Charlie’s bad day

What? Me unhappy? photo: john zipperer

Charlie is usually a very happy cat. He thinks he’s the greatest creature on the planet, and as long as the food keeps coming, he has comfy places to sleep, and we treat him well, he’s living a dog’s life.

So on a day-by-day basis, Charlie is a sweet and fun cat. That’s one of the reasons he was popular during his time at the SPCA. He’s a gorgeous, smart, playful cat whose personality is so evident shining through his big green eyes and echoed in his frequent and very loud purring.

It takes a lot to make him lose his composure. But the time he got the most upset, the angriest, the most discombobulated, it was almost as upsetting to us as it was to him.

In the apartment where we lived for the first eight years that we had Charlie, he had lots of space in which to run around and lounge around, and there were many windows through which he could watch city life happen. But that old building had a big drawback: It was terrible about keeping out fleas. We had to give Charlie monthly doses of flea killer, which he hated every time. The unfairness of it is that Charlie is a totally indoor cat; he never goes outside, so he wasn’t picking up those fleas through any effort of his own.

We hated giving the flea medicine to him, and we tried to use the least harsh, most natural ones out there, but they simply failed to solve the problem. Charlie is a semi-long-haired cat, and he’s a big Maine Coon; those fleas were in seventh heaven when they found themselves luxuriating in flea valhalla on his body. So we went with the stronger flea killer, which involved dabbing it on the back of his neck where he couldn’t get to it. He always hated it; like most cats, he’s a “waterphobe” who will go running out of a room loudly complaining if you accidentally let a couple drops of water fall on his head. So naturally he wasn’t going to be happy about us holding him down, spreading apart his fur, and applying a cool liquid to his neck.

He would usually complain and be over it within a minute or so. But on what I think of as Charlie’s worst day, it was only the latest of a series of things that pressed every one of his buttons. It was the only day he ever looked really, really angry.

Our downstairs landlord at the time was renovating her flat, so there was noise all day long, with strangers coming into the building and disrupting Charlie’s daytime beauty sleep, and it culminated in her staining her new floors with something that emitted odors that could be smelled up in our unit. The smell was so strong, it made Charlie stop grooming himself effectively.

And then the fleas came back.

So we went into our well-practiced action plan of one of us holding him down (perhaps more than most cats, Charlie hates to be held down) while the other dabbed on the flea medicine. But instead of shaking off the whole experience within a minute or two as the flea medicine dried and was absorbed, Charlie zoomed out of the room and complained. I followed him into the dining room, and saw him half turned around, looking back at me with a face that was both angry and that conveyed a shocked feeling of betrayal. You did this!

I felt very sorry for the little guy at that moment. I also realized that for him, this was pretty much the culmination of the worst day possible: He was kept awake by noise from the flat downstairs, whenever he did get some silence he was kept awake scratching at the damn fleas, and then he was held down and had liquid put on his neck.

Like every soft-hearted cat person, I felt sorry for this little monster who was lucky enough that in a world of wars and murders and torture and mass killings, the worst thing in the world that he would have to endure was a bit of further discomfort in a day of disturbed sleep.

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