My cat Milo is a street thug. Well, he isn’t really my cat anymore. Or maybe he never was. Okay, let me go back a bit and explain.
I had the best cat ever in the history of earth for sixteen years. His name was Pooky and he was a cross between a Persian and a Himalayan. So he had Himalayan markings with that beautiful Persian fur, but without his nose being quite so mashed in.
He was the once-in-a-lifetime kitty, the cat no other cat will ever compare to. He went with me to college. He went with me when I got married. He had the most peaceful, Buddha-like energy. He talked to me in this funny little voice that sounded nothing like a cat, but more like a little chirping bird. He hung out sleeping about 23 hours a day, even when he was little, and hunted the smallest bug or ant in the house, and drooled when I patted him. He let me hug him, kiss him and even patiently let me make him dance (albeit with a totally disgusted look on his face). To make it even better, although he was completely docile with me, he hated everyone else, which made him all that more endearing in my mind.
When he died I didn’t want to get a new cat. But then after a couple of years I started missing having a pet in the house. It was time. My then-husband saw an adoption service set up at a pet store and called me. “I think I’ve found your new cat,” he said. I’d never adopted a kitty before; we always got our cats from a neighborhood litter or an ad in the newspaper. But I went down to the adoption fair and there in this cage was this adorable white puffball with orange-tipped ears and tail. He was a Flame Point Himalayan, so he was similar to Pooky, but different enough. He was all dirty (Pooky never was really good at cleaning himself), and lying there in his food bowl with no energy at all. Ah, I thought, the Buddha-like energy I’ve been looking for in another cat. I picked him up and took him home.
As it turns out, Milo did not have Buddha-like energy. He was lethargic because he was sick, and cute and little because he was starving. I had to take him to get antibiotics almost immediately. Once he started feeling better, he started running around like a madman. And once I started feeding him, he grew to enormous proportions. He also grew into a bully.
We got him what turned out to be not long before my husband decided to move out and file for a divorce, but we had him just long enough for him to pick up my husband’s bad attitudes towards me. The cat hated me! He’d look at me and hiss. If anyone else patted him, great. If I tried to, he’d make the most annoying blood curdling cries and haul off and bite me. Oh, and the biting, yeah. You know how some cats pretend to bite you or give you a little nip as a warning? Not this guy! He’d bite and draw blood. And he was always using his claws. He clawed my carpet to pieces and he snagged almost every sweater I owned. I started wondering if he was too stupid to know how to retract his claws. The worst thing was thing was his annoying, whining voice though. He’d make this sound like you were torturing him. And he was an alpha male in the worst way. He thought he was king of the universe. When he wanted to go outside, he’d yell at you, but you had to follow behind him to the front door. If you walked in front of him, it offended his sense of importance and he’d swat your leg, hard, with his claws out, of course.
I have always had indoor cats as an adult. We had outdoor cats when I was little and I had some pretty awful experiences with them being run over or killed by dogs. So as an adult, my cats always have been indoors. Not Milo. He was definitely not made for the inside. He’d sit in the window for hours staring out, obviously longing to kill birds and roll in the dirt. I’d let him go out, but wanted him in at night and while I was at work so he’d be safe. Finally, one day when he was being particularly hateful to me he jumped up on my bed, tromped around a bit, looked right at me—made sure I was paying attention—and peed all over my bedspread! Oh, he knew what he was doing. The bedspread went in the garbage and he got thrown out the front door permanently. No more letting him in, letting him out, letting him sleep on the soft, comfy chair in the basement at night. The thing was, he had no idea I was punishing him. He thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened. He was in kitty Disneyland! He had several long summer months and glorious fall days, filled with prowling and carousing and fighting. I remember the first time it snowed. He sat on the windowsill outside my bedroom and just yowled. I opened the window, yelled out, “You should have thought of that when you peed on my bed, shouldn’t you!” and slammed the window shut. Only later did I realize how weird that must have sounded to my neighbors.
Milo is a man’s cat. When my husband was around he used to crawl up on his shoulders and ride around while he did yard work outside. I think he really liked the view. And Milo loves my brother. When my brother comes over, Milo throws himself to the ground at his feet and rolls around on his back in glee. When I come home, he looks at me and then runs the other way.
Milo is definitely the alpha cat in the neighborhood. Before him, there was this huge black cat across the street that was kind of the king of the neighborhood. He was kind of a mean cat, too, sleek with short black hair and all muscly. He’d keep the other cats in line and you got the sense he’d been ruling that turf for eight years or more. Here comes little Q-Tip fluff ball and just beats the crap out of him and any cat that comes within blocks. All of a sudden there are roaring, yowling, tear-up cat fights at night all the time. “Great,” I thought. “This is great. So much for my little Buddha-energy kitty.”
When I moved to Philadelphia to work for Quirk, I obviously didn’t bring Milo. He is an outdoor cat. He is king of that Utah Sugarhouse neighborhood after all. And he’s a man’s cat. My cousin, Adam, who’s renting my house is taking care of him. And guess what? He really likes Adam. He comes running when he sees Adam’s car and does that roll around on his back on the ground looking cute thing. And Adam spoils him. He gives him kitty treats and buys him toys. He lets him be inside whenever he wants and outside whenever he wants. Milo’s still a jerk sometimes, though, even to Adam. The other day Adam patted him and he hauled off and bit him. “Milo’s a thug,” Adam says, and shrugs.
So my experience with adopted kitties? If you want a sweet, good tempered fluffy cat, go with a kitten from your neighborhood litter, one where you can trace his pedigree a bit, where he has family and a social standing to live up to. If you want a street-smart, alpha male who will rule the neighborhood, a smart aleck who will pee on your bed and bite you if you look at him wrong, try adopting one. Keep him healthy and feed him a lot and he won’t just take over the neighborhood—he might take over the world.