Saturday, December 3, 2016

Everyone Settles In

 The day after I moved out my father walked outside to find a small starving kitten on the wall leading up to our building. He had just been preparing sushi and when he stretched out his hand to the kitten, he started licking it. Needless to say, my parents now have a kitten. When my dad picked him up, he fit in the palm of his hand. He brought the kitten inside, and the kitten immediately scarfed down about 3 times his weight in cat food.
The kitten, formally known as Lucky, informally known as “the black devil,” reminds us all of me as a child. After watching him run and jump and play for half an hour without pause, I finally understood what they meant when they said that having me was like having 3 kids. He can go on like this for hours until he finally passes out for his afternoon nap. Then he wakes up and continues running, jumping, and attacking. All night. He gets banished to my room at about 6 in the morning, when he gets rowdy with Pooms. Pooms does not appreciate being jumped on and attacked by a young upstart so when the hissing starts, they have to be separated. This is all well and good, unless I’m sleeping in my room at the time. I was warned one shabbat when I came home for a quiet, relaxing weekend that my room was the new “time out” zone. The door opened promptly at 6 o’clock in the morning, and one small, hyperactive black ball of fur was deposited into detention. He then initiated a cycle of whining at the door, playing in the litter box my parents had so nicely provided for him (in my room. Where I sleep), and attacking my feet. This lasted about 15 minutes until he was ejected into the hallway.
Pooms has not being taking the appearance of a new kitten very well. Lucky attacks anything that moves, especially if it’s small and four-legged. She hisses, swats at him, and then runs away. He is not deterred by this reaction and considers it a game to chase her around the house. Poor Pooms was rescued from one bully, only to get stuck with another, albeit smaller one. So if anyone wants a cat, we’ve got a few available.

In other news, I’ve settled into my new place. I was alone in the apartment the first few days until my roommates came back from wherever it was that they’d been. Which made it difficult to eat since I didn’t know where anything was in the kitchen. I may not have seen my roommates, but I did meet the neighbors the first night. They knocked on my door at 21:30 to request that I stop moving furniture around (as if it was 2 in the morning or something). Which was unnecessary since the only furniture that came with the room was a bed. I assured them that I had no more furniture left to move and they went away.
The next day I assembled the desk I had brought with me from Ma’ale Adumim and lugged up 3 flights of stairs in pieces. The next task was to order a clothes cupboard which I did from Home Center. It arrived “promptly” two weeks late after numerous calls from the delivery guy who kept making appointments to deliver it and then not showing up. I finally had to email the company (they don’t even have a call center) threatening to cancel the whole order unless it showed up by the end of the week. Which it miraculously did.
I decided that the guys had been living in the apartment too long and needed a bit of a shake up. Which I generously provided by gradually rearranging the entire kitchen. Everyday I would move or rearrange something else. My OCD required that I go over the entire kitchen, organizing and making everything more efficient. It was kind of like a game to see how much I could change without anyone’s brain exploding from the shock.
Johnny too settled in, and quite quickly. In fact he may have gotten a bit too comfortable. One of my roommates found him sitting on his bed, staring at him in the middle of the night. Johnny did not appear to be embarrassed by his creepy nightly behavior. In typical cat fashion he refused to sleep in his own bed, the one I had optimistically brought with me. It took him about a month or so to decide that it actually wasn’t so bad after all.
In addition, he seems to have come up with a game where he sees how many toys he can toss into his food or water dish. Of course then there was the morning when I woke up and there was nothing in his food bowl because he had knocked it over during the night.

