When I tell the story of the whisperer, and I tell it often because it’s not something you can suppress, I first explain that we had no choice. My roommate and I are not ninny, crazy cat ladies. We were faced with an impossible situation that sadly happened because of love. Sina, my roommate, fell in love with an abandoned six year old cat he named Amelia. Her previous owner left Amelia at the vet: she couldn’t pay for her bill, so she told the vet to euthanize her.
We did some research about how to introduce Amelia to my cat, Francis (our cats are named Amelia and Francis. It’s as white as it gets), but nothing really prepared us for the fights. To watch your precious baby turn into a killer, shaking your roommate’s cat by the neck, was deeply traumatizing. Blood was drawn, and for a month Amelia lived sequestered in Sina’s room. That was when we heard about the whisperer, Wilbur Universe. That’s not his real name but it’s close enough. He has his own Animal Planet show. Were we going to be on TV? Before he came over, I cleaned the toilet and bathroom sink, even though Wilbur’s assistant specifically told us not to clean and alert the cats that something unusual was about to happen. Although cleaning alone is unusual.
I had been expecting Robert Redford the horse whisperer, but Wilbur is a different species. He is a cross between Mr. Clean and a heavily tattooed Cherry Poppin’ Daddy. He has two sleeves of cat tattoos. One arm has sweet, good cats on it. The other has snarling, bad kitties. He has facial hair groomed to resemble the genie in Aladdin. His ears are pierced with enormous hoop earrings. He should be called the cat genie. He also carried a guitar case adorned with a painting of a giant cat eye. Throughout our session I braced myself for a musical performance. If he was going to serenade the cats, I wasn’t going to be able to keep a straight face, and I was on my best behavior.
I really wanted to prove that we are good cat parents. Inevitably the cat therapy session becomes about the humans. I should have known. I’ve seen Cesar Millan. First to my horror, I was told I was feeding my cat improperly. Dry food is hard for them to digest and filled with fattening grain. Wet food is best. Wet food is also disgusting, and I couldn’t disguise my dislike of this new plan. But Wilbur explained I had no choice. In order to unite our cat children, we would have to feed them on either side of a closed door, so they could associate yummy food with each other. No cat will come when you call for dry food. It has to be alluring wet food. Wet cat food has possibly ruined my love of tuna for good. Essentially a can of tuna and cat food are indistinguishable.
Sina told Wilbur about Amelia’s traumatic past, and we waited for his verdict. Could we make this work? He explained that we didn’t have two killers who hated each other. We just have very different cat energies to manage. Francis sees Amelia as a giant furry toy that he wants to charge and taunt. Amelia wants him to fuck off, so she can smoke and read romance novels. Amelia didn’t have her tubes tied until late in her life which affects her personality. She’s a saucy flirt and very independent. Wilbur gave us herbal essences to treat both cats. Amelia got a de-stressor and Francis got a sedative. Both tinctures include reiki energy as ingredients.
Before we feed the cats together, I have to exhaust Francis. My goal is to make him pant. I’d never seen a cat pant before except maybe on nature channels, but I didn’t want to put up anymore fights after the wet food debacle, so I pretended like that would be no problem. Would I have to build him a gym?
For two months now, every morning and every night, I’ve been getting up and trying to work my cat out. I start with the laser pointer, darting it around my living room. Sometimes I’ll stay in bed and point the laser about my room while I’m half asleep. Frank doesn’t approve of this, and he responds by walking on my face. I’ve gone through two laser pointers. The batteries don’t last long. Then we play bird. I have a wand with fluttery feathers that when I move quickly flutter like wings. I do a ribbon dance of sorts for him. We’ve gone through two bird wands.
Lately, Francis seems bored with the routine, and I find myself developing narratives about dying birds and their fight for life, trying to make it more realistic for him. Sina sometimes says he hears me making bird calls, but I deny that. After Frank and I work out, Sina props the door of his room open and we feed the cats on either side of it. Sina and I used to talk about celebrities and our fun weekend plans, but now all we talk about is when and how we’ll do the feeding. We have to coordinate our schedules. Then of course, Francis, who resembles a velociraptor more and more, manages to push the door open and “visit” Amelia.
After the second month of feedings, we saw a marked improvement in their behavior when they would “visit.” Francis would listen to her growls and stand down. It also helped that at this point we were no longer screaming or crying when they interacted. I was practically selling tickets to their inevitable fight, which happened last night.
We couldn’t wait anymore. The whisperer won’t give us anymore advice unless we book another expensive session. So I put Francis in his harness (sometimes we go on walks), and as a family, we gathered in the living room. When they stared at each other too intensely, we would distract them with lasers, wands and various cooing sounds. Sina took to throwing clumps of dehydrated tuna. They were not fooled. Actually, Francis is such a kitten that I was able to distract him, and she started to work up some courage and approach him. Then Frank somehow got out of his harness! I think I yelled, “Sina, hold me.” He didn’t, but together we watched our babies fight.
Amelia was so frightened she shat herself, but it proved to be a helpful defense mechanism because Francis backed off. I thought maybe things were over, and Amelia had won. I’d had Frank’s nails trimmed (a mani pedi), so he couldn’t really hurt her, but we kept her tallons sharp so she could teach him a lesson. He has a big scratch across his wittle white nose, and I found one of her nails stuck in his fur. Francis still hasn’t learned his boundaries, and neither have we. They’ve invaded every part of life. I anticipate many more cat fights, and we’ll be sure to get a better video of the next one.