Afterwards, I had to pack Wilbert himself up, putting him in the cat carrier that he so desperately loathes. After a number of ridiculous attempts, one particularly ill-fated one involving some tuna, I wrested him backwards and stuck him in. Intellectually, I know that it is for his own good - without the carrier, there's no way he'd make it from my apartment to the parking lot without bolting, plus it's safer to drive with him in the carrier (trust me, I know - he once got out while I was driving down I-95 going 80 mph and decided to sit on my lap). Despite this, it still always feels terribly cruel to stuff him in there, he hates it so much, and he struggles so much to be put in there that I'm always afraid he'll get hurt. (Not to mention me.) The only time he goes willingly into that carrier is after the vet has poked and prodded him so thoroughly that he is grateful to slink back in there and hide.
I had been anticipating this day for quite some time, and wasn't sure how I'd feel about it. I was worried the cat would not remember his house, and would think I had abandoned him to live with a bunch of strangers. (This despite the fact that he seemed to barely notice that all of them left him with me - as the vet said, I was "just somebody else doling out the cat food".) True to form, once we got to my sister's house the cat bailed out of the carrier, bee-lined it to the kitchen to see if his food was still in the same spot, and then spent a good hour exploring upstairs, where he used to while away the days sleeping. He then hid under a bed for a few hours, but he generally does that in the afternoon. Finally last night he decided to come down and explore the first floor of the house, slinking around here and there, then returning to sit next to me on the couch for a few minutes. Clearly, he will be fine.
I'm not so sure about me, though. It's weird how empty the apartment feels without him here -- it's a small apartment and when I was home he was almost always underfoot in some way. Sometimes he was just pleasant company - sleeping on the couch next to me, or lying at the foot of the bed, or sitting in the window surveying his kingdom (and the tree full of birds just out of his reach). Mostly, though, he was a big pain -- his 5:30 wake up calls via either yowling in my face or banging the cabinet doors; his uncanny knack of sitting on top of whatever I was about to reach for and biting me if I tried moving him; walking over the computer keyboards and somehow managing to hit the exact combination of keys that changed something requiring hours of web searching to undo; the cat hair that will NEVER disappate, no matter how much I vacuum; the cat litter that he would inevitably strew all over the bathroom floor; the furniture and cabinets and door frames that were used as scratching posts (goodbye rental deposit...). Oh, and let's not forget having to let the bathtub fauced drip at juuuuuust the right speed because someone cannot stoop to drink water out of a dumb dish, including the $40 dish I bought that has a little fountain spout on it which basically mimics the bathtub faucet. Or running the A/C all day during the summer so his little brain didn't fry (I live in on the top floor of a converted old woolen mill that traps heat like you would just not believe). And let's not forget that occasionally I'd do something (I have yet to decipher what) that he seemed to think required a swipe of a paw or a bite, and once or twice I stepped on his tail by accident which caused him to run after me yowling what I imagined to be the cat equivilent of swear words, and then he'd attack my ankles in retribution. Also, he would find a way to make it clear that I was sitting on what he at that moment in time had deemed HIS side of the couch, and would not be content until I moved.
But he was company, and in a lot of ways the best sort: I talked to him, and he never once talked back, and he was excellent at killing bugs. And he was fastidious about using the litterbox and never, not once, puked on the rug. Could I ever ask anything more of a male?
***I've promised to see how Wilbert impacts both my nephew's allergies and my sister's new furniture, and take him back if necessary. I mostly hope it's not necessary, because he has a lot more room to run around at their house, and he will have plenty of company. In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what to do. Part of me wants to run out to the nearest shelter and get another cat immediately, and part of me is thinking that really, my life will be a lot easier without a pet to worry about. I'm also a little worried about the precedent we've set here: yesterday my niece Grace told me that she wants a hamster for her birthday, and she thought that maybe the hamster could live with me so Wilbert wouldn't eat it. When she started rattling off a possible visitation schedule, I knew I was in trouble.