Monday, August 4, 2008

Appetite-that-walks: Meet Grendel

Grendel is my first cat. Shortly after I moved into my townhome in 2006, I was wandering the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle looking for the fossil shop I knew had been there once. I wanted some cool fossil bookends for the new place, but I discovered that the shop was long gone and a Greek deli mocked me from its former location.

However, across the street was a new sight: PAWS Cat City with a bundle of kittens playing in the window. Suddenly, like an epiphany, it struck me: I will get a brace of kittens to shred my new furniture and poop all over my new carpets! But Cat City was closing for the day. Undeterred, I came back the next day to get my kittens, but there were none to be had. The kittens in the window were mostly spoken for and the one kitten available didn't seem to like me. 

As I sat in the kitten room wondering where to look next, I heard a pitiful, persistent mewling from somewhere else in the place. Curious, I asked who was making all that noise. The cat wrangler on duty showed me to a cage where "Oreo" was kept. He'd come to Cat City from the PAWS main site in Lynnwood, but the staff determined after a day that he didn't like other cats and was not settling into the colony well, so they put him by himself in one of the cages, which, of course, he didn't like at all. When I came up to the cage, he looked at me with his big yellow eyes and extended his paw to me through the bars of the cage. That did it. I made an appointment to come back next day to visit with him and possibly adopt.

"Oreo" was two years old and had recently been surrendered by his family because they thought he was too expensive to keep. They had gotten him from someone with a box of kittens sitting outside a Safeway store. After being neutered and fostered for a while because of a URI, he was on the block, so to speak, and eking out his days in a two-foot by three-foot steel cage until someone adopted him.

When I came next day, he was already in the visiting room waiting for me, fast asleep. When I came in, he pretty much ignored me. He didn't want to play, he was indifferent to my petting and scratching him, and he definitely didn't want to sit on my lap and purr. But I liked him anyway and decided to adopt him. Not knowing how to proceed, I waited for someone on staff to came by, which took some time--or maybe time just moves slowly when you're being ignored by a cat. Eventually I popped my head out of the room and said, "I'll take him."

Visiting with him didn't give me a perspective on his size. I hadn't had a cat since I was young and I figured all cats were basically cat-sized and this was no exception. When the staff person and I were getting him ready to go, I looked at his paperwork and commented about his listed weight, 17 pounds. The staffer said that was impossible, but after he'd picked him up, and nearly suffered a hernia, he agreed that this was a deceptively heavy cat. Also, when we tried to put him in one of the cardboard box cat carriers, we discovered that he was also deceptively large and that one size of cat carrier does not fit all. I had to borrow a larger plastic and metal carrier to get him home.

It was about a 16-mile drive home and he mewled all the way. I marveled how a cat this big could have such a tiny voice. I still marvel. When we got home, he settled right in like he was the lord of the manor. He walked all around mewling his heart out as he explored every nook and cranny and then jumped up on the dining room table and lay down. 

I haven't been able to keep him off since.

I'd already decided on renaming him Grendel; I've always thought that Grendel was the perfect name for a cat. While not really monstrous, he is persistent about getting his way, especially when food is on the line. He can eat his own weight--now 21 pounds--at one sitting and not even burp. Any food left out is in danger and I have to stand guard at feeding times to prevent him from wolfing down his own food in seconds and then going after the other cats' meals. The kitchen counter is his turf; despite all my attempts to keep him off, he prowls it for any morsel that I may have inadvertently left out.

He is an open-minded greeter to everyone who comes to the house. While generally aloof, unless the visitor has food, he is very comfortable around strangers and has no issues with being picked up, petted, ootchy-kootchied, or anything else that people do to him. He's very accommodating. Mostly he finds a spot  in the middle of the room and stretches out on his back inviting any and all to rub his belly.

Grendel is serendipity. When I hear people talk about the trials of cat ownership, I'm very glad to have found such luck with my first feline and I blame the blossoming of my latent ailurophilia on him. Also, Cat City got it wrong; he's great with my other cats.

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