We tried to turn our cat into an adventure cat. Turns out, it ain't easy to conform a creature that doesn't care about pleasing you.
At the end of it all, there were tufts of fur everywhere. And I mean. Every. Nook. And Cranny. But, let me start at the very beginning.
Three years ago, a four-day-old kitten was found in a colossal, dusty barn, face-down in a quarter-inch of water. It was September. Imperial Stock Ranch co-owner Jeanne Carver scooped her out, placing the scrawny, half-dead being into a cardboard box. The thing survived.
A few days later, Central Oregon Spinner and Weavers Guild members descended onto the wool farm. I tagged along as a guest of my husband's grandmother, an esteemed weaver (whaddup, Mary!). As we lunched, I noticed the cardboard box move and walked over to find a tiny, blue-eyed tabby kitten staring back. She was Puss In Boots from "Shrek."
I held tiny-cat in the crook of my neck and the Guild members surrounded me:
70-year-old knitter: "Aw, look how she clings to you!"
Me: "I think it's because I'm wearing a scarf and it's comforting. Plus, her mom's dead, so...",
64-year-old-spinner: "It's instant chemistry!"
Me: "You think so? I think she just pooped on me. Does that quantify our chemistry?"
75-year-old-weaver: "She loves you! She has to come home with you!"
Me: "Yeah, she DOES appear to love me...but, wait, what?"
"She'll be put back into the barn where she may be eaten by dogs!" exclaimed Carver. I made a phone call (from a landline, because Shaniko, Oregon, doesn't have cell coverage). Chadd, my husband, listened as I started with, "So, listen, there's a tiny kitten here who..."
He promptly laughed and reasoned, "but we're moving to Portland and we don't even know if we'll be in the U.S. in six months." He was right. But the power of the COSWG was too strong. I came home with Mala.
Why am I droning on about Mala's earliest days? Isn't this supposed to be about cat adventures? Why are you reminiscing about the moment Chadd came home and you plopped the thing down onto his chest and he stared at you in disbelief while you yelled, "Surprise! I got her anyway!" Or the insta-love you felt when feeding her milk from a eye-dropper? Or when you took her on walks at Sawyer Park —sans leash — and she followed you. Every. Step. Of. The. Way?
Because, dear reader, adventures with your cat — as I have come to find — can be as small as these kitten moments or as grand as you make them to be, regardless of if they tolerate a paddleboard or walk on a leash.
But alas, yes, the adventures. I've stalled for too long!
They didn't happen.
She hates the harness.
Chadd, hearing her growls and my pleas of "C'mon Mala, just be a nice kitty...." escalate to "C'mon Mala, Don't be so ridiculous!" to "C'mon Mala, don't be such a B**CH!" found me, tyrannically cornering her, as a tri-colored harness hung from my bleeding and scratched hand. After the tufts of hair settled down and the harness was in place, (that's what husbands are for, I guess) Mala, avoiding eye contact, raised hairs and tight lipped, slowly tried to saunter away.
But she couldn't. Or wouldn't, rather—adopting a "I don't know what to do with this thing on my back" gait that made her look drunk, stoned and definitely pissed.
It was this moment that made me pull the bulky contraption off, apologizing while she beelined for the door. She didn't return for two days.
As I sat on my porch that night, pondering why I had this blasé feeling that I had failed at my adventure cat story, I reasoned it was unnatural to expect an animal who survived drowning, who could wholly survive without me and who hunted birds, squirrels and the occasional small dog (albeit, unsuccessfully), to want anything to do with structure and conformity. After all, she doesn't need me; she just humors us with her occasional presence.
I made amends that this wasn't how our relationship was meant to be.
When I found her days later, we made a silent pact that we'll adventure in other ways. Maybe I'll take her on walks, without leashes, and trust her as I once did.
C'est la Meow.