When cats attack

I am not a big fan of cats. The problem is that I really wish I could be as I really like the idea of cats. I think they are beautiful and independent and serene and generally very cool but I have two problems. The first is a pretty common, fairly boring allergy problem. The second is a far more complex, deeply rooted thing which I call the Edward Complex.
A long time ago… when I was thirteen, I was allowed to choose a pet cat. We had already had one other little kitten for a short time before she was hit by a car. We were devastated when we lost little Jenny so a new cat was always going to be a logical addition to our household. So as I mentioned, I was allowed to choose this new cat which means I have no one else to blame but myself. On a Saturday afternoon my Mum and I went around to a neighbour’s house to choose a kitten from a small litter of kittens that their gorgeous cat had just had. All her black and white kittens were curled up and sleeping when we were shown into the room, with the exception of one little fellow who was swinging wildly from the curtains. I loved him instantly – what flair! What joi de vivre! And he had a cute little white patch on his nose.

Six weeks later we picked him up, called him Edward and brought him home and life was never the same. As time wore on the little white patch on his nose faded away and his joi de vivre turned out to be aggressive, overly energetic bad tom-cat brain wiring. He literally terrorised us (and particularly me) every (every!) day for years and years. He grew larger and larger, cost a fortune in vet bills due to fights he would pick with all the other neighbourhood cats and as his 15 years wore on he got a little slower but he would never would turn down an opportunity to bite an unsuspecting hand, claw his way up the back of the couch and wrap himself around a head with flailing claws and snapping jaws or pounce on any passer by from any one of dozens of hiding places.

You either loved him or hated him and I am sad to say that I fell into the latter category. I didn’t like him. I don’t miss him and thanks to the memory of his razor sharp claws and the sound of snuffling and chomping in my hair I am now afraid of all cats. I will stop and say hello to a cute cat on the street – from a distance. I will admire cute kitty photos and I will always be excited when a friend gets a new cat. In fact, one of the two main characters in the book I am writing is based on one such cat – Nic and Jud’s beautiful Slither Diddle. Nonetheless, unfortunately I find it totally impossible to relax in a room where five adults are watching the first episode of Survivor Vanuatu and there is a cat (this very same cat – the elegant Slither Diddle) – on the loose – who is being stirred into a frenzy by my thoughtless husband and who insists (as cats do when they sense fear) on sniffing me and exploring my lap. I recognise those big black excited pupils. I recognise that whiskers-forward, head jutting look… I know what will follow! I’m sorry Slither, our relationship is going to have to be purely literary.

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29 Responses

  1. posie1970@hotmail.com says:

    Awww, not all cats are psychos like Edward was. I was afraid of cats for years. I thought they were bad-natured, unpredictable, scratchy creatures and I did not care for them one little bit.
    And then I got my Natasha. And having raised a well-adjusted, non-scratchy feline, I can honestly say I’m a convert :o) You should try getting another kitten. A quieter one.

    BTW: just wanted to say I love your illustrations and the little knitted Blythe hats you made (I saw the photos on TIB).

  2. cats scare me too! i don’t think that i’ve ever known another to have the feelings you do about cats. i don’t like the way cats look at me or slither from one room to the next. or meow annoyingly outside or scratch at me or have fleas or stink in general.thank you for being open about your dislike of cruddy cats.

  3. Being owned by 3 cats as we speak, i can sympathize – but i couldn’t imagine my life without these little critters. i’m sorry your experience was traumatic 🙁

  4. I think Slither Diddle would get along well with Bird and Wilson… http://www.alertbutnotalarmed.com/misc/

  5. Claire, try get a hold of the Japanese Manga/Anime “Azumanga Diaoh” (think of it as a slightly more sophisticated Japanese version of Peanuts) — There’s a great character who is absolutely in love with all things cat, but every time she reaches out to pet one, the bit her hand. For myself, I never could see the point of cats. Bad-natured critters who lick fur for entertainment value.

  6. not a cat person myself (ex dog-person now a baby-person) but it could have been because you called him ‘Edward’. I’d bite people if i was called Edward.

