Cattywumpus -- or is it spelled catywumpus? -- is the name my cat had when we adopted him from the local dumb friend's league. I thought it was merely a nonsense word, but I have since learned that while it is considered a non-word (mainly by omission from just about any dictionary), it has acquired a meaning over time. Perhaps it's time Webster added the word to its repertoire. From what I've learned the non-word is supposed to mean "twisted" or "off kilter," or even "weird." Being that the first time I ever heard it was when I got my cat, I will forever associate the word with him. He is a bit "off kilter," you might say...he's extremely talkative, but he won't meow if you tell him to. He seems to communicate on a two way level, even ensuing in the occasional argument with me. When I first got him, he begged and pleaded for human food from the refrigerator, balking at the dry cat food I gave him. I began to immediately sympathize with him and felt thoughts of "Tuna" spontaneously appear in my head. Sometimes I think he's telepathic, or maybe I'm just really empathetic. In either event I didn't have any tuna and gave him some rotisserie chicken, which he wolfed down voraciously. I make him eat the dry food during the day because he has plaque issues...I'd brush his teeth, but he's pretty damn unwilling to have his mouth involuntarily opened.

When we got him, he was already declawed. This was one factor in choosing him; my girlfriend and I spent about a month's salary each to buy our couch, our most prized and useful possession. Declawing a cat is cruel, and I'd never do it myself, but I have no qualms about adopting a cat upon which the deed has already been done. When we got him we were informed that he was a runaway who had been in the shelter for a couple months. I wondered why no one came to find him; why would you not search long and hard for such an affectionate cat, especially after having spent money to rip his claws out? We chose him because he was outrageously mellow and affectionate. Every other cat practically ignored us and hissed at or ran away from the caged kittens, who, due to overcrowding, were forced to occupy the "get to know your future pet" room. He was completely oblivious to their existence; he even walked by their cage and had his fur snagged by a particularily rambunctious kitten's outstretched paw, and he thought nothing of it.

We were told that declawed cats should never be let outside on their own, which was fine with us because we live in an apartment and I dreadfully fear losing a cat to one of the irresponsible idiot tenants in the parking lot. The exact quote of the shelter guy was "Even a squirrel could take him out." We were also told that declawed cats generally have behavioral problems, particularily biting issues, because they are essentially emasculated and have no other way of asserting their authority. They gave us some basics on training him not to bite, but months later he still likes to attack an unsuspecting hand whenever possible. He's incredibly affectionate and personable, but he always seems to reach a point where he has the irresistible urge to bite. Oh well, I'd rather be bitten than scratched with long, vicious claws that just spent two minutes rummaging around in a litter box.

I've always loved cats, and he is no exception. When I come home at night, he's in the window looking right at me as I park my car hundreds of feet away in the lot. If my girlfriend is home at the time, she actually notices that he goes to wait at the window just shortly before I'm even there yet. He immediately begins to cry for attention and scurries off into the bedroom, because his favorite thing to do is sleep next to us while we sleep. Unfortunately I'm not ready for bed yet at 6:45pm, so he must settle for a petting session instead. He's such a lovable bastard, but inevitably will make a bite attempt, especially if you wave a hand in front of his face. My girlfriend has trained him to not bite her (as much), but I think that aggression-repression just makes him more likely to bite me instead. He still digs human food more than anything else, particularily Chunk Light Tuna. Albacore isn't really his thing. I feel really bad making him eat dry food anymore, simply because food seems to be his greatest pleasure in life. He just hates the dry stuff, and generally it contains rendering (see rendering!@#) by-products that include other hapless cats and dogs, leading me to despise it myself. He does like to eat newspaper and cardboard box corners, or at least insists on chewing on them.

The funniest yet saddest thing about him is how he must entertain himself. Sometimes I think we should get another cat, but the apartment is so damned small... I let him outside for brief periods, but can't let him wander on his own. I have bought him countless cat toys, but he has more fun batting a pellet of dry food across the floor than he does playing with one of the fake mice he owns. Every once in awhile he will just rile himself up and tear through the living room just to get some exercise. He can willfully excite himself and puff up like a cornered, vicious tiger, for no reason but to have fun. He makes the weirdest gutteral howls and growls when he's riled up like that, and he really enjoys playing the part of the vicious attack-cat. My girlfriend constantly harps on me not to encourage his biting, but I can't help but let him be a cat. Every cat with claws I've ever owned would scratch me from time to time, and like I said, I'd rather be bitten than scratched, anyway. He's had a few bad moments with my girlfriend where he outright attacks her out of the blue. If she raises a hand to swat him away, he raises his paw in self-defense. It's kind of hilarious... but she doesn't think it's funny.

So maybe that's why they called him Cattywumpus. He's weird, extremely affectionate yet vicious and violent in the blink of an eye. Or maybe it just sounded cute, and had the word "cat" in it. I wonder if he ever bit the animal shelter people. I wonder what his story is, anyway. Perhaps after being declawed he simply ran away in rage. Perhaps he was always vicious and when he still exhibited this side after having had his claws removed, his owners disowned him and kicked him out. Or maybe he was nice and friendly but tore up their furniture, so they declawed him and created a monster with an insatiable urge to wage war on his oppressors. Despite his biting habits, he is otherwise pretty civilized. He has not destroyed a single thing in our house. Once, we accidentally locked him in the bedroom for hours, forcing him to relieve himself -- he pooped on an ad-leaflet and actually turned the page to cover up his neatly packaged mess. If we don't clean his catbox to his satisfaction, he'll use the bathtub, which is inconvenient for us, but at least it's not the couch. And he really hates having cat litter in his paws, so we lined his cat box with corduroy. Now he spends more time rubbing his paws on the lining to clean his paws than he does doing the deed. If the cat litter accumulates and we fail to sweep in due time, he will sweep it himself with his paws. I think he is closer to human than many humans.

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