Don’t be the iguana guy

There comes a time in life when people realize that they need to go ahead and give up on ever having any sort of meaningful romantic relationship ever again. This moment comes in many ways, shapes and forms. For some it’s the byproduct of large amounts of alcohol, for others a pointed comment from your grandmother over Thanksgiving dinner about how we never hear you talk about a girl or anyone and your grandfather and I are starting to think maybe you’re “that way” and we want you to know we would still love you pretty much the same amount unless you end up voting for Hillary Clinton in which case we trust you know where the door is.

For me the realization that I was never going to gain the love of another human person came as I was standing brushing my teeth with a beer in my hand while wearing a pink cotton nightgown with flowers on it. I bought it as part of a Halloween costume in 2009 but it turned out to be too comfortable to not wear more frequently, which is just one of the many reasons I always keep my shutters closed. I’m going to assume that I don’t need to provide further explanation on exactly why it was this moment in particular that prompted this sudden wave of hopelessness. My exact train of thought went: Man, I wonder who’s going to get eliminated on “MasterChef” tonight. I hope it’s Krissi. She’s so mean. No one’s going to know when I die until I start smelling bad.

Obviously, the next logical step was to get a cat.

I’d been wanting a pet for a while. At first I had thought of a dog, but I live alone in a basement apartment and am a drama major, so I wouldn’t have been able to take care of it properly. I thought very briefly about a hamster—so briefly that the only thing I actually thought was “God I hate hamsters.” I remembered my cousin used to have iguanas and I was always fascinated by them but, as a friend of mine put it, “Then you would be the guy who has an iguana.”

I’ve never been a big cat person. Actually, I’ve never even seen a big cat person. I am fairly certain big cat people do not exist, although my uncle swears there’s a group of them out in the woods that eat his livestock. He has seen their glistening cat-like eyes, their furry faces, their twisted almost human forms. Then again, my uncle drinks a lot. None of this is relevant, though. What I meant to say is I’ve never particularly liked cats. A friend of mine at VCU who I sometimes stay with has two of them, and I hate them so much that just thinking about them now is causing my eye to twitch. They’re the kind of cats who will meow loudly until you pat them and then, when you finally do, will either bite you or walk away looking at you like you like you’ve just said that Hitler was a pretty groovy dude. Still, I figured that not all cats could be like them, so I made a firm decision: I was going to go find a friendly little cat that enjoyed the company of humans, wouldn’t be too much trouble to take care of, and would be an acceptable substitute for human companionship.

Thus resolved, I struck out for PetSmart on a sunny Saturday morning. They were having an adoption event, so I went to the back and sat awkwardly in a room of cats with an SPCA volunteer.

VOLUNTEER: What are you looking for today? ME: Uh. A cat. VOLUNTEER: What kind of cat? ME: ….one with…um…a face.

None of the PetSmart cats seemed particularly interested in me, so I struck out for the SPCA. The cats here all seemed a little mangier and twitchier, but they were at least interesting. After wandering around for a while I found a slightly fat long-haired black cat who was very friendly. The card on his cage said “HI! I’M WALTER!”

“Hello Walter,” I said. “What’s your stance on eating camel crickets and other creepy insects that live in basement apartments?”

Walter did not answer because he’s a cat. I felt a connection, though, so I filled out the papers, put him in the small cardboard box provided by the SPCA, and put him in my car. The ride home went like this:

WALTER: Meow. ME: It’s ok. WALTER: Meow. ME: It’s fine. WALTER: MEOW. ME: EVERYTHING’S OK. (Sound of cat-retching/viscous liquids hitting cardboard)

Walter did not enjoy the ride home. He expressed his opinions with bodily functions. When a cat with long hair has been in a tiny cardboard box even for just 10 minutes … I don’t want to get too graphic, so let’s go with a metaphor: imagine that you have a long, luxurious wig made of human hair. Now imagine that that wig is covered in poop and vomit and is climbing onto all your furniture.

Walter has settled in nicely in the past week. He is slightly fat, smells bad and walks funny. We have a lot in common. I’ve been taking reasonably good care of him, I think. I went back to PetSmart to buy him a bed, a scratching post and some catnip, none of which he uses. As I picked up all my things to leave, the cashier said “Enjoy your new family member!” As if a 22-year-old living in a basement with a cat wasn’t bleak enough.

Anyway, I’ve had him for a week, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s nice to have a small furry friend to come back to. And since I’m now a cat owner, I thought I would answer some frequently asked questions about cats.

Q: If your vet tells you you should “bring in a sample of feces” as if that were no big deal, and that they will test it for thirty freaking dollars, should you do it or tell them where to go (Hell)?
A: For a long time I would’ve said the latter, but they brought it up again at the vet’s office. “Yeah,” I said, “I dunno. It’s expensive.”
“Well,” the vet said, “we like to do it because sometimes they can have intestinal parasites that are transferable to humans.”
I didn’t hear anything else she said because my mind had started screaming so loudly it drowned out everything else. But yeah, just bring in the poop.

Q: What should you feed your cat? A: Cat food. Q: Is it weird to be naked around your cat? A: We’re done here.

Chris Bauer is a humor columnist for the Cavalier Daily.

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