Is there not something deliciously poetic about being a single woman in a strange city, tasked to care for a cat named Mr. Handsome, and he’s totally not that into me? Well, this is my life, people.
As faithful readers know, I’ve been traveling the world for about the last four years. One way that I do that is by trading free housing in exchange for caring for a household’s cat or dog. Not counting the cute and perpetually grumpy-looking Figero, my friend Tara’s cat, my first real catsitting experience for strange cats came in New Mexico. There were three cats, two fish, a dozen bird feeders, two ponds and plenty of plants to water. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace by performing this service.
I like caring for cats, and dogs on occasion. All the dogs that I cared for were pretty cool. Chula and I would take long walks by the Rio Diamante, where we witnessed the aftermath of a murder. And Noodle the labradoodle was, officially, the cutest doggie in all of Chiang Mai.
I say all this to paint a picture that I am a good catsitter and not a scary, mean person. I do not abuse really any sentient being. I’m even vegetarian! But tell all that to Mr. Handsome.
When I first talked to the homeowner about three weeks before I flew from Melbourne to Tokyo, I saw Mr. Handsome via Skype. He was a fluffy, long-haired lover with brown and black streaks. He was walking all over the owner, getting comfortable in his lap and cuddling. I was so excited, imaging the cuddles and purrs coming my way. I was telling my friends about my months in Tokyo with Mr. Handsome. There was another kitty, too, but I didn’t see her in the video so I figured she would be sleeping and minding her own business, as some cats do.
I arrive after my 10-hour flight and 2-hour train ride, exhausted, of course. Koshka, the other cat, is shy, but Mr. Handsome is waiting for food. He didn’t let me pet him.
“Would you like to feed him?” the owner asked.
So, I take a packet of wet food and start to put it in Mr. Handsome’s bowl. He hisses at me. I go to sleep.
The next day, the owner was taking care of whatever business he had to wrap up while I basically chilled around the house and did a little work. Koshka introduced herself, and Mr. Handsome kept his distance. When I tried to engage him to pet him, he hissed again.
Convinced Mr. Handsome would come around, the owner took off to his trip to America. I realized the apartment needed a really good cleaning, so I went to work. Mr. Handsome was on the owner’s bed, which was about to be my bed for the next two months. I started to remove the sheet gently. He hissed at me. I swept the floors. Hiss. Give him food. Hiss.
One day Mr. Handsome didn’t hiss at me. But I was also wandering around the city, basking in the fact that the cherry blossoms stayed on the trees long enough for me and everyone else to enjoy them. The whole city was caught up in the act known as hanami, or the custom of taking in the transient splendor of flowers. I wasn’t going to let Mr. Handsome kill my buzz.
But he sure tried. Over the last two weeks, he’s done a lot of hissing, as well as yowling extremely loudly all the time. He especially likes to yowl whenever I lie down for a nap or take my daily bath. The bath, by the way, is operated with one push button. It fills up and heats it to the perfect temperature, and then it plays a little tune to let you know that it’s all ready for you to relax. He also enjoys yelling around 5:30 a.m. This morning, I think he was performing a tap dance in the litter box.
When he’s not doing all of this, he’s usually found somewhere within a 2.5 meter radius, glaring at me.
Early on, I did trick him with Reiki. He was sitting on the bed, miserable, and I started to give him Reiki. He started relaxing. I continued to give him healing energy, and he actually started purring. Then I took a chance and reached out to pet him. He let me. Then, before I could push my luck, I left. After that, it was as if Mr. Handsome was mad that he had betrayed his plan to hate me and double-downed on the anger.
Look, I get it. He really, really loves his owner. They’re best buddies. I’m sure Mr. Handsome has made up a story about how I planned this whole thing to get rid of the owner so I could waltz in here, clean up the old bachelor pad and take baths whenever I very well pleased. Nevermind that I feed him daily and clean his litterbox. Forget about the fact that Koshka seems to think I’m OK. She has a cute habit of running up to my lap and actually throwing her paws around my neck. It’s adorable.
Back to Mr. Grumpy, er, I mean Mr. Handsome. He’s totally creating his own misery, of course. He’s missing out on all kinds of petting and purring and grooming. I can see this. It’s just another example of being around a being who is trying to take out their misery on you. It has nothing to do with me.
It makes me think, of course, about so many people in the world who cause their own unhappiness. It’s so easy to make up stories in your head that cause you suffering. It’s hard enough to get people who do this every day see it. Imagine trying to help a cat. You cannot. I’m just giving him a wide berth.
But isn’t it hilarious that out of all the cats I’ve cared for over the past four years – Figero, Chicha, Nikki, Charlotte, Dilma, Trixie, Bob, Liz, what’shisname in Taiwan, Muds, Koshka and Mr. Handsome – the one named Mr. Handsome hates me? Like, he’s JUST NOT THAT INTO ME! I get it. We don’t have to go out. I just thought, you know, it could work. He is pretty cute. Ugh, I feel like he’s just another in the long line of males that I’ve attracted into my life that I shouldn’t have!
Earlier today, as I was fixing my matcha green tea, I made eye contact with the glaring Mr. Handsome.
“My charm is just not working on you, is it,” I said. His eyes simply narrowed.
And I’ve been keeping a pretty low profile, since I’m in the middle of the longest fast so far. (I completed a 14-day water fastnot quite a year ago, and I’ve been completing three- to five-day fasts for the last few months.) That means, really Koshka is my best friend in Japan. Mr. Handsome certainly isn’t.