Some might find it difficult to love a person who intentionally pees on your stuff.  Perfectly understandable.  And when that person is a cat, well, the answer seems clear.  Get a new cat.  But then she looks at you with those big eyes and curls up in your lap, purrs in your ear, and greets you at the door like a dog.  Unfair, really.  There is no defense for that.  So you think well, they all die sometime.  I’ll just wait it out.  My cat died yesterday.

3 Mattresses
1 Couch
6 Couch Cushions
2 Stuffed Chairs
2 Tables
1 Piano
Countless pieces of clothing
Unfathomable loads of laundry
My mother’s hand
Several boyfriends

These are the costs Freyja racked up over the course of her lifetime.  I leave out, of course, the expected cost of food, litter and veterinary care.  Those I signed up for in the first place.  My father asked me repeatedly over the last fifteen years why I hadn’t given her away to one of her several, if unlikely, fans.  My answer was always the same.

“She’s my responsibility.  I love her.  Well, most of the time anyway.  Would you give me away if I peed on the bed?”

I think he wanted to say yes.

I adopted Freyja when she was a spitting, yelling, grabbing, tiny ball of sparse hair which all stood up on end.  I could see her pink skin through it, wrinkly and soft.  My boyfriend at the time had said he’d wanted a cat.  A beautiful, sleek, cat esthetically pleasing to the eye is what he said.  He was an artist so this mattered to him.  There were other kittens there that were far more attractive but, as they cowered in the corners she reached through the bars of her cage and tapped me on the head.  She grabbed at my fingers and yelled at me quite insistently and this way she made the cut. I was convinced then, as now, that personality matters more than looks.  In the end he loved us both despite our looks, although not enough to keep us and when we eventually split up she landed in my lap rather than his.

It was all the same to me.  In her younger years she was a wonderful companion to my older, very mellow cat, Arthur.  Arthur loved her company.  He used to hang his tail down over a chair and flick it back and forth for her to chase.  He groomed her and taught her how to walk across the back of the couch, nibble off the end of my morning bagel and the first two years of her time with us were virtually problem free.  Then we moved.

Because I didn’t have a place of my own yet, my parents gracefully took my cats while I located an apartment in Boston. Arthur did well but Freyja hid and not under furniture or anyplace you might actually be able to touch her; she hid in the rafters on the ceiling.  It took me a while to get settled but she remained on high making actual human contact difficult.  When I finally did find a place my parents thoughtfully offered to meet me half way to deliver the cats.  We agreed on a date and just as I was preparing to go meet them I received this phone call.

“We’re having trouble catching Freyja.  We might not…wait; wait, here comes your mother.  She’s BLEEDING!  Today isn’t going to happen, we’re going to the hospital!”

From the background I heard, “I’ve got her, Tom!  Screw the hospital, drive, drive, drive!”

It seems like maybe we’d overstayed our welcome.

In Boston she became a different animal.  She continued hiding, became fearful of other people, stopped enjoying Arthur’s company and she started peeing on things.  This made me very popular with my new roommate but at the time I didn’t care so much.  The girl was Single White Female crazy so if Freyja wanted to pee on her dirty laundry, I was all for it.  Go ahead, Mama!  I had her vetted anyway to be sure there wasn’t a medical problem there.  But even after being treated for a UTI, she continued the behavior.  It seemed like she’d found a way to be heard in a way her constant yelling wasn’t producing.

Behaviorists will tell you the “inappropriate urination” comes from anxiety.  I get it.  Sometimes I get a full bladder right before I on stage, so sure, I buy that.  Explain then why it so often happened after an anxiety-causing event.  Example: Upon return from a time a way, perhaps a gig, we would rejoice in our reuniting with much talking, rubbing and lap sitting.  All would appear to be well and maybe the day after, as I retired for the night, I would smell something rotten in the state of my bed.  She hadn’t done it the entire time I was gone so how was I to interpret this now that I’d returned, supposedly having taken away the stressor?

A. I am the stressor, not my absence. Or…
B. She was exacting revenge for having been left.

Knowing my cat as I did, it seemed clear that B. was the correct and final answer.

In her old age and moderate blindness, she mellowed.  Maybe the world became less scary when seen through a milky, cataract haze.  She spent her final months happier than she had ever been.  Preparing to leave for Germany, I was in a quandary about what to do for her.  Do I leave her in my New York apartment and look for a sub leaser who might love and care for her or ask her to adjust once more to a new life, not to mention survive the transatlantic flight?  But luck smiled on us both in the form of a friend who was able to see her negatives for positives and offered to take her until I made it back stateside or the inevitable happened.

“She is not an easy animal, you know.”

“Who likes easy animals?”

“Doesn’t like other cats or dogs, most people.”

“I don’t like most people either.  She’ll fit in just fine.”

“She pees on things when she’s mad.”

“Wish I could.”

She adjusted to her new home and second mom perfectly.  A cat who had spent the last several years in the closet, literally, not figuratively to my knowledge, she was an equal opportunity hater, suddenly was sleeping out in the open on the couch mere feet from the other cat.  She seemed actually to enjoy his company!  She loved my friend to distraction and vice versa.  Freyja passed in the way most of us hope our pets will, asleep in her sunny spot on the window ledge.  She didn’t feel a thing and, I hope, she was dreaming about her favorite things as she went, love, sun, food, and peeing on the bed.

R.I.P Freyja
1994-2009

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Colleen McGrath is a twice transplanted former New Yorker who, like all New Yorkers who don't know where to go next, ended up in Florida. Opera singer and teacher of small, drooling children, Ms. McGrath has written professionally about such interesting topics as PORON for a communications company and while she found it both interesting and fulfilling, (bald-faced lie), the call to a more creative style was stronger. She is happy to be flexing those muscles on The Nervous Breakdown.

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