  7. I had a wonderful all-white kitty when I got my first apartment. She was lovely to everyone, except to my boyfriend who was horribly jealous of her (and she was horribly jealous of him). She would rush over and nip and him and run away again. She was perfectly lovely to everyone else. I ran into this ex-boyfriend recently and he made a remark (a nasty one) about this cat…and this was 20 years ago! Unfortunately, bad cat incidents can stay with one forever!

  8. Hmm… I’m guessing this means my comments about Slither being “just like a real live Tiger – only smaller” weren’t exactly impressing you on the night then? 😉 Evenings are definitely her most psychotic because she snoozes til we get home from work and then expects us to entertain her (and rightly so).

  9. mollysue17@hotmail.com says:

    I feel the same way about dogs. *Love them!* But each time I go to pet one I envision them snarling up and bitterly attacking me, tearing off my fingers one by one. And I have a permanent reminder of why I feel this way…I got bit when I was little on the right index finger. It damaged the nail bed so I have a big black line permanenty running down my finger. And that’s why I have cats…one who is a real love bug and one who is very independent and tolerates me only because I have opposable thumbs to open the food. (Was your cat neutered by the way? It makes all the difference…)

  10. jinglesandthings@gmail.com says:

    I feel for you Claire. My brother had this monster of a cat, who was the equivilant of a 400lbs man. She would roll onto her back and jiggle her fat belly at me and I’d fall for it everytime! As soon as I went to stroke it she’d latch onto my skin with her pointy claws and scratch scratch scratch!

  11. karen_gilsenan@hotmail.com says:

    Oh, I am sorry you had such a bad experience with Edward. Cats, like people, are not all the same… I can’t imagine the day when I’ll be without Mab, I lost her sister Rufus 4 years ago and still miss her all the time. You probably already know about this book, it’s a way you can be surrounded by the cutests ones http://www.ortakales.com/illustrators/Gag.HTML
    I have a copy and it is beautiful…

  12. Oh LORD. Do I know what you mean about having no one to blame but yourself! When I went to choose my kitty, there were 6 kittens ALL IDENTICAL. i couldnt tell them apart! Except. There was ONE who KEPT JUMPING ON MY BACK and liked to bite on my zipper! The other kitties would swat at her and try to get her to behave, but she ignored them and with all that jumping on me, I thought SHE was choosing ME! When I called my mom later that night, she TOLD me not to pick the jumpy, bitey BAD one, but I thought the jumpy bitey one was *charming* and disregarded her motherly advice.
    Hayley didn’t PICK me, she jsut likes JUMPING ON PEOPLE. ALL THE TIME. And she likes to nip on EVERYTHING. toes. books. paper. chenille pillows. knitting needles.

    She’s definately a diffferent sort of cat and people love her or hate her. Not sure which category I fall into. It varies from day to day 😉

  13. jennbee7@optusnet.com.au says:

    Hee hee…Edward sounds like a psycho puss…not all cats are bad! Some are cuddly and warm and very smoochy!!

  14. Claire, I live in Newtown in Sydney, amongst a tangle of little narrow side streets. Every morning and every evening there are numerous cats to pat and say ‘hi’ to. It makes my day most days, especially when my favourite ginger tom (in my head he’s called ‘Gregory’ for some reason) races across the street mewling for a pat. It’s nice to be appreciated!

  15. mgiacobello@brw.fairfax.com.au says:

    I once had a cat (name of Smokey)who wasn’t a nice little blokey
    He would scratch at his fleas
    and jump on bare knees
    it wasn’t at all Okedokey.

    Cats still make me nervous and that was 15 years ago…

  16. Ooooh how sad. We keep our pussycat indoors and it makes for a much different cat. He’s almost doglike in the way he waits at the front door when you get home. When we get his lead and harness out of the cupboard he’s just like a dog about to go for a walk. I know it’s not very “Australian” to have an indoor cat and it takes effort (ie litter) but it’s absolutely worth it. Maybe consider a breed that loves to be indoors and with people and is hairless (sounds freaky). Devon Rex or Sia Rex (I think that’s how it’s spelt) are lovely.

