Around the bend: Cat rescuers can’t take the heat

“Mrowwwwrrrr. Mmmrowwwrr. MMROWWWWWRRR.”
Recognize that sound? It’s sort of a cross between a baby crying, a siren going off, and the demons of hell rising up in rebellion and depriving you of a good night’s sleep.
Picture it on an endless loop, hitting a crescendo every half-hour or so, for a couple of weeks without end. It’s the sound, as we found out not long ago, of a young female cat in heat.
I know: We brought it on ourselves.
It all started one cold Saturday night a couple of months ago. We were leaving our friends’ house when a petite, smoke-colored stray cat emerged from under our car, mewing piteously.
“You wouldn’t let me stay outside in this weather, would you?” she cried. “I bet if I keep up this piteous mewing long enough you’ll take me home, in spite of your better judgment.”
She had us pegged.
My husband, Mark, scooped up all six pounds of her and tucked her in his coat and we drove home, in direct contradiction of our self-imposed no-new-pets rule. Within a few days, we had named her Lily, taken her to the vet and scheduled the all-important spaying procedure.
Lily is a little sweetheart of a cat, but Milo, our semi-feral former barn cat turned house tyrant, expressed outrage at her arrival. He’s a hulking beast of a feline with a strong jaw, sharp claws and violent mood swings. I won’t say he’s downright dangerous, but when it’s time for his well-cat visit, the vet shoots him from a helicopter with a tranquilizer gun.
Milo made it his mission to turn Lily into a cat-sized clutch purse. Consequently, she spent her first week with us cowering in our daughter’s bedroom, occasionally mentioning that living outside in the dead of winter hadn’t really been that bad after all and maybe if we could just drop her off in a snow bank, far from Milo, that would be swell. Milo agreed.
We had started to accept that the two would never be able to live together under the same roof when everything changed.
One day Lily started yowling — and didn’t stop. She emerged from the bedroom without fear, rubbing sensuously against the furniture, writhing around on the floor in an unladylike fashion and making amorous advances toward my wool slippers. “Mrowwwwr.”
We found ourselves quickly going mad from the constant aural bombardment, a tactic sometimes used in the military to disorient the enemy. It jangled our nerves and disrupted our sleep. By the third day, we agreed to sign a war crimes confession, if only Lily would shut up for a few hours so we could rest.
Milo, on the other hand, found the new Lily positively intoxicating. He stopped trying to shred her like a head of cabbage and instead started winking at her when she sashayed by.
“But you’re fixed,” we said.
“I may be fixed,” he said, “but I’m not dead.”
From then on, he gave Lily full run of the house. He followed her around, his eyes dilated, his nostrils flared. He cheered and hooted every time she gyrated around on the bathmat, though he didn’t know why. While we counted down the days to her surgery, Lily and Milo pursued a relationship built purely on unrequited lust.
Finally, the day of her spaying arrived — an event we celebrated by ceremonially burning our earplugs. Lily has since quieted down and the cats have established a healthy, purely platonic rapport. They wrestle and play together for hours at a time.
Unfortunately, it’s mostly the hours between midnight and 3 a.m., the same hours Lily used to work hardest on her tortured-baby-seal impression.
The new soundtrack goes “Badumpadumpadump,” over and over, as the cats repeatedly chase each other up the stairs, thunder down the hall, sprint across our bed, race back through the hall and pound down the stairs, scattering throw rugs and bedside lamps in their wake.
Mark and I ask sometimes ask ourselves, in the pre-dawn hours, why we keep getting ourselves into these situations. But we know the answer: There is nothing like the feeling of rescuing a helpless animal in need of a home.
Nothing, except maybe the feeling of getting a good night’s sleep. Or so I hear.

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