Knock on wood, it appears that Tasha is now a couch soiler in recovery.

Lorelei and I took her to the vet a little while back. A lab mix in the waiting area totally set her off – Tasha, that is, not Lorelei – and by the time we got to the exam room she was puffed up like a blowfish and growling in a menacing fashion.

It should be noted that Tasha isn’t what you’d call a good patient under the best of circumstances. When she was just a few weeks old, back in Chicago, she got startled and chomped the cheek of a vet assistant. The vet assured us that that sort of thing happens all the time, but we never saw that particular assistant again. I think about her sometimes and wonder what she’s doing now – my guess is something far removed from teeth and claws.

Our current vet wisely decided against removing her from the box, pointing out that he’d have to sedate her to conduct any kind of thorough exam (he still bears the scars, both physical and emotional, of past encounters with Tasha). He did weigh her – 18 lbs. including her carrier – which was somewhat alarming given that Lorelei weighs barely half that.

He recommended that we set up an additional food station and an additional litter box – “They actually say you should have one more litter box than you have cats, but three probably strikes you as a little excessive, which I can understand.” He also gave us a kind of Glade plug-in sort of thing full of feel-good feline pheremones, as well as a huge can of industrial-strength aerosol spray guaranteed to remove all evidence of past peeing. He also advised covering the couch with aluminum foil, which cats apparently dislike the feel of.

The vet said that if these measures didn’t solve the problem, he could prescribe Tasha some kitty Prozac. We’re not philosophically opposed to putting her on meds – I don’t think Freudian talk therapy would do her much good anyway – but the stress of having to pin her down and force a pill down her throat once a day would probably require Eric and me to be on anti-anxiety meds as well.

The aluminum foil was a total bust – we found her curled up on it, purring, and it did nothing for our decor (our electrician asked if we were trying to summon the mother ship), but the other measures seem to have done the trick.

Maybe it’s whatever’s wafting out of that plug-in thing, but Tasha is now one mellow kitty. She’s even joined me, Lorelei, and Eric on our bed a few times. She’s totally impervious to Lorelei’s screams – I don’t think she’ll ever pull a Lassie and rush to summon us if, say, Lorelei falls in a well someday – but we’ll take what we can get.

Last night, I went downtown for a friend’s book reading (you can check out her book, a harrowing real-life rescue story, here).

Before it started, I had some time to kill and found myself leafing through a coffee table book filled with artsy, multicultural photographs of newborn babies. It wasn’t an Anne Geddes, but it was of that ilk. Anne, incidentally, has always seemed a little off to me; I certainly wouldn’t hire her to babysit. I’d be concerned that we’d come home and find Lorelei in the lettuce crisper, artistically decked out with cabbage leaves and radish roses.

Anyway, in addition to photos, the book featured quotes about babies and parenthood. One in particular – a sentiment that would have struck me as unbearably maudlin less than two months ago – hit home for me:

To have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.

I returned home from the bookstore to my husband and child, enveloped in a haze of maternal bliss. Life was good.

This morning, we awoke to a house awash in cat pee.  Tasha had hit the couch (spreading the wealth to three separate cushions), a pile of old newspapers, and a bag filled with loaner baby toys from a friend of ours Рwho, it later occurred to us, has two cats of her own. Maybe the threat of two phantom cats, in addition to the undeniable fact of the new baby, pushed Tasha over the edge.

I have no idea how that much liquid issued forth from a single cat; I suspect that she popped out for a Big Gulp in the middle of the night. I also have no idea how to effectively remove the foul stench of displaced cat from our couch cushions; few things in life are as tenacious, or unpleasant, as the smell of cat urine. Bioterrorists, take note.

People have asked us how Tasha and Brodie are coping with the new baby. They’re about as displeased as we had anticipated, but they’re not behaving quite the way we expected.

We figured that Brodie would be emotionally wounded. She’s actually more scared of the squalling pink thing in the crib and keeps a tentative eye on it, though she has started sleeping on our bed again when the squalling subsides.

And Tasha has been more passive-aggressive, superficially acting as if everything is fine but taking protest dumps on the bathmat. This we did not see coming. The last one was so perfectly centered (for maximum visual impact, one presumes) that she must have borrowed a ruler from my office.

When my brother was born.

