"If cats could talk, they wouldn't." --Nan Porter

l. a.   d i a r y
episode 1 | episode 2 | episode 3 | this is episode 3.1 |

So, my original plan was to write roughly once a month about my adventures here in Los Angeles. In reality, what has happened has been this: THREE installments in THREE years. Truthfully, that's roughly par for the course for me.

EPISODE 3.1:My Cat's Got a Pumpkin Jones
August 10, 2002

Editor's Note: I know, I know. I've promised and promised to talk about my cat's pumpkin jones. In fact, I wrote most of this piece all the way back in March. Not of this year, but of 2001. Oy, what a slacker! Anyway, the story ended up coming to a very anticlimactic close, which I won't reveal here (I'll just let you enjoy the anticlimax the way I did, chronologically -- hooray!), and so I kind of let my enthusiasm for communicating the story wane. But, being the completest that I am, I feel you are owed the story. So, here it is. Some of this information is out of date. As readers of this site may have already discovered, I was laid off from the very five ayem gig I speak of here. Myrna is now 11, not 10. Since I talked so much about this story, I've decided to post it anyway, anticlimax be damned! Enjoy!

For anyone who thinks that cats cannot be trained, I offer the following story.

My cat Myrna is a long-haired calico cat. Back in May, she celebrated her 10th birthday by having severe problems with hairballs. OK, sure, most cats, especially those of the long-haired variety, have problems with hairballs. With many, those problems are manifested in varf-ing up said hairballs.

With Myrna, I was not so lucky.

Myrna's hairball problem resulted in diarrhea, which was further exacerbated by the long hair in what we'll call her "genie pants" area. When her hairballs got very bad (affecting her digestion and triggering diarrhea), her normally cute and snowy white "genie pants," quickly were transformed into the FOUL GENIE PANTS OF EVIL!

Often, Myrna would let me know of the transformation by hopping up on the bed near my head and spinning around giving me a dangerously close encounter with the gastronomical/sartorial trouble she was in. Perhaps it was just a cry for help. But I couldn't help but think she was enjoying watching my quick ascension from the depths of sleep to horrified consciousness.

"When," I wondered, "did my pleasant little cat turn into a cruel fraternity prankster?"

One of the ways I decided to ease Myrna's discomfort (and, by extension, my own), was to begin feeding her pumpkin.

Somewhere down the line, I had heard that pumpkin was good for fighting hairball problems in cats. I can't really recall where I got this information, nor can I say with any certainty that I didn't just make it up. But, as it turns out, pumpkin is high in fiber, and, oddly enough, cats like it. In fact, Myrna goes CRAZY for it. (Side note: On the side of the Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin can, the pumpkin one would use if one was baking a pumpkin pie, it reads, "Ingredient: Pumpkin." Now THAT'S clarity.)

I thought it would be a good idea to simply dump a spoonful in her food dish every morning as I started work, that way I wouldn't forget to give it to her on a daily basis.

Now, as some of you know, I get up at 5 in the ayem five days a week, in order to write and edit stories for the website of the music industry magazine that employs me. And I began to give Myrna her pumpkin at about 5:30 or so, after I had fired up the computer and gotten myself settled in.

For a couple of weeks, it worked great. Myrna got very excited about her pumpkin, meowing and meowing and meowing and walking in circles until I dumped the heaping spoonful of orange, fibery goodness into her bowl. She gobbled it down in seconds and, after a brief moment or two of licking her chops, went immediately back to sleep.

But things changed. Oh, how they changed.

One morning, only a few days into the Pumpkin Program, Myrna anticipated my alarm clock by about 15 minutes. Sitting only inches from my head, kneading the sheets with her front claws (or "makin' biscuits," as I like to call it) and purring loudly. I thought it was cute.

Silly me.

A week later, she was up at 4:30. After another couple weeks, 4 a.m. was the latest she could sleep before feeling the urge, before the monkey on her back started clamoring for attention.

So, at 4 ayem, Myrna would sit on my bed right next to my pillow, purring loudly and making biscuits, often making them mere fractions of an inch from my snoozing face. Occasionally, she would let out a little chirp of a meow, somewhere between purring and meowing. When that failed to get my attention, she would poke me in the eye socket with her big fuzzy paw: her favorite form of wake-up call since she was a kitten. She never extended her claws while doing it, just sort of put her big fuzzy mitt against my eyelid.

When that would fail, she would press her cold, wet nose against either my nose or my lips. Either way, it was an unpleasant and startling way to wake up.

And with each passing day it got earlier and earlier. Her pumpkin jones took a greater and greater toll.

And nothing I did would stop it.

This became increasingly upsetting, especially after nights where I stayed out till after midnight and maybe had a drink or two. Daddy gets grumpy in the mornings after Daddy gets likker'd. Those final 60 minutes of sleep are often the sweetest, the most important.

I tried shouting. "God damn it, Myrna, go back to sleep!" But she would just chirp her half-purr/half-meow back at me, as if to say, "You're practically up already, especially after that outburst. You may as well get me my pumpkin."

I tried pushing her off the bed, repeatedly, but she would just pop back up, as if attached by a bungee.

I tried locking her out of the bedroom, but that only resulted in an endless attempt to try to break back in, sliding her paw under the door and rattling the door. Meowing. Scratching. Endlessly.

All at 4 a.m.

"Give me my pumpkin, baby," my strung-out cat would plead. "You know I need my pumpkin! Just give me a little pumpkin and I'll go right back to sleep. You don't even have to give me a full tablespoon. I just need a taste. That's all I need, baby. Just a taste. You got me hooked on it! It's your own damn fault!"

She was right, of course. In "curing" her of her GENIE PANTS OF FIENDISH HORROR, I had given her a pumpkin jones. I was to blame. It was all my fault.

ANTICLIMAX: I broke Myrna of her early morning pumpkin craving by feeding her at night. And not long after that, I found these delightful little hairball treatment snacky-snacks made by Pounce, with delicious chickeny goodness on the outside and some sort of hairball combatting gel on the inside. They remind me a little of that gum from my childhood, the kind with the pocket of some fluid in the center. Can't think of the name, but they were square...and they didn't taste like chicken, but peppermint and spearmint, etc. So now she eats those instead of pumpkin. But every now and again, despite her hairball treatment yummies, Myrna has digestive troubles. And it always results in a return of the poopy pants. Oh, the horror.

© 2002 Jeff Drake