Writing About Pets

I have two cats and two hermit crabs.

I thought about making them characters in a story, where they are like little humans that talk. Maybe an illustrated children’s book? I read somewhere that making pets characters is a cliche. Then I read that absolutely everything is a cliche, everything has been done in the past, like music, every note has been sung. Anyway, I will just do whatever I want to do, and once an editor is offering me money I will write to suit them, otherwise I’m writing to suit myself and I want my animals in my stories.

Oliver is an extra large tuxedo tabby, with his white bib and socks. His basic motivation is food, all the food. Food now. Food. But he doesn’t like people food, and he doesn’t like treats. In the morning, he comes to wake me up and let me know it is time for his feeding. He walks on my face, he chews my hair, he nips at my arm. He lies on the pillow beside me, and reaches out his paw to touch me. Mom, wake up. He jumps onto the night stand, which he knows I hate, because he knocks over books and water bottles and the box of kleenex. Baby Lou climbs up onto me and starts purring. I like her style of waking me up, but Oliver’s is more effective. My cats have figured out that the first step in being fed in the morning is to get me out of bed, then they run towards the kitchen and I close the door behind them and go back to bed. It’s part of the routine. I tried not feeding them right away when I was finally up for the day, but I felt guilty as their food giver withholding their breakfast. So it’s as soon as I get up, after they’ve waited in the hallway for a while, and as soon as I come home from work, or around 5:00. Sometimes I give them a little bedtime snack if I know I’m sleeping in the next day. It doesn’t usually work.

I rescued Oliver from an animal shelter I was volunteering at. He came in with a brother and sister, all the same markings. Simon and Garfunkel and Cher. The female was adopted out right away, and I chose the slightly more chill Garfunkel over the rambunctious Simon. The first night I brought him home, he fell asleep cuddled into my blue sweater, he didn’t hide. He used to be very curious about the bathtub when he was a kitten, and fell in several times, or played in there when it was empty. He liked to lick a lot of strange things; walls, windows, shower curtains, plastic bags. He didn’t eat weird things, he just licked them. He would wait for me by the door while I was away. I wanted him to have a sister.

I rescued Louise from a different organization. She was brought in with her sister Thelma after their feral family was attacked by a badger. She is a scaredy-cat, she began her life as more prey than predator. When I held her for the first time she was terrified and she snuggled deep into my neck and didn’t want me to ever put her down. I started tearing up, and she was mine.

They say you should keep cats separate when they are first being introduced to each other. I had Baby Lou set up in my room, and she and Oliver stayed by the crack under the door reaching their paws to each other and sniffing curiously. I let them be together and watched them carefully, they bonded instantly. They played with each other the first day, and seemed to accept each other without any suspicion or threat.

They cuddle together, grooming each other. Oliver no longer licks anything but her. It was like all that time he knew he had to lick but didn’t know what. Lou needs lots of snuggles. Oliver always wants me to put him down, but Lou always climbs into my lap. I love my cats so much. I imagine what they would say if they had verbal communication. Their personalities are distinct. What would their life be like if they were together in a different setting?

My crabs are named Hermes and Ares, from Greek mythology. I had to get two so I could tell people I have crabs. They are fascinating to watch, their bodies so wildly different from mammals. Over the past few years, they have molted and changed shells and gotten gigantic. It’s at a point where they kind of scare me, with their spidery legs and pinching claws. I don’t imagine their personalities the way I do with my cats. Sometimes they trash their crabitat, knocking rocks into the water dish, flipping over their plastic caves, so they are somewhat surly I guess.

In one of the places I lived during University, my roommate had three cats and I had a fish. The cats liked to watch Magical Mister Mistoffelees swim around and I always knew what would happen. Here is a poem I wrote about it:

I found your shriveled crispy body

Like a fallen leaf, on the floor

I scooped you up and laid you to rest

In a plastic bag coffin

You were so exuberant in your watery home

A living rainbow, now turned black

It pains me to think about the moment

Of your departure,

If you could feel parts of you being eaten,

Or if you were already gone by that point

Tossed around by gentle fuzzy paws

An end to the daily terror

Of predators watching, watching, attacking

It was only a matter of time.




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