Thursday, August 19, 2010

How much is that kitty in a stroller?

One fall I had to spend a weekend working at a conference in Berkeley, CA. It's two hours from home but only an hour from hubby's worksite, so we booked ourselves and our 18-pound cat, Charlie, into the pet-friendly hotel where the conference was slated.

First night: Charlie stayed under the bed, except for a brief time next to me in the middle of the night. Second day, he used the plastic shoe box I had filled with litter and set on the bathroom floor. I awoke at 3 a.m. smelling poo, and discovered that he had peed in the box but pooed on the floor next to it. I had brought a small broom and dust pan for such contingencies, and mouthwash to disinfect. No problem.

By 10:30 Saturday morning, I was free of all work obligations. Steve was working the entire Saturday, so I changed into jeans and took Charlie out in his stroller. A couple of women gasped, giggled, and then went, "Oh, how cute." A boy playing ball on the hotel lawn had the last say: "It's a lion."

Charlie and I enjoyed a two-hour hike along the Marina and the bay. Along the shore was a man arranging rocks in stacks that defied gravity. "Wow," I said as I passed. "Just something to do," he shrugged. "I'm all for it!" I called out, which brought a smile to his face.

We passed a couple of big dogs, but they were on leashes, so there was no trouble. Charlie retreated under the canopy of his stroller whenever he was feeling insecure. The rest of the time, his huge green eyes peered through the mesh, noting the ducks, the boats, the kids, the sources of different noises. He had ample room in the stroller to stretch out his two-foot furry blond frame and 16-inch bushy tail.

During our stroll, I met another hotel guest, an older woman who owns two Maine Coon cats she'd named Bart and Lisa (after the Simpsons).  Maine Coons are cousins to Norwegian Forest cats, so she had a soft spot for big cats like Charlie.

By the time we got back to our room he was much more relaxed. No more hiding under the bed. He patrolled the room like he owned it. I went to lunch at the hotel restaurant with a good book, then took a two-hour nap. When I woke up, I had a crick in my neck from the hotel pillows. I should've brought my memory foam pillow.

On Sunday morning, the three of us strolled along the shops on Fourth Street in Berkeley. So many people came up to point out, "That's a big cat." (Uh, thanks, we would never have guessed.) Either they owned regular cats or their kids wanted to look at the giant cat. A woman said to her friend, "He has a little pink nose, awww..." One woman glanced into the stroller, perhaps expecting a human baby, and exclaimed, "Oh my God."

Steve walked a few paces behind, catching comments I probably wasn't meant to hear, like, "That poor cat." That one got under his skin. He brooded about it. I left Charlie with Steve for a few minutes to browse in a stained glass shop. A woman came in and announced to no one in particular, "That cat is not happy." "What's the matter with it?" I asked her. "There's a cat oustide, in a stroller." "I know, it's my cat. What's wrong with it?" "His ears are pointed straight up." "Oh, he's overstimulated, that's all. Too many strange noises, " I said.

Later, Steve came up with what he would've said had he heard her: "Oh, he perks up when he's around intelligent people."