He has not endeared himself to my roommates by hissing at anyone who approaches him. Even if the only reason they’re approaching is because he’s sitting in the middle of the hallway, blocking access to the bathroom. He doesn’t care. He still wishes plague and pestilence upon them. After finding his freshly made challah nibbled on (it had been wrapped in two plastic bags which did not survive the ordeal), my roommate asked me if I could train him not to jump on the table. I just laughed. Incidentally, I forgot to warn the other roommate about Johnny’s penchant for challah, with similar results for the poor, helpless challah, which was found the next morning on the floor. Clawed open and nibbled on.
Johnny’s crowning moment is what I have designated “the shower curtain incident.” I was awoken in the middle of the night by a loud crash and then a slam. Any pet owner will tell you that the first thing one does in such a situation is try to locate the pet. He wasn’t in my room which told me that there was a very good chance he needed rescuing. Most likely from himself. The bathroom door was closed, which it isn’t usually since his litter box is in the laundry room attached to the bathroom. I tried to open the door, but it was wedged shut. I managed to slip a foot in and kick away what turned out to be the shower curtain rod blocking the door. Johnny was standing frozen in the laundry room. I tried to call him out but he refused to move. Finally after enough persuasion, he hightailed it outta there as fast as his oversized legs could carry him. As he ran by, I noticed he was wet. At this point one of my roommates lumbered out of his room rubbing his eyes and asked me what was going on. My response was “the shower curtain fell down.” This was met by a moment of silence, and then “it just fell?” I shrugged and answered “yep.”
So I’m standing there pretending I have no idea how this happened, meanwhile my cat is wet and there’s a small puddle of water in the bathtub. But the next morning he asked me again, “so the shower curtain fell, huh?”
“All by itself?”
At this point I felt he was a bit too alert for me to play dumb, so I hesitantly answered, “well it may have had help. Johnny may have had something to do with it. But he’s not talking.”
Later I asked the other roommate (who sleeps like the dead) if he had by any chance heard anything in the middle of the night. Indeed he had. He’d been just about to fall asleep when he heard a crash outside his room...
This was unfortunately not his last bathtub adventure. We find him in there every once in a while, just chilling. As if this is a totally normal place for a cat to hang out. I guess that’s what happens when your cat is waterproof.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Johnny Anoints Himself Supreme Ruler

 I finally got a response from someone in Baka on one of the apartment hunting groups on Facebook. In addition, a friend had gotten me in touch with a friend of hers who was looking for a third roommate. I took a day off from work and went to visit both places, which happened to be in a 10 minute walking distance from one another. The first place was a really nice apartment, big kitchen, clean, big bedrooms. The woman living in the apartment seemed friendly enough, but didn’t seem too thrilled with the idea of a cat. The deal breaker was keeping the litter box in my bedroom. Truthfully there wasn’t enough room in the bathroom for a litter box anyway, but no one wants to sleep with a toilet in the room next to them. And litter has a tendency to get EVERYWHERE. Which is fine when you can just sweep it up from the bathroom floor every few days. But now imagine finding it in your shoes, and in your bag, and in your bed, and in your socks. It turns into living in a sand box which has been pooed in. That was not what I had imagined when I pictured leaving the nest for a world of exciting new adventures. At no point did brushing cat litter out of my hair every morning figure in to the picture. Although to be totally truthful, I didn’t so much as leave the nest as fall out of the nest onto my face. But the last thing I need is to fall onto my face into a pile of used cat litter.
The second place I went to to visit was in Mekor Chaim, behind the Hadar Mall. The place was 3 flights up with no elevator, but I do that ascent every day at work just to wake me up and get some exercise. The two guys living there were looking for a roommate after their previous one got married. The old lease was up at the end of July, and they needed someone to move in August 1st (which was the next week). They seemed like pretty laid back guys. The kitchen was big and functional and both guys cooked. They seemed a bit wary of living with a cat, and I wasn’t sure how they felt living with a female since they were both religious. They had agreed to meet me though, so there was hope. I on the other hand required a place where I could bring Johnny and where there was a kosher kitchen, and no smoking. I have pretty low standards, what can I say. Incidentally, I had written a message to one of the guys who had posted the apartment on one of the many Facebook groups I had been thrust into, but had not gotten a response. I didn’t discover that this was the same apartment until after setting up a meeting with them.
To my surprise, I got a text message that Thursday evening that the room was mine if I was still interested. And thus, we had a match born out of desperation. One of the guys had never lived with a woman before and the other had been married for 5 years and so had some experience (though how good that experience was I can’t say). I did live with a male roommate in Talpiot, along with a 39 year old Polish woman (actually they were both Polish) and her dog (who was not Polish but understood many languages due to the variety of nationalities of the woman’s friends). Frankly the dog was the best roommate I’ve ever had (aside from literally eating my homework one afternoon), but the only demands she made on me was my dinner and a belly rub now and then. The guy was in the army at the time though so I saw him for a total of maybe an hour or two a week, since he came home Thursday night or Friday and I went back to Ma’ale Adumim for shabbat. I only stayed in the apartment twice over shabbat and one of those times the electricity shorted 5 minutes after shabbat started. That was a very dark shabbat. So it would be a new experience for me as well. I couldn’t see that it would make much difference though since it’s not like I walk around naked or anything. And I tend to get along better with guys anyway, since there’s always less drama.
Which brings to mind a particular scene at a female friend’s place, when her new (23 year old) roommate announced that she had invited 2 guys over after lunch. We’re like, “ok, cool.” The friend had invited a bunch of people over after lunch anyway for games and such. The roommate proceeded to tell us why this was a HUGE problem (all while twirling her hair around a finger) because she invited the first guy over, whom she’s not into, but now maybe he thinks she’s into him, but she’s really into the second guy she invited, but she doesn’t know if he’s into her, and maybe he’ll think she’s into the first guy, and so on. The rest of us in the room just stared at her, failing to comprehend where the problem lied, and why she required alcohol to deal with two guys she’d invited over after lunch. I commented, that I couldn’t remember being like that when I was young, and my friend promptly replied, “you weren’t.”
So the next week saw me moving in my two carloads of stuff (ok, some of it was Johnny’s) and carrying it all up 3 flights of stairs with the much appreciated help of my dad. Johnny adjusted fairly quickly and was happy to be the sole feline in the house (and supreme ruler of the apartment which is what happens when a) you’re a cat; b) you’re a 10 kg cat). All that was left was to get some additional furniture and for my roommates to adjust to having a cat in the house (which Johnny didn’t make easy owing to the shower curtain incident and his formerly unknown love of challah). But these are stories for another day.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Jerusalem Housing Crisis (and Pigeon Poo)