I was an insanely contented only child for five years, at which point they asked me how I’d feel about having a little brother or sister. “No thanks,” I said, promptly returning to my pile of Barbies and stuffed bears. When I was told that it was in fact a done deal, I burst into tears and wailed, “Wasn’t I enough?” I did eventually come around (though it took a few years), and I can now say that a) I am thrilled to have Dan as my brother and b) I would have turned into a complete monster had he never been born.

My cat, Tasha, lacks this level of self-awareness. Eric’s cat, Brodie, was at the vet’s for a few days this past week, and Tasha slipped into a haze of bliss the likes of which I’ve never seen before. She purred, she preened, she strutted around the house chirping happily and rubbing her head against everything she encountered. She was clearly thinking something along the lines of Thank God you two finally had the sense to get rid of that annoying little alley cat.

Then Brodie returned, still sickly and in need of both TLC and intensive hand-feeding. (Brodie loses her appetite during times of stress. This is never a problem for Tasha, who would unhesitatingly scrabble over the ravaged bodies of both me and Eric for anyone holding a scrap of roast chicken – including the person who’d just ended our lives. What’s a little brutal carnage between friends, especially when one of those friends has chicken?) Plus, the stinky, calorically dense food we’re trying to entice Brodie to eat is precisely the type of food that Tasha, who tips the scales at nearly 15 lbs., is routinely denied. She’s attuned to the sound of a metal pop top being ripped off a can of Fancy Feast at 300 yards.

So now Tasha has turned into a hissing, snarling brat. Not only is Brodie getting all of the good food, she’s getting the bulk of the attention as well. We’ve been trying to even things out, but a grumpy Tasha is not a pretty sight. And she has very sharp teeth.

Lush, Thy Name is Tasha

February 16, 2010

This morning I woke up to discover Tasha happily slurping up the remnants of Eric’s chocolate martini from last night – we’d made the mistake of leaving the near-empty glass out on the counter.

There isn’t much that that cat won’t eat (which is probably why she’s tipping the scales at 14.75 lbs, according to the most recent figures from the vet’s office), but this is the first I’ve known her to have a taste for booze.

I hope the baby’s arrival doesn’t push her over the edge into lapping up saucer after saucer of White Russians. At least we don’t have to worry about taking away her car keys.

Who Doesn’t Love a Puppy?

December 31, 2009

Eric has been on this kick lately for us to get a puppy. Because, you know, we don’t already have enough going on in our lives right now.

I’m not anti-puppy per se, but I keep coming back to the inescapable facts that:

a) Puppies need to be walked. I work at home, which means that the designated puppy-walker (and pooper-picker-upper) will be me.

b) These puppy walks will be taking place here in New Hampshire, where it’s really cold and icy right now. I tend to fall down a lot – Eric has already applied an anti-skid coating to our stairs inside the house to prevent further incidents. I may be blas√© about my consumption of soft cheeses, but even I know that babies in utero don’t enjoy regular, sudden contact with the sidewalk.

c) We have two set-in-their-ways cats, both of whom have the capacity to be somewhat mean (and one of whom has all of her claws). I don’t know exactly how things would shake out, but I don’t see it ending well.

d) I’ve already signed on to have one drooly, incontinent being totally dependent on me come June. I don’t need another.

My friend Jeannette had this theory, before the birth of her first child, that the ideal time to get a puppy would be right around when the baby was born – she’d be home, the baby and puppy could grow up together, and (perhaps most importantly), things would already be so crazy in a way she couldn’t fully comprehend that she wouldn’t know what life with a newborn would be like without a puppy, so why not go for it?

Jeannette eventually came to her senses. Four years and two children later, her family remains puppy-free. Nonetheless, I regret sharing this story with Eric, who now views the puppy-loving Jeannette of old as a folk hero of sorts.

I feel very fortunate that, as a pregnant woman, I get a free pass on anything having to do with the cats’ litter box. I don’t know what the hell goes on in there.

When Tasha’s in there, we hear a focused, rhythmic “swish-swish-swish” of litter. I don’t have the heart to tell her that softshoe is dead. But when Brodie’s in there, there’s clawing and pounding and thumping. The whole box jumps around on the floor. The only reasonable explanation is that she’s beating herself senseless like Ed Norton in Fight Club.

Even better, if you happen to wander by while Brodie’s in there, you will sometimes catch a glimpse of her intent little face (she does settle down eventually) framed in the grey-tinted cat box door. She looks like a determined astronaut focused on maintaining the correct re-entry angle and velocity. Eric has taken to calling her Major Tom.