Sunday, May 01, 2005

COLUMN: Feline Felon

I can't believe all the fuss it's caused. A frequent subject of the media, convicted of a crime of auspicious circumstance and forced to live under house arrest, a prisoner in her own home. Martha? Martha WHO? I'm talking about my CAT here. Yes, every parent's worst nightmare has come true for me: My cat has a police record.

The story begins innocently enough last week with a sick kitty and a trip to the vet. My cat is a sweet and loveable lap cat -- until you take her outside the apartment and away from me, at which point she turns into something that would give Linda Blair nightmares. I like to refer to her as "socially awkward."

To say my cat gets aggressive when she gets scared is an understatement. You know the noise that cats make when you accidentally step on their tail? That's the noise she makes the ENTIRE time we're at the vet. She bites, she claws, she attacks... until you get her back in the car, when she starts purring and curls up in your lap.

So I took her to the vet and they did a great job making her all better, but this weekend she needed a quick follow-up blood test. I get to my vet's office in Bettendorf to find that I don't know any of the weekend staff. A vet tech immediately goes to grab the cat and take her back to the lab.

"I'll need to go with," I say politely.

"Oh, no, no, we've got her," the tech smiles back at me, unaware of her pending fate.

"No, really, I'll need to go with," I say politely again. "My cat can get a bit nasty when she gets scared." This scenario carries on until I've warned her FIVE times that she's playing with fire.

"Don't worry, I've dealt with millions of cats," she says, grabbing my baby and heading back to the lab.

"She's going to bite you!" were my last words to her. Thirty seconds later, I hear the cat start howling. Five minutes later, they bring her to me in a cardboard box. No, they didn't kill her. It was just the only way to get her out of the office without bloodshed.

"We weren't able to do anything," says the vet, sounding shocked. "She bit our tech."

Well, DUH. It was exactly as I'd anticipated.

What I DIDN'T anticipate, though, was a call from the Bettendorf police at 11 that night. Turns out the vet tech went to the ER, the ER called the police, and I'm told I have a "vicious animal" and that Iowa law dictates that the cat be immediately quarantined for 10 days.

I proceed to FREAK OUT. Do I need a cat lawyer? Should the cat and I go on the lam? Needless to say, I was at my vet's office when they opened the next morning. If they thought the cat was a "vicious animal," wait 'til they got a load of the OWNER.

At 8 this morning, I was thoroughly prepared to turn this column into a venomous attack on my vet clinic. Instead, I'm going to tell you how wonderful they were. I talked/bawled to the administrator and within minutes, the clinic was on the phone with Animal Control and the Dept. of Health discussing my feline felon.

The end result is that we took a plea and copped to 10 days of home quarantine. My friends are forbidden to come over by law. My cat might, umm, purr on them or something. I'm thinking about fashioning her a striped jumpsuit and teaching her to play the harmonica.

The sweet innocent cat on my lap is a menace to society, a Rebel Without Front Claws. Those times she disappears under the bed? She must be planning her next crime. Perhaps Jimmy Hoffa's under there. Maybe she's running a counterfeit Kibbles racket. Worse yet, maybe SHE'S the one who's been downloading all that free music off the internet.

Me, I'm just thankful that our tax dollars are being used so constructively to get this real criminal off the streets. We can all sleep easier. Well, except me. Not with a felon under my bed.

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