second shelf. Clara isn’t quite as big of an eater, and I don’t know that she would have found the food as quickly, mainly because I don’t let her on the counters — prime take-off spots for leaping onto the refrigerator.

Next Thursday, my friends and I may try introducing Clara and Catalina to each other. Eventually, all three cats will meet one another and (hopefully?) get along.

Geesh, I’ve really fallen in love with my little kitty, so much so that I’m writing about her as though she were a child! Spending time with furry felines, I learned tonight, is even more fun when in the company of good friends.

An Anniversary That Gets Easier with Time, and a Cat

Clara is good company, no doubt. She likes to give me Eskimo kisses.

Clara is good company, no doubt. She likes to give me Eskimo kisses.

February 9 is a day I’ll always remember. It’s the day my mom died, the day that signaled the end of a life and the beginning of my rocky journey into life without a mom. I’ve learned a lot in the past 12 years since my mom died, but I still struggle to understand why lives have to be taken so soon, why life is so unfair at times.

Every year I recount the events that led to my mom’s death, maybe as a way of making sure I don’t forget the memories of that day, painful as they are. The night before Mom died, my grandma suggested I sleep at her house. It wasn’t right, she said, to see my mother in so much pain.

I thought all along my mom would survive. At least, that’s what everyone had been telling me. As an 11-year-old, I didn’t want to believe otherwise. I didn’t want to face the “essential female tragedy,” as poet Adrienne Rich calls it, the loss of a mother to a daughter, a daughter to a mother. Even as a 2-year-old watching Bambi, this loss seemed so real.

On the day Mom died, I was in her childhood bedroom, sitting on her bed. The phone rang. My grandma answered.

“Yes? Oh my God …”

My grandma rushed upstairs, sat on the bed next to me and said, “Mal, your mom’s passed away.” So final, so hurtful, so terse.

We piled into my grandparent’s blue Buick and headed toward my house. I lay across the backseat, resting my head on my grandma’s lap, holding onto the “Rosie Red” lipstick Mom had bought me. Nervously, I twisted the cap back and forth, crushing the stick. Then I started to cry.

I spent a few minutes at my mother’s side but I wasn’t ready to let go when the men in black came and took her away.

Tell me why, Mommy, tell me why you had to leave me, I thought. Why did you desert me? Why did you promise you would stay?

Twelve years later, I still don’t know the answers to those questions. What I do know, though, is that death’s sting softens with time. While February 9 is usually a difficult day for me, I found it to be easier this year. I made a point to talk with friends and I had my new cat, Clara, to come home to.

One of the most difficult parts about losing my mom was coming home to an empty house after she died. When I’d come home from school, I always expected to see her on the couch where she slept when she was sick, but instead I would turn the lock, open the door and feel engulfed by emptiness and loneliness.

Tonight when I came home, Clara greeted me with a loud meow and cuddled up next to me throughout the night. No, she’s clearly not mom, but she’s company nonetheless. Sometimes, even pets can make us feel loved and less alone. They’re little gifts we give ourselves, gifts that reassure us that we are cared for and loved, and that we are needed. As much as I seem to need Clara, she seems to need me, too. She relentlessly follows me wherever I go and meows when I don’t give her attention. She purrs when she’s happy, which is just about every time she’s near me.

The day after I got Clara, I heard Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” on the radio. It’s the song my mom dedicated to me before she died. I hadn’t heard it in a while, so I considered it a sign that Mom is with me and that she’s happy I have a new furry little friend. As much as I’ll remember February 9, 1997, I’ll also remember February 9, 2009 as the anniversary that wasn’t easy, but that was better than expected. Sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

Meet Clara, My New Furry Friend

claraHere are some photos of my new cat Clara. She is the most loving cat I’ve ever met, and she’s quite spoiled, too. Whenever I sit down, she jumps on my lap and starts purring. She extends her paws toward my face as though she’s giving me little love taps, and then she often curls up in a ball and falls asleep. She likes to play, too, and readily uses her scratch post. She’s 4-months-old and is pretty tiny. Check back here for more updates on her growth.