[No animals were harmed in the making of this post.]
Judging a parent’s ability to manage their children used to be easy. While observing kids eating candy from a dirty floor, crossing the street into oncoming traffic, or cramming objects into an electrical outlet (to name a few), I’d smugly think, ‘If that were my kid, I’d never let it do that.’
Then I got cats.
As a guardian to five of them, I’ve fucked up, too. They’ve been locked in closets, kicked in dark hallways, and even lost in the attic that one time. Because of this, my priggish viewpoint when bearing witness to ignorant or unruly children has evolved to one of pity. Besides, who am I to judge since my deaf cat caught fire this past Sunday?
As a concerned reader and possible cat lover, you may be thinking, ‘What kind of idiot catches their cat on fire?’ I am not offended that you would ask this question, but it wasn’t this idiot who caught their deaf cat on fire. It was the deaf cat who caught herself on fire.
As accidents are wont to do, it happened quickly. I stood with my back to Zoe as I guided my Hoover floor scrubber over the living room floor. I don’t know if it was mystical intuition or Heaven magic, but for no reason, I turned to face my deaf cat just as she walked onto the sofa’s end table and stood over the lit, scented candle only two feet away. She stared at me with her snake-like, green eyes, and I remember thinking, ‘That’s odd. Doesn’t she feel the flame against her stomach?’ A quarter of a second later, she ignited like Michael Jackson in a Pepsi commercial.
I watched in horror as the flames popped to life and spread along her left side faster than an Australian brush fire. I kicked over the floor scrubber while stumbling towards her with my arms extended like a coked up Frankenstein monster.
She was oblivious to the fact that she was aflame. To her, one moment, I was peacefully staring at her as she watched me clean, and then like a switch, I’m a lunatic lunging for her. Rightfully threatened by this sudden, unsettling behavior, she ran away, streaking across the floor like a meteor.
Running isn’t easy when you’re hunched over and screaming at your deaf cat to sit still. I chased her from the living room to the kitchen. My frantically waving hands outstretched, dusting her side, patting out the fire. For all she knew, I was beating her.
Before she could dart around the kitchen island (and possibly light up the paper bags we store by the refrigerator for recycling), I snatched her into my arms and smothered her against my chest. I know she couldn’t hear me, but that didn’t stop me from asking if she was okay until certain she was extinguished.
I don’t know how, but the only damage was a large patch of barely-noticeable, singed fur and a house that reeked of burnt hair for three hours. I am grateful for the absence of injury, but it makes me wonder if her hide is flame retardant.
As I type this, Zoe is sitting at my side. She has either forgotten the episode or forgiven me for acting like a maniac, chasing her around, swatting her side. I’m sure I’ll fuck up again sooner or later. After all, being a parent isn’t easy, but all that matters right now is that she is purring, content, and unaware that for a moment on Sunday afternoon, she was more flaming than a bag of Cheetos.