What Color Is Her Parachute

by Marinka on January 17, 2010

I am worried about our cat Nicki.

We’ve been taking her to my parents’ dacha regularly, every long weekend, and since last year, she has caught exactly one mouse. And that one time was when we were away, so I suspect that she just ordered a mouse corpse on eBay and staged it for our benefit.

This is a problem because in our society, when you are a cat, your career options are limited. I was sure that she’d go into mousing. My parents’ geriatric cat, Sly, is a lifetime mouser.

“Not only mouser,” Mama pours salt in my wounds, “he also killed birds, snake, rabbit, squirrel, chipmunks and mountain lion. Why are you writing it down? Are you writing his biography?”
“Mountain lion?”
“Checking to see if you pay attention. Sometimes when cat owner not pay attention, cat become lazy.”
“You think her not catching a mouse is my fault, don’t you?”
“Not fault. Different priorities. You are busy with blog, computer very important. Nicki has to raise herself.”
“You‘re implying that my children are raising themselves, aren’t you? I can read between the lines, you know!”
“No, no mountain lions, but rabbit, squirrel, snake, chipmunk, all true. I think Sly has talent.”
“Any Nicki?” I am outraged. It’s one thing to insult me, but now mama’s criticism was focused on Nicki. Poor Nicki.
“Everyone has different talents,” suddenly mama is Switzerland. “Nicki’s are very hidden.”
“What? She is good at many things!”
“Yes, I know,” mama agreed.
“Like what?”
“Like what? I don’t know. Cat things. She knows how to purr, and jump on counter.”
“Purr and jump on counter? I can crack that code, you know.”
Mama purses her lips.
“Nicki is nice cat,” she tells me. “She is clean. She uses litter box.”
I am so angry, I can’t see straight. Although mama has said nothing of the kind, I know that she thinks that my cat is retarded. And that kind of language is offensive to me and every other good and moral person out there.
“Well, she won’t be using the litter box for much longer!” I tell her through clenched teeth. I meant to tell my family about it in a loving way, but I am much too mad now. I shoot out that my plan to train Nicki to be litter box free and use the toilet.
Mama is supportive.
I show her the book that I bought, How to Toilet-Train Your Cat: 21 Days to a Litter-Free Home and share my fear that the author may be insane. Because I am right there for days 1 through 9, when we are gradually raising the box a few inches off the ground each day so that it eventually is level with the toilet. But days 10-13, which can be roughly summarized as “a miracle happens and viola! Your cat is using the toilet. And playing the flute!” are more of a puzzler to me.
“Sane, insane, what difference? It’s good project for you.”
“What does that mean, good project for me?”
“Keep mind occupied, keep Nicki happy.”
“That makes no sense.”
“I am giving you the encouragement. Like you give to Nicki.”
“Actually, the book says that you shouldn’t overpraise cats. They need to feel like they have to work for it.”
Mama nods. “I will not overpraise you, either.”
But I can tell that she’s beaming with pride.
And I’m sure that using the toilet is where Nicki’s talent is. That or macrame.

One year ago ...

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

January 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

hmmm. I am unsure how to comment. I could fake support but I’m scared it’ll come out patronizing and you’ll go postal on me too. Or I can tell you that I think trying to toilet train a cat is just a shade off insane, and then you’d probably write me off as friend because I am so bitchy and unsupportive.

So let’s switch to a neutral topic: are those elevator rides getting any better? Shorter? Or have you been taking the stairs?


Marinka January 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

It’s true. You have to navigate a virtual tightrope when commenting here. Fortunately, I love small talk about the weather, so that’s always a safe bet.


January 17, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Maybe your cat is vegan and peace loving. Is your mom that unsupportive of alternative life styles? I think if we’re always forcing our view of what’s “normal” no cat can ever live up to those expectations. Instead of viewing poor Nikki as handicapped when it comes to mousing, why not turn that upside down and look at her as handi-capable when it comes to the mousing game? It’s your narrow mindedness that is holding Nikki back from being a fully actualized cat. Take responsibility.


Marinka January 17, 2010 at 5:25 pm

What the? Nicki is an East Coast cat. We don’t do that vegan crap.


January 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Since my cat just left a little present on my bedspread last night, I think I’m the last one to comment on any toilet-training issues. Also, the last time she chased a mouse (which was long ago during my lovely year of living in a mouse-infested firetrap in what was perhaps one step up from a ghetto) she chased it directly into my bed.

Nikki sounds eminently sensible to me. After all, why chase a mouse when one’s humans will provide much tastier tidbits in due time?


traci January 17, 2010 at 3:45 pm

not over praising is the kitten variety of Montessori. What are you doing, Marinka?! If you are not careful someone might call dyfus. For the kitten variety, of course.


Kate Coveny Hood
January 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Best post title ever. I’m having flashbacks of my first post-college year. If only it was as easy as getting a cat to start using the toilet…..


Maureen@IslandRoar January 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm

You and Mama need to take this act on the road. With Nicki of course.
Once he can use the toilet…


anna see January 17, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Could Nicki show me how to paste multiple pictures in a blog post? Thanks, Nicki.


mazie January 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm

So, how’s the weather in your neck of the woods?


January 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm

The weather here is very cold and snowy.


abdpbt January 17, 2010 at 8:51 pm

It sounds like Nicki is just part of the landed gentry, and her education was too gentlemanly to lead to any kind of practical use. She’s not to be expected to do anything other than lie about all day and complain about malaise, it’s her birthright. I don’t see any problem here.


Jonathan January 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I can’t wait until you have guests waiting to use the bathroom and they see Nicki stroll out with her newspaper!


Heather (qtberryhead) January 17, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I just felt compelled to yell at my animals to get off of their fuzzy butts and live up to their potential…but they never take me seriously when I’m laughing.


jessica January 18, 2010 at 1:41 am

remind me, if I ever come over to bring a “go cup” with me.


Beth January 18, 2010 at 9:14 am

Is there anything in that book about teaching dogs to use the toilet? No?

On a serious note, I am truly afraid my sweet dog has limited intellectual abilities. At least she is beautiful.


SoccerMom January 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm

My big question is, where are you getting the info to teach/train your cat to use the toilet? Is it from a book? Is it from some on- line thing? Are you consulting with the cat Whisperer? Do you think it will really work? I have this dog, well lets just say it needs help. Any helpful animal advice would do. thanks


January 18, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I thought about teaching my smart cat but he weighed 17 lbs. The temporary cat litter holder that went on the toliet seat said no more than 12 lbs. No way do I want a pissed off cat (if the cat falls in the toliet because the fake seat couldn’t take his weight) that needs to pee. That sounds like trouble!


JulieBouf January 18, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I’m thinking you should create a fake blog written by your baby brother so that your mom can focus her worried attention on him….but as I write this I am realizing that if she thought HE had a blog all of her friends would probably soon know about it and would become more of a darling than he is because he’s a god. Writing a blog.

Or maybe once Nicki’s toilet trained you can just be sure to politely inquire if the dog is yet.


JulieBouf January 18, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Oh my god what did I just write?!?! I meant to say more of a darling because he’s a DOG.


Gretchen January 18, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I’ve had cats all my life, and only one true mouser, my childhood calico, Tatta (pronounced TA-ta, not ta-TA. Important distinction. I named her myself. I was very young.). She was a serious tracker and killer of a myriad of small creatures – mice, birds, lizards. Once a tarantula. Which she would deposit dutifully on our front step, like an offering to the gods that fed her. Once my mother walked out the front door barefooted and…well, it wasn’t a pretty picture.


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