Thursday, February 10, 2011

A yowling cat

We have two cats, and they are both pretty old. Annie, the eldest, will be 16 on Valentine's Day, while Martinique (Marty) will be 15 in August. We named Annie Annimaniac after the cartoon and Marty after one of the islands Jennifer and I visited on our Caribbean honeymoon a couple of months after we got her.

A few months ago, Annie starting walking around the house yowling, a sound so piercing and unnerving that it sent chills down my spine. I'd be sitting here at my desk writing and out of the murky darkness just a few feet away would come this ethereal and terrifying sound, as loud as a jumbo jet.

Yowwwwwllllllll. Yowwwwlllllll.

And naturally, I'd freak out and yell at her to knock it off. She would ignore me and go on yowling until I would stomp my feet and then she'd jump and look at me with something like terror in her big green eyes.

I was not sympathetic.

Now don't get me wrong. I love our cats. They are the best house cats in the world. Yes, I mean that. The best. Loving and loyal and all that jazz. Marty, the small, black-and-white jumpy one, took years before she became trusting enough to sit on my lap. She's a bit neurotic, meaning if she were human she'd probably be a writer. For the past six or seven years, I cannot seem to get Marty off of me. She has become my little partner, my little buddy. She lies on my chest while I lay in bed reading or watching television like she's a part of my body. A spare limb or something.

Annie is larger (fat, actually, but don't tell her that) and all black. She's more regal, although as affectionate as Marty in her own way. Annie belongs to Jennifer, while Marty is all mine. It's like we have his and her cats. We like that.

But then Annie starting her incessant yowling and I started having not-so-nice thoughts about her. For instance, I would wonder what would happen if I pegged a book at her. Now I didn't, of course. But I admit I wondered at times, especially after she would yowl loudly at my feet, when I didn't know she was there, and I would jump two feet into the air and clutch my chest. And then it would take me an hour of surfing the Internet before I was ready to write again. Damn cat.

But about six months or so ago, I walked up to Annie while she was curled up on the couch, fast asleep, and reached down to pet her. When I touched her, she shot straight into the air and the fur on her tail puffed up comically like one of those cattails that grow along the river. And that's when I realized something.

Annie had gone deaf.

I started to research deaf cats on the Internet and I realized that it's not an uncommon condition in older cats. And I read something else interesting. It seems that older, deaf cats yowl loudly for two reasons: They fear they've been abandoned because they no longer hear us in the house, and they cannot tell how loudly they are meowing because (duh) they are deaf.

And it broke my heart.

It broke my heart because I realize that I am not unlike Annie. I sit here at my computer and pour my heart out on this book or that book, and I send my queries out to agents and I wait, brokenhearted and fearful, hoping that an agent out there will hear me and respond. I fear that I've been abandoned. And it hurts, doesn't it?

If I could yowl, I would. Seriously.

So now, when Annie yowls and scares the bejesus out of me, I don't yell at her or stomp my feet. I go to her instead and pet her and lean down and nuzzle her and tell her that I'm right here, that she doesn't have to be afraid anymore.

And then I sit down and open my email and wait for someone to do the same for me.


  1. Beautiful post!

    Our old dog Maggie sometimes barks like that, just staring off at nothing. She is going deaf as well. I'll be more sympathetic now.

  2. Oh my gosh, that was so sad! For you and your cat. You can certainly create a poignant image. Hope you hear back soon...and its a request for more. =)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  3. awww! poor little thing! give her a pet from all of us. and seriously this post is extremely moving! you've got mad skills man!

  4. The next time she yowls, and you're on the same floor in the house, bang your foot on the floor. Stomp, bang, drop a few books. She'll follow the vibration most likely and come looking for you. That's why she's yowling, she's lonely and looking for her people.

  5. My heart breaks for Annie. How frightened she must have been! Excellent writing! Susan

  6. You managed to make me aw and :o( for both you and Annie in this post. I want to hug you both.

    I also realize that maybe my Sadie (while not deaf) is going a little dim in the hearing department, and I should be a little nicer to her to.

    Damn agents... oh sorry, just had to get that out. ;o)

  7. I'm seriously amused. Want to know why? My husband and I have his and her cats. They are boys, but mine is all black and his is black and white. We're like polar opposites. And I wouldn't call my black cat 'regal.' I'd call him 'asshole.' But he loves me and only me, and only when he wants to, not when I want him to.

    As for querying, I'm in no frickin' hurry. I am exceedingly liesurely these days in everything I do.

  8. I had a deaf cat as a child and she would chase me and my sister all over the house--terrifying, good fun. Unfortunately she met an early death--by car.

    Nice post.

  9. Thanks for the yowl info. my 16-year old cat, Zoe, also has a bday on Valentine's day, and she's doing the yowling thing too. heartbreaking, but i spend as much time as i can with her and give her as much love as I can.

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