YOU CAN Become a Crazy Cat Lady (or Gentleman)

1. You finally move off campus. Since your new apartment building allows pets, you and your roommate decide to adopt a kitten.

2. The kitten is so playful and adorable, you and your roommate fight over its ownership. You adopt a second kitten, so each of you will always have one to play with. You fail discrete math because Rascal, who is your kitten, adorably destroyed your take-home final exam.

3. The kittens grow into surly, poorly litter-trained adult cats, who scratch and bite everyone but you (so you claim. In truth, they scratch and bite you, too, but you hide this fact by wearing long sleeves and getting an extra tetanus shot, just in case). Your roommate transfers to another school and moves out, leaving you in an apartment scented by cat urine, with deeply scratched door frames and vomit stains on the carpet. You cannot find another person who is willing to live there, and you cannot move out because you're sure you won't get the security deposit back and you can't afford to pay one elsewhere. You cut down your course schedule to part-time and get a job at a pet store to afford the extra rent.

At the pet store, you meet fascinating people. There is the lady who breeds iguanas, the man with a husky-wolf-hybrid trained to bark, "meat is murder," and the woman whose parrot can whistle "Poker Face". But the people you find most intriguing are the volunteers from the animal rescue league who come in on weekends. With them, they bring all sorts of adorable kitties who need homes. Rascal and Prickly need some friends, you decide. So you adopt Grizzly, who is big and brown with a notch in his ear, Trixie, who doesn't really know any tricks except the one that caused her to lose several teeth, and Gus, who is named after the mouse in Disney's Cinderella because he once destroyed a lady's dress. You also begin to volunteer with the the Kool Katz Rescue League. The time you spend convincing others to adopt these wonderful kitties causes you to fail your only two classes. You are afraid to tell your parents.

5. Your parents learn that you dropped out of college when a tuition check is returned to them. You have not been returning their phone calls because the cats chewed through the cord of your phone charger. Your mother and father drive two hundred miles to visit you and are shocked by the state of your apartment. You now have fifteen cats, who have only 57 legs, 26 eyes and 25 ears between them. The carpet has been torn from the wall and the cats have been sleeping between it and the floor, nestled among shreds of foam padding. You have begun making your own cat food and your fridge is almost entirely filled with raw beef and avocados. Kitty litter covers the floor and even the cats who are litter trained are never entirely sure where to defecate. Your parents insist you come home but will allow you to bring only two cats. You accuse them of gross inhumanity and disown them.

6. You lose your job at the pet store. Your boss was willing to keep you on after a customer complained about the condescending attitude by which you treated her purchase of Fancy Feast, but, after he asks you into his office to discuss the situation, you launch into a diatribe about the company's lack of concern for animal rights. The store, you claim, is a machine for the manufacture of evil. You equate their role in the sale of pure-bred animals to the eugenics conceived of by Hitler and you blame the sale of thirty-cent cans of cat food for the decline of Siberian tigers in China (because any fool would know that the processing plants for grade-D chicken carcass are located in the colder regions of the country and have displaced the large native population of musk deer, which are a favorite prey animal for the big cats). By the time you are able to comprehend that you have been fired, you are being escorted from the store by an off-duty policeman who works in the rescue league. He is apologetic and recommends that you seek a position at the local veterinarian's office. You cannot believe that he would suggest your employment with an agency that supports animal euthanasia (i.e., murder). In your mentally unstable condition, you manage to struggle free from his grasp and hit him over the head with his own nightstick. Not knowing whether he is alive or dead, you flee from the scene and take refuge in your bed, under at least twenty of your cats. As you wait, you pet the cats and whisper words of endearment. Time becomes irrelevant and you forget to feed them for many days. When the police finally arrive to arrest you for assaulting the officer, they cannot recognize your body. You are identified not by dental records, but by an x-ray of your forearm, which, even after your death, still bears the scars of a particularly bad bite wound. Your parents arrive to collect your body. They have all of your cats euthanized. Eventually, they start a non-profit foundation in your memory: Cat Conscious is dedicated to educating others about the horrors of housing too many cats.

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