Nature abhors a vacuum. I know this to be true because I once spent an entire summer trying to train a ring-tailed lemur to perform simple household chores, and the damn beast kept pitching the Hoover out the window. But Nature also hates a bleeding heart, and it sometimes punishes those who would presume to interfere with its harsh arithmetic.
People in general hate to see the subtraction, especially when it involves the cute and the furry. We see a stray kitten or puppy that is clearly not long for this world, and, like a missionary swooping in to save a pagan from perdition's maw, we want to snatch it back from its grim fate. But we never think that maybe Nature had a reason for wanting that animal dead. So, to teach us a lesson, Nature lets us keep the stray.
And sometimes we find out just why that animal deserved to die.
That's the lesson I learned from the misguided compassion that that led me to Pimp Kitty, the tiny tyrant who now rules the house where my apartment is.
Pimp Kitty ( I'll explain the name later) was the gift that my housemates and I won on a guilt trip. About a year and a half ago, three cats, a young gray tabby, an older gray and white cat and a black cat, were fixtures around the house where I live on College Street. They were all that remained of a group of feral cats that had been at the house for at least as long as I had been there. Each of the three cats would beg for food, but the gray and white did so the most assiduously. She was pitiful, wretched and sickly, sort of like a feline Mimi from La Boheme.
Sadly, this cat took her efforts to play on our sympathies too far by dying. I found her body lying beside the garbage cans, which was kind of convenient. But though her body was disposed of soon enough, it was too late to stop my housemates and me from reproaching ourselves.
And so bowls of cat food began to appear out on the front porch. The food bowls did their job; neither of the other two cats died conspicuously. Yet the food delighted several rats as much as it did the cats (leaving food outside is the quickest way to get rats inside), and the rats were far more enterprising. At least two took their search for the mother lode to my apartment, touching off a furious battle that I chronicled last year.
Once the rats were subdued (by that I mean poisoned or crushed by snap-traps; I hated those vermin), I insisted that the food bowls be moved about 50 yards away from the house. This new arrangement seemed to be working well, but I eventually saw the food bowls on the back porch of the house. I didn't want to tempt a renewed rodent onslaught, so I moved the food bowl inside the house and placed a water bowl beside it for good measure.
It was a terrible mistake.
Looking back, we should have recognized trouble once the black cat was no longer seen. We should have realized that the remaining cat, the gray tabby, had kicked his sibling off the gravy train so he could ride it all himself. We then should have demanded that the cat subject himself to an interview and produce three written references before we showed him any more favor. We should have noticed the little things more, the signs that the beast was a major opportunist. We should have done something to learn of his true nature.
But most of all, one of us should have put on the daddy pants where the cat was concerned. But no one did. No one took the time to explain to him that only houseguests of the lowest breeding defecate and spray in the foyer. Worse, no one took him to a vet to get fixed. (Hey, don't look at me; I can barely afford to fend for myself on what this newspaper pays me.)
And that was a true problem. As I saw it, unless we got the cat fixed, there were only two options: I could give the cat a firm lecture about sexual responsibility, or I could get him a gold collar that said "Play-ah" on it. I thought for a while that my lecture had worked ... until the sound of feline amours began to waft up to my window. It was here that I named the cat "Pimp Kitty."
Having taken the measure of his housemates and decided we were suckers, Pimp Kitty began making greater demands upon us. If he was trapped inside the house at 3 a.m. and love was beckoning outside, he whined until one of us got up and let him out. He began turning up his nose at some cat foods. Once when he heard my door open, he stormed up the stairs, meowed indignantly and flew back down the stairs to his empty food bowl and began glaring at me reproachfully. I dutifully filled his bowl and realized that though I have two college degrees and about 12 years experience in newspapers, I am still valet to a beast that can't even sign his own name.
Well, cats are snobs, and it was a bad idea to give this one any advancement; it only spurred him to begin acting like a destitute French aristocrat forced to move in with his steward. Or maybe it's just that he has an atavistic notion that he should be worshipped as cats were in Egypt. I don't know. All I know is that he is a stern taskmaster.
But there are times when he suffers me to pet him, and he purrs as though he were enjoying it. Then he springs toward his food bowl with a sort of "Yeah, yeah. That was great for me, too" dismissal.
But at least he pretends, and it looks like that will keep him here for as long as he wants.