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Monday, November 04, 2002  

Several weeks ago, I made a reference to the time our cat Orca tried to kill me. You all just let it go. I think it’s because you thought I was kidding. Since we’re talking about a domestic cat not much bigger than a large squirrel, I really can’t blame you for thinking that. But you’re wrong.

One thing Orca likes to do is reach out and make a grab for a pant leg when one of us is walking past her. She does it for different reasons, depending on her mood. Not that her mood is always easy to discern, since her default expression is a baleful, heavy-lidded glare through her eyebrow whiskers. But sometimes she’s doing it because she really wants to get you, and other times she’s just being playful. We hope.

It was on one of the playful occasions that I pretended to actually get caught. Her claws scraped my trouser cuff, and I acted like she’d succeeded in throwing me off balance and I thumped heavily to the floor. She looked at me sprawled full-length in front of her, completely freaked out. Oh, shit, now I’m in for it, I could see her thinking before she ran away to hide.

She’s much more blasé about it now. These days when I pretend she’s “caught” me, she’ll stand victoriously over my helplessly prone form. “Yeah, who’s the man?” she seems to be saying.

What? You never do anything nice for your pets?

But sometimes she does the grabbing thing because she’s pissed off about something. We never know what it is; what with there being such a staggering breadth of things in the world that piss her off, it’s rare for us to be able to isolate a single stimuli. If she’s pissed off, she won’t just stick out a paw for a playful swipe as you go by. She’s trying to get you. These angry swings are generally accompanied by an enraged snarl, and she’ll go out of her way to get into yours. And while slashing at a pant leg is one thing, when she gets into these moods she doesn’t particularly care if you’re actually wearing pants.

On one such day, I was busy doing something—I don’t remember what—that required me to make a lot of trips between the study and the kitchen. Orca had placed herself in the hallway. I’d keep trying to step around her, and she’d keep trying to bring me down.

Finally, I had enough. I picked her up with both hands by her torso and held her at eye level. “Knock it off!” I began to say, but I never got that far.

That’s because her front legs were free, which allowed her to reach out, dig her front claws into either side of my head, pull herself forward, and latch her jaws onto my nose. Which she did. There was no helpless flailing or slashing; she came up with a plan of attack and executed it perfectly. I was totally gobsmacked by her speed, strength, and clearly murderous intent. She meant to do no less than rip my face clean off of my skull, and if she’d been big enough, she would have.

Of course I threw her in the bathroom (and not into the bathtub with the shower running, or the toilet, like I wanted to). How long of a time-out do you give a cat that has just attempted murder? The training books don’t tell you that, do they? After I’d dumped Orca in there, I won’t say how long I planned to leave her. I will say that I considered bricking up the door and building a new bathroom entirely.

Needless to say, our relationship was a little strained for a few days after that. She made overtures toward me after I let her out of the bathroom a few days later, but I wasn’t having it. “She tried to kill me!” I told Trash, who was trying very hard to not find it funny. I wanted to think that Orca really thought her life was in danger and her prehistoric reptile brain took over in self-defense, but that’s not the case. She knows I’d never hurt her. She was just pissed off, and decided I didn’t need my face any more.

Eventually we made up, and she was back to being curled up on my chest and purring softly while I scritched her between the ears. People who live with cats joke about how if the size differential were reversed, cat owners would quickly become cat snacks. Guess what? It’s no joke.

Orca and I have an understanding now. She doesn’t try to kill me any more, and I’m a lot more careful about the way I pick her up when she’s grouchy. That works out a lot better for both of us.

posted by M. Giant 3:32 PM 0 comments


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