  17. my cats let me hold them like babies and go limp. if you ever get a kitty, get a girl, get the runt of the litter and spend a lot of time with it when it first comes to live with you, holding it and being affectionate. even if it protests at first, you can teach them to be sweet.

  18. torino168@yahoo.com says:

    haha… thats a sad story. 15 years you had to live with edward! thats too bad for you. thats such a long time to be stuck with a horrible cat!
    (im a cat person!)

  19. We had the purrfect mate for Edward – her name was Betty! They say choose and active kitten so we did – and she too became an anti-social cat! Since then we have moved on to Burmese that have a much nicer, more reliable nature.

  20. robr@yeti.com.au says:

    I feel I have to say something in defence of Edward. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything. I’m sorry you had to put up with him for all those years – even if you did choose him.

  21. Aw. Kitties! I think it’s a nice idea to rescue a slightly older-than-kitten kitty from a shelter. That way, they’re kind of a known entity in terms of personality, training & cuddleyness. Also, at least in the US, there are tons of nice older cats that need homes because most people want kittens. Kind of a random public service comment, but I have kitties on the brain because we just adopted a 10 month old kitty (who’s already had kittens). She’s the cutest, softest, nicest cat I’ve ever had. (Gush)

  22. sasor@hotmail.com says:

    It’s unfortunate you had such bad luck with Edward. My sisters and I have four cats-we live together. And they are all very wonderful, loving, incredible companions.
    I didn’t care for Oliver (our first cat) when we first adopted him. He’d scratch, bite, and run around like a mad man. But after a few months he calmed down. Now he’s such a carefree, laid-back fellow.

    Plus, all four cats are strictly indoor cats. I think that if they were outdoor cats their wild streak would show itself quite regularly.

  23. As I type this my tomcat Cosmo is sleeping in my lap. He is the first male cat that I have owned-(or he owns me!). I love cats, but nice cats.The last two cats I have welcomed into my home were strays. I think you have to train them a bit as I have with Cosmo. Sorry you had a bad experience in the past, but there may be a sweet feline down the road who loves you to pieces like Cosmo does with me.

  24. DualDesigns@aol.com says:

    all things cat are an aquired taste. I was petless for years after having cats my whole life since dogs are not allowed in most manhattan apartments. I now have two cats (they are mine rightfully because my kids who would “take care of them I swear” won’t Lmao
    I love them and when they get out of hand they get drenched by the spray bottle – perhaps your bad ass cat needed a friend. As in all cases of pets or kids = 2 is better than one


  25. gladysjjones@yahoo.com.au says:

    I have been wondering ever since I read this post, how did you cope with the ‘pretty common, fairly boring allergy problem’ when living with Edward? I find the allergic reaction so bad that I no longer visit my friends who have cats, and if there are any solutions to the problem I would love to know them (preferably drug-free).

  26. Hi GladdyAt the time I don’t think I realised I had an allergy. I used to avoid cuddling Edward so there was never any problem there, and he wasn’t allowed in my room or on the bed or on my chair etc. but when I think back to that period I was tired all the time. As soon as I moved out I felt amazing and I used to put it down to an idea that maybe I had been depressed but now I think it was actually just allergies. I now have a lot of trouble when I visit friends with cats and usually take an anti-histermine (sp?) and then not stay too long but will still sneeze and itch etc. A pet cat in the future is really not an option unless I go for a hairless variety and I am yet to be tempted by any of those.

  27. I know the feeling… we’ve just got two tom-cats who are being neutered soon, that tends to quiet them down and make them less agressive. I guess you can’t do anything about bad wiring but our cats get a little bit of water flicked at them when they fight or claw, and gradually they’re doing it less and less. Maybe that’s the way to go? We got burmese, as they don’t set off my cat allergy :)Photos and purrblog: http://purrblog.globaljen.com

  28. ps i just LOVE the illos for this story 😀 you have such a knack. I’m yet to attempt to draw our two kittens, more because they don;t sit still long enough!!!

  29. This is a great post, because it makes me feel better about not being a cat person. People think I’m heartless but they SCARE me too! Sure cats are cute if they aren’t in the same room, but its true–they definitely love to terrorize the people who are most afraid.