“So, what do you do?” the party-goers ask, ice tinkling in their glasses.
If I’m at a party, I’m there under duress. So I answer coolly: “I stay home and feed cats.”
This kind of response results in plenty of elbow room. I sigh with pleasure as the party-goers inch from my presence.
But it’s actually the truth: I do stay home and feed cats. One of our cats, our big orange Tucker, eats 5 to 7 times per day, part of our plan to manage his kidney condition.
Shnoodle, our tortie, eats twice, with a snack of organic butter in the late morning, and frequent flights across the counters to troll for lost crumbs.
But Addie takes the cake, though she wouldn’t actually eat the cake, as cake would be “beneath her.” Picky does not even begin to describe it.
Today, as I attempted for the third time to feed her breakfast, I got a little snarked up. The essay below is the result.
Believe it or not, it is published with Miss Addie’s blessing. (Though not with her actual words. It’s possible I mis-quoted her. A little.)
Miss Addie, Celebrity Diner
“Miss Addie,” I gasp. “You’re home.”
She stands before me on the porch, her fur shining in an aureole, her eyes hidden behind designer sunglasses.
When she looks up, her face is set in a lank frown. I see my reflection in her ebony lenses and try to hide the weariness in my own eyes.
Flashes pop from the hedge in the front yard. Damn paparazzi.
Miss Addie twitches her tail demandingly. I open the door further. With that tail at full sail, she drifts in. Safely away from the prying eyes of her public, she flicks off her shades and sighs.
“Muh-ther,” she says in a newly-affected accent (it’s that damned Hollywood pack she runs with now), “fetch me three tiny sardines on a swizzle stick, that’s a dear.”
Then she throws herself on the chaise lounge and grooms a laconic paw, sighing intermittently at the boredom of waiting for her meals.
I cannot tell you the number of times she has sent meals back to the kitchen lately. “This salmon is not pink enough. It certainly was not wild-caught.” Or, “I have told you – I have told you – that I require pan-seared venison on top of every dish. Do you not understand my words?”
“Yes’m,” I say, then quickly correct myself: “Yes, dear.” After all, I am ostensibly this cat’s mother, though not by birth, and I shouldn’t have to ma’am her.
Yet I do.
I whisk the dish from beneath her whiskers – which, I note, appear to be woven with celebrity-style whisker extensions – and hurry back to the kitchen, where I fumble with her needful: freeze-dried chicken, venison, and lobster à la crème, garnishing her dish within an inch of its life.
When I return said dish beneath her upraised nose, the real cat food beneath is nearly suffocated beneath the savory embellishments.
Miss Addie brightens. “Ah. Good girl,” she says, mocking me. Who is the master here? Who is the mom?
Then she flips her whisker extensions behind her shoulders, recomposes her look of vague disgust, and proceeds to nibble. Slowly.
These days, I daren’t step outside – there could be photographers lurking in every shrub, hanging from the limb of every tree. I can’t walk into a newstand lately without seeing my cat emblazoned across the pages of gossip magazines. I can’t even open Google without seeing Doodles in her honor.
My life is reduced to feeding, and feeding, and feeding once more, and, when that is done, collecting my motherly due: a rub of fur against the cheek, a swath of shed cat hair clinging to my moisturizer, before Miss Addie drifts back out for a photo shoot with People Magazine.
The things I do for duty. The things I do for cats.
Miss Addie did not always have celebrity dining preferences. Long ago, when she was young, she would eat anything I’d fling her way. We were a kibble house then, with full use of our front yard, sans paparazzi. The only eyes that gazed toward us were those of nosy neighbors. This is the natural state of our ecosystem.
But then my husband and I suffered a fit of nutrition, and henceforth switched her to extraordinarily expensive raw food — the kind that requires notarized proof of income before purchase — whereupon Miss Addie joined feline high society, and began carousing in yellow convertibles with the elite clique of gingers up the hill.
It was not long before she was on the local news, where she was spotted by Oprah’s joint chiefs of staff, who saw the dollar signs of authenticity in her deep, green eyes. It all spiraled down from there.
Years, and many hands-shoved-into-camera-muzzles later, I still firmly believe in the nutritional value of feeding cats raw meat, and not just because I’ve heard that a cat mom must be unbending in her decisions. (“It’s all about boundaries,” the cat parenting books read. When Miss Addie is not looking, I rub my face against these books to mark them as my own.)
But I sigh as I defrost yet more delectables, picking out shrimp after tiny shrimp because, as Miss Addie says, “I do not eat cashew-shaped crustaceans.”
I sit quietly in attendance at her meals, fulfilling her requirement of a server at the ready at all times. When she’s looking elsewhere, I reach slowly, so slowly, for my knitting, to while away the mealtimes with at least one motherly art.
Before my hand can touch the yarn, she shoots me a glare. “Your wool disturbs my concentration. Now please, Muh-ther, pay attention to me. After all, I am the kitty.”
And so I let the yarn go and focus on her, awaiting my reward: that dry cat-kiss on my cheek.
Hours later, I might still be picking fur off my well-moisturized face. But I will always bask in the knowledge that my cat is well fed, which is the only thing that counts at your best, and most exclusive, pearly gates.