If you give a cat a ribbon…oh, don’t bother. She will find one for herself—most likely when the rest of the household is absent, or asleep.

Then she will eat the ribbon—all eighteen inches of it.

How will you know this? Suspicions will begin at approximately the fifteenth hour of cat vomit, when there isn’t anything else to see but a houseful of puke and a very sick cat.

Your suspicions will be confirmed when the x-ray at the emergency veterinarian identifies a “stringy thing” in the cat’s intestine.

The cat will then have emergency surgery.

The cat will not offer to pay the thousands—yes, thousands—of dollars for the surgery herself. She will expect you to come up with the cash.

When you ask about what the vet found in your cat, the vet will ask if you’d like to see it. You will decline.

You will reminisce about that time in February this same cat ate foam flooring, leading you to dislocate a kneecap and spend several weeks on crutches. You will consider how lucky this cat is that she is adorable and sweet, because, apparently, she came into this world utterly unequipped with Darwinian survival instincts of any kind, and you will have to make up this deficit for her.

You will announce to your family that while this cat is at the vet overnight, the house must be cleaned of “all the things.” When the family groans and rolls eyes, you tell them that if they do not do as they are told, “the cat might die.” Cleaning will commence.

Three nanoseconds after cleaning is completed, you will find a hair elastic sitting on a bathroom counter. You will wonder how many lives cats actually have. You will wonder how many lives your kids have.

You will pick up your cat at the vet the next day. When you see her, she will be shaved in three places, still under the influence of painkillers and sporting the “Cone of Shame.” She will mew pitifully. You will apologize to her, though you will not be able to think why.

The vet will tell you to keep your cat isolated for ten to fourteen days in a room with no furniture and nothing she can jump on or from. You will stare at the vet as you try to picture the kind of house she lives in.

You will decide to confine the cat to the guest room for the duration of her recovery.

You will watch as the cat, accustomed to judging the world via whisker-radius, tries to move about in a world where her whiskers are confined in a cone. As she walks, her head will loll from one side to the other, she will emit little cries and bump into everything she encounters. Also, you will think that you hear her mutter under her breath, “What *&^$! hell is this?”

Because you are all softies in your family, you will begin The Vigil. Whenever anyone is home, someone will be with the cat, sequestered in the guest recovery room, so that the cat won’t have to wear the Cone of Shame.

Because you will be keeping The Vigil, you will not make your weekly post to your blog.

You will become exasperated when the other cat, long labeled “The Smart One,” becomes seriously pissed off at the attention being given to “The Stupid One.” The former will begin to meow. Loudly. Often. She will sharpen her claws.

You will reconsider The Smart One’s nickname when, for the first time in a few days, you permit her to get near The Stupid One (with a baby gate between them). Despite the fact that the two are littermates, The Smart One will act like she’s never before encountered anything so foreign and disturbing. Her eyes will go wide, her ears will flatten, and when The Stupid One moves, The Smart One will slowly retreat like she’s been advanced upon by the black bear that lives in the woods behind your house.

On a day nearly a week post-surgery when everyone is gone until mid-afternoon, you will return from a weekend writing retreat to find blood on the floor of the guest recovery room. Also on the bed. And the desk. And the windowsill. You will conduct a CSI Kitty investigation and determine that in all probability, the cat attempted some sort of acrobatic move and fell off the desk, scraping her incision on the corner. She will still be bleeding.

You will go to the emergency vet TWICE that day.

The cat will get a staple in her abdomen.

The vet tech will again recommend confinement in an empty room, and this time you will actually ask, “Who lives in a house with a completely empty room, just waiting for an injured animal to need it?”

Together you will hatch the idea of buying a large dog crate (for there will be a dog in the coming months) and using it to create a prison cell isolation area for the cat.

The vet will recommend cold compresses on the cat’s abdomen. This recommendation will give you the best laugh you’ve had since the cat ate the damn ribbon.

You will purchase and assemble the prison crate the next morning. The cat will enhance the prison effect by running the Cone of Shame back and forth along the bars like a tin cup.

That afternoon, in a desperate bid for attention after continuous yowling has failed, cat number two will begin to remove some of the kids’ artwork from the kitchen wall.

You will look forward to the day when the cat is finally healed, the two cats recognize each other again and can keep each other company, and order will be restored.

You will also look forward to playing with your cat again, something you can’t do while she is healing.

But you will have to be careful. Because if you are going to play with your cat…

She’s going to want you to give her a ribbon to play with.


*With apologies to Laura Numeroff

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