 Thanks to two quarrelsome cats, I was apartment hunting a few months earlier than I had anticipated.
I started cruising the Yad2 website again to see what kind of apartments were available in which neighborhoods for what price range. I was debating between finding an apartment and then looking for roommates who don’t mind cats and finding a room in an apartment where they don’t mind cats. I was also aiming for a place that was not too far from work or at least on one of the bus lines. The one and a quarter hour trip to work, via 2 buses and a train, was driving me crazy. Not to mention the unexpected road/tunnel/checkpoint closures that occur between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, and the daily traffic on the way to the central bus station within Jerusalem.
I contacted a few people to arrange to see available apartments in my price range, either 2 or 3 bedrooms. The first place I saw was a really nice apartment not far from Yad Sarah and Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital, a relatively easy journey to work. The family had made sure to let me know that due to the government earthquake proofing construction plan, there was a lot of construction going on in the area. What I didn’t realize until I got there to look around, was that the construction was going to be in the building. On the apartment. For 4 months. Which explained why the family was leaving. I decided however, that I want to live in a construction zone for 4 months as much as they want to live in a construction zone for 4 months and passed on the apartment. The visit wasn’t a total waste though since I got to pet their adorable Labrador.
The second apartment I went to visit was in Katamonim. The building itself appeared to be in the process of decomposition. Things were dripping from the walls outside and pieces were hanging off the sides (hopefully not important pieces). The woman who answered the door was the tenant who was moving out and had no idea who I was or why I was standing there. Apparently the landlord expected her to show me around but hadn’t informed her that I was coming. The apartment was in complete disarray, the entire floor and the remaining furniture were covered with what was obviously the contents of the furniture and all shelving units and cupboards. There was a pungent odor coming from the kitchen, from underneath a pile of heaped up garbage. She gestured to where the oven allegedly was but it too was hidden underneath piles of various and sundry household items.
The third place I looked at in Talpiot was being shown by a realtor. It was not advertised as such on the appropriate section of the real estate listings so I did not know this until the realtor replied to my message. I didn’t really know what this entailed although I assumed there would be some fee involved on my part if I wanted the place. After setting up a time to meet and then changing it 3 times, she arrived late to the apartment, and made me sign a bunch of documents before she even let me into the apartment. Which is good, because she couldn’t remember which apartment it was. There were three apartments on the floor; she tried opening two of them with the key she had and then gave up and called her coworker to ask which door it was. I had already figured out which apartment it was based on the process of elimination but her brain had not yet made that connection. When she finally did let me in, I was speechless. Why she thought anyone would be willing to pay an extra month’s rent as a realtor’s fee for an empty apartment inhabited only by pigeons, I can’t imagine. She showed me around a bit after she finished shrieking and waving her arms around at the pigeons. The place could most kindly be described as a dump. Missing toilet seats, sockets and wires hanging out of walls, a window in the living room looking out onto the pipes of the service shaft in the center of the building. The pigeon poo did not help matters. Obviously the owners had been unable to rent out the place themselves, so had decided to try to rent it out with the help of an air headed real estate agent. I had enough experience with old unrenovated Talpiot buildings in the past to know that I was not in the least interested. Waking up every morning and thanking G-d that your ceiling has not yet collapsed upon you as you slept is not a prayer anyone should have to say.
That was the last straw. This spiraled into a deep depression on the literally deteriorating state of apartments in Jerusalem for reasonable prices.
I decided to try my luck with people in already established apartments looking for roommates. My logic was this: a) If people are already living there, there must be a minimum of furniture in the apartment, at least enough for functionality; b) The apartment is probably at least somewhat livable, otherwise there would be no one living in it. This seemed like sound logic. And so I began the next stage of my research.
It turns out there are some 20 odd Facebook groups dedicated to helping people find apartments or roommates or sublets, etc. in Jerusalem. There are groups for apartments/roommates in Jerusalem in Hebrew, groups in English, groups for kosher apartments, groups for inexpensive apartments, groups for apartments in Rechavia, groups for apartments in Baka, groups for apartments in Rechavia/Baka, etc. A friend offered to add me to a few groups. Three minutes later I was a member of about 10 different Facebook groups. I quickly discovered that there are no groups for apartments looking for a roommate with a cat. This was obviously an oversight on someone’s part.
I posted on a few of the more relevant groups that I was looking for a kosher apartment, but that I also have a cat. I even uploaded a picture of Johnny, because who can resist that face?! The responses I got were either from people who already had a cat, or from people tagging a friend who already had a cat. I was forced to amend my original post with “Cat does not get along with other cats!” Unfortunately cats are not like children. You can’t put them in a room together and expect them to being playing peacefully with Legos when you come back. The most you can hope for is a relatively low bill for damages and no need for a vet visit.

