Besides my job at The Republic, I also work part time as a servant to a gray cat named Sheldon, though he prefers to be addressed as “Your Highness.” I earn no wages because His Highness has no money to pay me, because he has no job.
He can’t drive, and besides, his job skills don’t really translate well in today’s market.
Like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Sheldon has always relied on the kindness of strangers. I’m his stranger.
Though unemployed, he keeps busy sleeping 12 to 16 hours a day, sharpening his claws on the living room chair, terrorizing his “sister” Stella (the Princess) and looking out windows, always preferring the one window in the house with the blinds pulled down.
Whenever Sheldon can’t think of anything else to do, he gives himself a bath. Judging from my observations, he can’t think of anything else to do anywhere from 15 to 30 times a day.
“He’s the cleanest cat I’ve ever seen,” my wife, Brenda, told me one evening while watching him take yet another bath.
“No, he’s not,” I replied. “He’s always covered with cat saliva.”
When we adopted Sheldon two years ago, he came in the house, looked around and nodded, as if to say “It’s not the palace I deserve, but this will do nicely.” From that moment on His Highness has been in charge, and I have been his court jester.
Besides amusing him, my duties include keeping his food and water bowls full, his litter box clean and ensuring he has access to a variety of window views. I am not allowed to hold him or, God forbid, try to cuddle him. That makes His Highness angry and requires him to take a 45-minute bath, severely cutting into his chair-scratching time.
Granted, I provide all the same services for Stella. And just like her brother, the Princess has yet to offer so much as a “thank you for keeping me alive.” I think she’s still angry with us for bringing Sheldon into the house, thereby ruining her life.
We receive no appreciation for our efforts. They have no interest in any of the cat toys we’ve bought them. If I roll a ball across the floor, they will sit there and watch it roll by, then look at me as if to say, “You dropped your ball. I’m going to take a nap now.”
A few months ago Sheldon began taking naps in a small, kitten-sized bed we bought when we adopted Stella (she would never have anything to do with it). It’s way too small for him, but he somehow crams his long body in it.
Being a good servant, I sought to increase his comfort (and Stella’s) by buying two nice, soft, bigger beds. I brought them home, sat them on the floor, picked up Sheldon and placed him in his new bed.
Or tried. Judging from his reaction, he was having a catnip flashback and saw not a bed, but a large vat of boiling oil. He spread all four legs and commenced to flail, as if his feet touched the nice, soft lining of the bed (or boiling oil), he would perish.
Stella’s reaction was less hallucinogenic, but she too refused to even sit in the bed.
So we decided to leave the beds out, sure that they would eventually recognize their value. Wrong. They won’t go near them. We tried putting a bed under a coffee table, blocking one of their normal routes. They wouldn’t even walk through, opting to jump over it rather than touch it.
So where do His Highness and the Princess get their 12 to 16 hours of beauty sleep a day? The too-small cat bed, the couch, the back of the couch, the chair that matches the couch, my chair, the couch in the basement, any sunny spot on the floor, our bed, the chair in our bedroom and the guestroom bed.
Sheldon’s latest throne is a folded bedspread atop a table in our bedroom. Now that he’s slept on it, bathed on it and shed on it for a few weeks, I doubt it will ever see duty as a bedspread again.
Meanwhile the new, nice, soft beds sit, empty but for unused cat toys. It makes me angry, but I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.
After all, it’s Sheldon’s house; I just work there.