Even on the motorcycle, it’s anything for the kitties

"The Cat Thing" -- a small cat condo -- found at Goodwill, tied to the sissy bar with a used USB cable. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)


Cats are like kids, particularly if you have no kids and you really love your cats. And you never know when the motorcycle will come into play regarding treating your cats like the children they are.

To be clear, I don’t strap the cat carrier onto the two-up seat and hit the highway. I’m certain that any one of my six cats would lose control of every one of her bodily functions before we’d gone a mile. And the nonstop yowling would have passing motorists wondering what the heck kind of strange horn my motorcycle has.

Yeah, you read that right: six cats. At 33, my wife is working on becoming the crazy cat lady—but, to be fair, she’s been doing that since she was 23.

Picture this: A tractor-trailer is heading north and I’m on my bike heading south. The trucker is working the CB with one hand, texting with the other, and streaming Netflix on his laptop at the same time, and for some mysterious reason he crosses the centerline. The truck wins the battle; my bike is scrap metal and I’m recycled organs. My wife mourns for a socially acceptable amount of time. Then she gets another six cats, builds an addition onto the house, and gets still more cats.

The point of that story is not my horrible death on a motorcycle. It’s that we have lots of cats and my wife might be a bit insane. But I have to confess to being a bit insane as well, and that’s what this story is about.

The other day I stopped in at the Goodwill store in Brewer, Maine to poke around, and the first thing I saw was one of those squat cylinders with a top and bottom, covered in carpeting, for cats to play in. The industry calls them “cat condos” but when it’s this small it’s more like a “cat efficiency apartment.” I’ll refer to as The Cat Thing. We already have three of them, but with six cats we’re three short of having enough for everyone. Right—as if they all need them at the same time! But since I’m crazy, and it was only four bucks, I had to have The Cat Thing. So I snatched it up…

…and remembered that I was on the bike. It would have to ride on the two-up seat, but I had no tie-downs with me. Home wasn’t far away, but I’ve long since learned my lesson about not getting something at Goodwill when I saw it. Someone always snatches up the prizes if you run home to get the Jeep.

But I’m as crafty as I am insane, inventive as I am obsessed. With The Cat Thing in hand, I visited the electronics section, where the confused folks at Goodwill seem to, as a matter of policy, separate all cords from donated devices and sell them separately. Seriously, find a device with a missing cord and try to locate its cord amongst the zillion hanging there. You might get lucky. I didn’t care; I just wanted something to use as a tie-down. And there, for a dollar, was a 10-foot USB cable—the perfect choice, one that would serve the immediate purpose and have use later.

So in the parking lot at Goodwill, with tough boots and biker leather and slick shades, I lifted my leg sideways like a dog marking a fire hydrant and hop-skipped sideways to get my ass into the saddle. Did I mention that there were amused onlookers? Of course there were.

The Cat Thing sat nicely on the two-up and I wrapped the USB cable around it and the sissy bar and tied it off. Now, getting on the bike was a challenge. The typical swing-the-leg-over maneuver, which had long served me well, had been interrupted when I’d installed the sissy bar and backrest since last fall; I’m not as young and limber as I used to be, so I can’t usually clear the backrest that way. I’ve taken to tucking my foot back as I swing, sort of passing my foot over the two-up seat and in front of the backrest.

But now The Cat Thing occupied the seat. So in the parking lot at Goodwill, with tough boots and biker leather and slick shades, I lifted my leg sideways like a dog marking a fire hydrant and hop-skipped sideways to get my ass into the saddle. Did I mention that there were amused onlookers? Of course there were.

The Cat Thing wasn’t like a passenger. When my wife is on the bike, I sit a certain way, and feel her legs around my waist. It’s all soft and comfortable and biker-cool. Not so with The Cat Thing. It was hard and uncomfortable and biker-silly. It jammed into my back and forced me to lean forward in an unnatural position. I might have looked like I was pretending I was on a high-speed racing motorcycle, leaning forward against invisible wind. More likely, it looked like I was either enduring painful constipation or trying not to squash something already in my pants.

The hollow of the entrance hole in the cat thing should have provided some relief, but all it did was create a big round edge that chewed on my back like a shark chomping on a surfer. And the plugs on cable ends dug into my back so deep that I think I was coming close to joining it with my spinal cord and enabling me to plug myself in to any computer with a USB port.

Luckily, home was nearby. In full realization of how ridiculous this whole thing was, I took a few pictures of this, because nothing says “comedy” like writing a self-deprecating account of looking and acting like an idiot for a bunch of cats.

The bunch of cats, however, appreciated my efforts—or at least appreciated The Cat Thing. I’m sure they could not appreciate what I had gone through on the motorcycle any more than they would appreciate being in the cat carrier strapped to the back. But I can assure you that, given the pain and suffering of getting The Cat Thing home, there is no way I’ll ever try that with a cat carrier jamming into my back.

Pickles was the first to investigate The Cat Thing, but it was Lily who ventured inside it. Teelo checked it out later and was the first to climb atop it. Others scrutinized it on and off throughout the evening—Callie awed by it, Lucky confused by it, and Critter terrified of it from a safe distance.

At least I didn’t have to ride a hundred miles like that. But if I’m ever a hundred miles from home on the bike and find some other Cat Thing that won’t fit in the saddlebags, I hope there are enough USB cables for sale to enable me to tie it to the back side of the backrest.

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