I messaged a bunch of people with promising apartments and asked them how they felt about cats. The response was overwhelmingly negative. I started to take personal offense at people’s obviously misguided perceptions of felines. This spiraled into a deep depression on the deteriorating state of humanity.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Johnny the Fierce and Pooms the Neurotic

The picture of Johnny and Pooms sitting next to each other on a couch didn’t really do them justice and was somewhat misleading, because A) the picture didn’t quite give me an idea of the scale of the size of the cats, and B) I have never since seen the cats occupy the same room without getting into a tussle resulting in a lot of noise and clumps of fur floating through the air. This is particularly bizarre since the cats grew up together, and were adopted as kittens by a young couple- Pooms first, and then Johnny half a year or a year later. Then the baby came and so the cats went, somehow ending up with a German lady though the details of the story are a bit fuzzy. A few years later, the German woman went as well, back to Germany according to the story, and was not able to take the cats. The guy I’d spoken to and who brought the cats to us fitted into the picture somehow, though no one’s really sure how. It seemed that the longer the story got, the less sense it made.
When Pooms wandered out of the carrier, we thought, “wow, that’s a large cat.” When Johnny exited his mobile prison, we thought, “that can’t be a cat, can it?” We thought maybe the guy had gotten confused and had brought us a mountain lion or a puma by mistake. Nope, no error in caged felines had been made. It just turned out to be one of the largest cats I’ve ever seen in person. Pooms, at around 5 kilos (11 lbs), is no miniature cat. She carries much of the weight in her middle, which probably explains her waddle. Johnny carries his 10.6 kilos (23 lbs) everywhere. The explanation for his girth is in his heritage (and also in the quantity of organic, free range poultry cat food that he chowed down on daily until being put on dietetic food after a trip to the vet). We somehow ended up with a Norwegian Forest Cat, one of the largest breeds in existence. How this double layered, water proof cat ended up in Jerusalem, I have no idea. As a cat bred by the vikings in the frozen Norwegian tundra, this doesn’t really seem to be the ideal climate for him. This discovery was only made by accident, after someone mentioned that the Norwegian Forest cat and the Maine Coon are the two biggest cat breeds. We lived with a Maine Coon for 16 years but I had never heard of the second large breed. I decided to do a Google search one day when I had obviously run out of cat videos to watch online, and to my surprise, the first picture that popped up looked almost exactly like Johnny. And so did the second one.

