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Suburban Dad: Cat Whisperer Wanted

When I moved to the suburbs from Greenwich Village 12 years ago, I feared mental inertia, grinding physical boredom and the lack of take-out.  What I got instead were renegade cats.

An explanation might be in order.

Whatever initial fears I had of suburban life fell by the wayside quickly.  With its high costs and Balkanized system of schooling, New York City doesn’t seem to offer any more interesting crowd than those forced by lack of trust funds or Wall Street paychecks to flee.  Besides, in terms of raw fun, I’d trade the occasional art opening or book reading for coaching Little League and signing up for the local fire department any day.

But about those cats.  In the city, cats were a simple proposition.   In our apartment, which was near the famous corner where Waverly Place crossed Waverly Place, the cats sat and stewed.  There wasn’t much for them to do besides stare down at taxis with disdain.

But here they go outside.  And on the streets of suburbia, they have become bird-killing machines, taking a toll on the local environment and furrowing the brow of neighbors---little children have discovered feathery killing fields.  We’ve tried everything, even affixing collars with little kitty cow bells onto them, so that the birds, squirrels, mice and voles would hear them coming.  But the cats escape the collars—we even found one next to a mouse corpse.  Mocked by a murderer.

Worse, though, are the abscesses.  Cats fight.  In a strange twist for an animal with nine lives, their wounds also heal too quickly for their own good, trapping the puss of infections beneath their skin.   Getting the resulting abscesses treated is a major ongoing expense.  Just this week, we did two vet visits, dropping over 200 bucks.

Why don’t you keep your cats inside, you ask?  You really didn’t ask that, did you?   Cats are fleet and nimble and if you are going to open a door even a crack, a cat is going to find a way to flee.

Moreover, we’ve used a company called Bark Busters to help train our two dogs, but it doesn’t seem like anyone has the gall to hang a shingle as a cat trainer.   It’s a little like training a fish, no?  Apparently, I have more questions than answers on this one.

Are there any competent rent-a-trainers out there for cats?   If so, are they the sort of Miracle Worker who could condition a cat not to kill?  Or fight?  And where does that contradiction in cats come from, killers one moment, cuddlers the next?  And what does it say about us that we’re drawn to that?

Anyhow, as always—enlighten me in the space below and I’ll get back to you in short order.  But remember: keep it civil.  After all, we are not cats here.

_______________________

Marek Fuchs is the author of "A Cold-Blooded Business," the true story of a murderer, from Westchester, who almost got away with it. His upcoming book on volunteer firefighting across America, “Local Heroes,” is due out in 2012. He wrote The New York Times'  "County Lines" column about life in Westchester for six years and teaches non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville.  He also serves as a volunteer firefighter.  You can contact Marek through his website: www.marekfuchs.com or on Twitter: @MarekFuchs.

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