Imposter’s syndrome for cats

You may remember the miracle I relayed to you a few months ago, in which our long-lost Siamese cat was found across town, subsequently trapped, and returned to us to my elation and my husband’s…let’s call it optimistic skepticism. Well, here’s an update for you: I’m 87% sure we got the wrong cat. I’m not ready to talk about it, but I can no longer deny the comedic farce that has devolved from this entire debacle.

But before we get into this, can I just point out that shit like this only happens to me? I’m serious. Years ago, I discovered to my endless horror that my new roommate had used my toothbrush mere days after I moved into his apartment in Madrid. This wasn’t a boyfriend mind you- just a regular ol’ platonic roommate who was essentially still a stranger to me. He laughed it off when I confronted him about it, saying something like “Oh Leslie, you Americans are so uptight about things like universally-accepted hygienic practices. I guess I might’ve used your toothbrush some morning when I couldn’t find mine. What’s the big deal? Have some more sangria, my little neurotic amiga!” Later, as I recounted the event to my friend over a pay phone in the Plaza Mayor, she confirmed my suspicions: “Girl, this stuff only happens to you.” 

Anyway, back to the cat I kidnapped.

I guess my suspicions first arose when days passed after our joyful reunion and “Elba,” (goddammit, I have to use quotation marks now), refused to come out from behind the couch. “No matter,” I cheerfully reassured my family. “She’s been through a lot! The poor thing is probably traumatized and doesn’t even remember what it’s like to be safe and warm and fed. Let’s just give her some time and she’ll be back to her old self soon. Promise.” I was like a supremely unqualified Cesar Millan, speaking knowledgeably about a subject with which I had no experience.

Days passed. Then weeks. A month. At some point, “Elba” managed to sneak outside through the garage door, in a heroic escape from her captors that should probably be made into an inspirational made-for-TV movie for cats. “That’s just fine,” I grumbled to myself. “If that’s what she wants then just let her leave. Sheesh. That’s gratitude for ya.” Truthfully though, I was actually relieved, given that “Elba” had taken to peeing all over the house when we were asleep. I see now that this was a call for help. I was just counting my blessings at no longer having to invest in mass quantities of industrial strength pet stain remover when she showed up at the back door, meowing for food. Turns out cat food still tastes like cat food, even if it comes from the hands of your oppressors.

Really though, we were all pretty happy with this arrangement. The kids still got to see their fake cat, I didn’t have to clean up cat pee anymore, and the impostor cat got to live in the state to which she had become accustomed, only now with more freedom. The only loser in this outcome was the real Elba, who by now has probably developed a serious complex around being replaceable and/or indistinguishable from other cats roughly matching her description.That’s about the time “Elba” started bringing along another cat with her at meal times.

I don’t have an actual picture of the new sidekick, but here’s all you need to know about him: We’ve dubbed him “Chubby Kitty,” he is Tony Soprano in cat form, and he has formed a kitty gang with Schm-elba, (I’m just gonna call her Schm-elba now, alright?). Chubby Kitty and Schm-elba freely enjoy our patio furniture, bully our real cats out of their food and wreak general havoc on a daily basis. Last week they even recruited a possum to assist them in their roguery, which, given our history with trapping Schm-elba, was just a little too on the nose. 

This afternoon, my oldest daughter- the one who got us into this whole mess in the first place by relentlessly begging for a kitten, researching and saving for over a year until we finally gave in- came home from school saying her friend was giving away a kitten and could we please have it. She did this without the slightest trace of irony or hesitation, which was infuriating but also kind of admirable when you think about it.

“No, babe. Three cats are enough,” I said.

“But Elba isn’t really…”

“Okay, four cats, a fifth one that’s apparently still at large somewhere, and a rogue possum are enough.” 

We pick up Rocky next week.

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