    From the face shape to the tufts of fur in strange places (ears, neck, haunches, and in between the toes) to the massive paws, Johnny had to be at least part Norwegian Forest Cat if not completely. He seems to be at least part viking as well when his belly, paws, or tufts are touched.
Before the cats figured out how to use the stairs (they had obviously never encountered such an apparatus in their previous residences), they were stuck on the first floor together. Pooms spent most of her time hiding behind a stack of folding chairs or behind boxes, while Johnny had free reign of the floor. On any occasion when Pooms ventured out to explore or sit on the couch, Johnny would wander over and a scuffle would ensue. Pooms would end up on the kitchen counter and Johnny had to be coaxed away so she would be left in peace. It was not always Johnny who would initiate the fight, but Pooms seemed to resent his presence and if she didn’t throw the first paw, Johnny would. Inevitably. Every single time without fail. How these cats made it this long with each other was a mystery. We hoped they would settle down at some point, maybe get used to their new home and settle their territorial dispute.
Then one day Pooms disappeared. We searched high and low. Behind boxes, under beds, in every single closet and small space we could find. Twelve hours later we had to admit to ourselves that she was not in the apartment. So we searched outside, and on the neighbors’ balconies, under bushes, and at all the known cat feeding stations in the neighborhood. We made signs and hung them all over the neighborhood. I had to come to terms with the fact that she was most likely dead. I felt awful. This poor sweet, squeaky, little cat had somehow gotten out, either by a window, the balcony, or the front door. She had either fallen a great distance to the ground, or had wandered outside and had had to defend herself from the veteran street cats. Either option was horrible to think about.
Then a week or so later, after I had given up all hope of finding her again, I got a call from the neighbor saying she had found our cat three days before in her laundry room. She had heard meows for three days before finding a cat behind her washing machine. But she was sorry to inform me that she had shooed the cat out of the building, obviously not seeing the lost cat sign which had been hanging prominently next to the front door of the building since the day she had disappeared. I immediately called my father and informed him that the cat had last been seen alive three days ago and could potentially still be in the area. He ran out to look for her and call her name. The same neighbor ran out after him to inform him that the cat was in her apartment. How Pooms had gotten there (twice) is a mystery to all and will probably never be revealed, but she was quickly recovered and returned, chowing down on a few days worth of kibble.
Johnny was the only one not pleased by this development, as he had been the reigning feline for the past week. He at least had the courtesy to allow her to finish eating before swatting at her, but that was a brief reprieve. Even after both cats learned how to use the stairs (it only took two weeks), two entire floors was not enough territory for the both of them.
We all realized that this was not a sustainable situation. I knew that when I did finally move out, I was going to have to take Johnny with me as I was the only one he had bonded with. I was also the only one who had learned his body language, knowing when and where to pet him so as not to get the viking treatment. Poor Pooms showed the signs of long-term psychological trauma, hiding most of the day and hissing and running away from Johnny any time he approached. She was clearly an anxious cat, always on guard against attack.

This was the impetus for my quick move out of the ancestral manse. Interestingly, my life seems to be determined by small 4 legged creatures, both at work and at home. Which is still way better than a few bosses I’ve had.