Aug 21, 2023, 05:57AM

My Cat Kafka

He’s a bipolar love bug with the spirit of a comedic saint. 

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He’s quirky, unpredictable, borderline schizoid. He shows affection with love bites and scratches. He’s a bipolar love bug with the spirit of a comedic saint. When you want him to do something, he asserts his will and does the opposite. When you need him, he’s there with love and affection and a soft warm belly to engulf your hand.

His name is Kafka. Not because he’s great at catching cockroaches (he is). It’s due to his origin story. My wife and I met him outside a pop-up coffee house in Silverlake called Kafka’s Kafe. They were having a pet adoption on the sidewalk. We weren’t looking to bring home a new cat since we were still grieving the loss of our previous little dude who left us after 21 years. But we figured it couldn’t hurt to look.

All the cats were beautiful with their various shades and markings. While admiring a mottled calico in a blue blanket, I felt something jump on my shoulder. I looked down and saw a tiny kitten with bright orange stripes, soft green eyes and a pink nose. His claws pressed through my shirt, but was gentle and didn’t break skin. Someone left his cage open and he decided I was the perfect jumping post.

“We have a rule around here,” the woman presiding over the adoption said. “If a cat jumps on you, you have to take him home.”

This little creature had chosen us. What better way to welcome a new family member? My wife and I locked eyes and soon we were driving home with an alien being purring in a box in our backseat.

Once home we placed the box in the bathtub and opened the flaps. The boy stared at us with earnest eyes and then leapt like a spider monkey onto the tile floor. He craned his neck upward, beckoning to be caressed. We petted him as he pushed his weight against our hands. My wife put cat food in a bowl in the kitchen and we watched as he devoured the crunchies, remnants spilling over the floor.

We knew the first few weeks were crucial. We had to set boundaries while we were still alphas. We placed a litter box in the storage room and were relieved to learn he was house-trained. We established a twice-a-day feeding schedule, six a.m. and six p.m. We locked the bedroom door at night so we could sleep. We bought $200 worth of cat toys. He preferred the box the toys came in.

It took Kafka two days to break his first item. He was chasing an outdoor squirrel when he mis-timed a jump onto my desk and knocked an Edgar Allan Poe coffee mug to the floor. He hid in the closet. We told him he wasn’t in trouble but he didn’t reappear for hours. He was subtly teaching us he was in charge.

He established his quirkiness early on. In the mornings when I used the bathroom, he twisted himself into my underwear and swayed back and forth like he was in a hammock. He chased imaginary beings around the living room and then tried to climb the wall after his prey. He nibbled my toes while I was working causing me to yelp in the middle of a phone conversation. When we petted his lower back, he flicked his tongue in and out like a gourmand watching a cooking show.

He’s ravenous about food. At six a.m. on the dot, he scratches at the bedroom door to be fed. Soon, we hear him mewing and tapping the door. From there, he rises on his back legs and attempts to turn the doorknob with his front paws. When this doesn’t work, he hurls himself against the door causing the walls to shake.

Given that coyotes and hawks prowl our neighborhood, we keep him indoors. This drives him crazy. He always wants out, scratching at the front door, meowing at the finches in the oak tree, poising himself to make a mad dash every time we leave the house. Once he escaped. We searched the neighborhood for hours until we found him beneath our patio, chewing wild grass.

He has multiple personalities. He can be regal as when he poises himself on the floor, left paw extended, right paw under his belly. He can be fierce as when he hisses and lunges at us for no discernible reason. He’s a yoga master, his “downward facing cat” stretch defying physics. He’s loving, leaping into my lap and nuzzling his head into my belly. At these times I’ll sit for hours, reading a book and lapping up his peaceful vibes.

The hardest times are when he’s not feeling well. He’ll hide in a dark corner and won’t eat or drink or use the litter box. He’s had urinary tract infections requiring anti-inflammatory drugs. We’ve put him on a special diet and added tuna juice to his water so he drinks more liquid. We’ve had two encounters with fleas requiring us to spread diatomaceous earth throughout our home to kill the buggers.

When we leave town, we’ll board him at the vet. This is brutal. He’s always traumatized when we return. He’ll mope around the house depressed, low-energy, refusing to eat or drink and avoiding us. He goes through his feline stages of healing: anger, depression, bargaining (begging for food), acceptance. We know we’re forgiven when he gives us that look, a soft stare that says, “Thank you, I love you, please pet me, now leave me alone so I can chase my invisible friends.”

I’ve heard the critiques against cats. They’re selfish, don’t show appreciation, they’re anti-social, cause allergies, bite and scratch, they’re fickle, litter boxes are disgusting. These complaints have an element of truth but there’s one thing cat haters don’t understand.

Cats are evolved beings. They’re blithe spirits in furry packages. They’ve melted the hearts of misanthropes like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Morrissey and Ricky Gervais. Mark Twain said, “If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but deteriorate the cat.” A cat’s love isn’t unconditional like dogs, but they rise to the occasion when you need them. The cat-human connection is subliminal. Once while I was washing dishes, I visualized the time when Kafka broke his hip. I immediately heard hissing and looked down to see Kafka giving me an evil stare. He was reading my thoughts in real time, like a clairvoyant. He wouldn’t let me touch him for days.

To ancient Egyptians, cats were supernatural beings that brought good tidings to the people who housed them. I agree. Kafka’s a blessing who brings joy and love. He’s not just a friend. He’s a member of the family.


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