Photographs by Mark Lungariello.
Surely, the cat is thinking of killing me. It might not be a crime of passion exactly but it would be a passionate crime — because frankly the cat is obsessed.
People with pets love to talk about their pets to other people who also love to talk about their pets. They also talk about their pets to other people who don’t have pets, don’t love pets and don’t want to hear about pets in general, thank you very much.
This column shouldn’t be looked at in the same light as those Instagram photos of catnaps taken by cat owners — not that I haven’t done that, mind you. No, this column shouldn’t be taken lightly, because chances are if I turn up dead, my killer was Ella the cat.
As I type this, her hulking mass is nestled half on my lap and half on my laptop, in a yoga-like stretch/pose optimized for maximum disruption of whatever you’re doing.
She follows me wherever I go, scratching my knees while she does that strange kneading motion cats do. She sits on my forehead or chest while I sleep and when I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes I catch her staring at me from across the room. Sometimes she is at the foot of the bed purring. Other times, she stares blankly, like a kitty Norman Bates, from inside the closet.
I think she is jealous of me and, more specifically, my relationship with her mistress — and my wife — Julie. I think she may take me out in one of those psychopathic “If I can’t have her, you can’t either” murder plots.
I can picture my worst fears in my head now, in monochrome, like an old feline film noir: Flashbulbs go off in the kitchen as some uniformed beat cops chew gum, scribble on notepads and look around my apartment.
One says to the other, in a thick Brooklyn accent, “Damn shame, McCluskey, looks like another guy who stood too close to the microwave while cooking popcorn.”
The other replies, “Only in this city, kid, only in this city.”
But then, some slick detective in a trench coat nearby notices they are standing in the middle of a crime scene. The first giveaway is the blonde-and-white cat hair everywhere — on the victim’s clothes, on the kitchen counter where the cat is not allowed (when the humans are home), on the victim’s socks and on the floor, as if the tiles have their own fur.
On close examination, they’ll even find a cat hair somehow stuck in the victim’s eyebrow. How did it get there, they’ll wonder, the same way the victim used to wonder how cat hair ended up in the backseat of his car — which Ella never once rode in.
The second giveaway is in the corner — an empty bag of Temptations cat treats. Flavor — Tantalizing Turkey.
“Boys,” the detective says. “This was no accident.” The cops will then realize what the empty bag means — some cat with a raging Temptations addiction was driven over the edge. That’s when this column will come in handy.
Calling those treats Temptations, by the way, is a bit of an underestimate of their desirability to cats. It was her love of those treats that let me know she could lose it at any moment.
Ella can be woken from a deep sleep at the sound of the drawer opening, but she doesn’t get up from my lap until she is sure it is that particular type of treat being taken out of the drawer. She then leaps from a lying-down position to 3 feet in the air.
It’s not comfortable for the person the cat is sleeping on to be used as a diving board, especially when the cat is Ella’s size. She is so large that rumor has it she was scouted by both World Wrestling Entertainment and the New York Knicks. (Frankly, she’d be a better option than some recent roster members).
The second tell-tail sign (get it, she’s a cat and has a tail?… ahem) she was after me was that Ella was actually Julie’s cat. At some point, Ella turned on Julie though. She no longer cares if Julie gives her attention or pets her unless I’m otherwise occupied or absent. Julie isn’t offended though. In typical cat lady fashion, she says things like, “I am just happy that Ella is happy.” Or, “I’m glad I married you so that the cat can have a companion into her twilight years.”
Despite Julie’s support, Ella still manages to creep us out at every possible turn. One recent morning, she was nowhere to be found and as I turned from looking out the living room window, I spotted her sitting atop the refrigerator, silently staring back at me. Another time, I found her resting snugly in a partially open drawer in the bedroom that I had forgotten to close all the way. (Don’t tell Julie about that.)
Some nights, I hear the cat running back and forth in the kitchen. The few times I’ve sat up in bed and looked out into the hall, I find her just standing there staring back with glowing eyes. Last night, I woke to complete darkness. I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear the purring near my head. I closed my eyes tightly and pretended I didn’t know she was there.
If she’s convicted, I recommend the sentencing be at least a few hours in the cat carrier. She hates it in there. The final scene in the noir film just popped into my head and it isn’t pretty — Julie, the femme fatale, convinces the judge to let Ella go free. “They are all we really have in this world,” Julie will say.
Also feel free to use this column in the trial of the accomplice.
Follow Mark on Twitter: @marklungariello.