Evil Bala

This is the fourth in an informal series, The Vermont Animal Diaries, about the pets Kendra and I tended when we lived for a year in Vermont. Part One was Fat Stella. Part Two was Dumb Andrew. Part Three was Crazy Oscar. Monday will be the final installment, a wild story about everybody.

If Evil were a cat, it would embody Bala. On our first day in Vermont, as the animals’ people were introducing us to everybody, Jean (the wife) referred to Bala using terms like “regal old lady” and “sophisticated” and “intelligent.” What Jean neglected to mention were important tips like “sprays pillows with urine” and “claws and bites if approached” and “God help you if you fall asleep in the same room she’s in.”

She did say that Bala was “particular” and “picky.” Bala had been Jean’s first cat, and they had been together for a long time. Because she was older and had already endured all of the family’s changes (adding a husband, moving, adding a dog, two cats, and eventually a baby), Bala had a tendency to act “stressed” when her routine changed. You know, like your family leaving the country for a year and abandoning you in the care of two young strangers who smell like dirt from the South. Because of her longstanding girl-bonding with Jean, Jean fully expected Bala to eventually warm up to Kendra and become “her” cat. That turned out to be wishful thinking at best.

Vermont Cats

Of all of the cats, Bala had the thickest coat, and she really needed regular brushing to keep from getting mats in her fur. We tried more than once to approach her, figuring she’d welcome the attention and grooming. Turns out it was more like trying to safety-pin a bell to a dragon’s tail. We gave up time after time.

Finally, when the knots all over Bala’s body were too far gone for us to pretend it was okay anymore, Kendra hatched a foolproof plan. We would follow her into the bathroom where the litterbox was, close the door, let her finish her business, throw a beach towel over her like a net to trap her, and then work together to cut the knots out of her coat with scissors. Astonishingly, it went down almost exactly like that.

Unfortunately, from Bala’s perspective, it was probably something more akin to the sort of shenanigans that once took place at Gitmo. I got the towel over her head and managed to pin each of her legs, keeping her ominous claws contained. I let her face out and tried to make her as comfortable as possible, while Kendra patted her down for knots. When we’d find one, we’d work the towel to expose just that spot, and Kendra would snip it off with scissors and then brush it out. Complicating the proceedings was that Kendra was laughing maniacally pretty much the entire time—equally unsettling for both me and the cat. It took about 45 minutes, but we got her all fixed up.

Our most terrifying experience with Bala was one morning when Kendra was asleep in our bed, wearing not much clothing. Kendra woke me, which ordinarily under such circumstances would be a good thing. In this case, not so much. She was poking me under the covers, trembling. I opened one eye, only to see Bala seated cozily on Kendra’s chest, face to face with her. I covered myself with blankets, just certain this was how they were going to find our bodies. Bala purred softly. After several minutes, Kendra worked up enough courage to slip a hand out and tried stroking her. Bala purred more urgently. Kendra pet her some more. After about ten minutes or so, Bala was satisfied, and she hopped up and left. Crisis averted.

That turnaround was in 1996, the same year we left Vermont, and Bala was already old then. We went back for a visit several years later, and Jean reported (sadly) that Bala had passed on. And I imagined that hell was just a little warmer, a little furrier, a little clawier.

Did you ever have a pet that you were just certain was demon-spawn? What about someone else’s evil pet? What’s the craziest thing you ever had to do to an animal?(—For its own good, of course.)

11 Responses to “Evil Bala”

  1. Cooper Strange October 22, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Oh, parting is such sweet sorrow…or just sweet, but that does not have much of a ring to it.

    • Brannon October 27, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

      I wish we could have connected with her. I chalk it up to her stubbornness and my own immaturity at the time. Either way…

  2. Kendra Golden October 22, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    So many details, so little word count space:
    We also attempted to minimize her nastiness by trimming her razor-sharp claws (another instance of being captured in the towel) with far less success than the brushing. She did in fact “soil” the pillows and the guest bed on a number of occasions. She had a tendency to poop in the downstairs guest bathtub if the litter box was occupied or didn’t suit her. She scooped water out of the bowl and drank it from her cupped hand.

    Those were the days.

    • Brian Russell October 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

      Did you know that http://www.kendragolden.com is available? I think a parallel blog w/ Kendra filling in the gaps, clarifying fuzzy parts of accounts, and offering the 2nd side to all of these stories would be awesome :)

    • Brannon October 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

      Hm. That’s an intriguing idea. We actually had kendragolden.com for a while, but she decided to quit blogging. I don’t know if she’d be up for completing my stories. Besides, she might expose me as a charlatan.

  3. KM October 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    You should watch the movie “How to Train Your Dragon” if you haven’t. Using some techniques learned from that educational documentary (I’m sure), it should be quite easy to pin a bell on a dragon’s tail.

    The towel you use to disarm the cat is actually the perfect tool for the job. When we first got each of our cats, Katie and I had to wrap our cats up in towels to cut their claws. The trick is to immobilize the appendages with a tight wrap. Or if you are @bobbygwald, a tight rap might immobilize them just as effectively.

    • Brannon October 27, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

      YES! We just watched that earlier this week. (It was much better than I was expecting.)

      Kendra used to have an old rap @bobbygwald did at a staff event several years ago, but it was on her work PC, and she neglected to capture it when they switched her to her current laptop. A shame. It would have made an awesome (read, embarrassing) ringtone. :)

  4. Jill McCleery October 23, 2010 at 12:16 am #

    Demon-spawn is perfect explanation for my 23 pound cat (Big Meow). I found him behind I.G.A. I took him to the vet and they told me he was about 7 years old, he got his shots and was fixed but would never come inside, I guess he was born wild. He was part persain… so he had very long hair, the grooming process was tedious for all. Exactly how you explained. He was very sweet but he had his rules!!! You could ONLY touch his head, if you went beyond, he would bite as quick as a snake! Leaving perfect snake like marks. So, we left grooming up to the professionals. They would sedate him and shave him. When he got home he would run away, sometimes up to a month, but he always came back when he got over his embarrassment. Despite his few problems, he was a good cat that live for about 20 years.

    • Brannon October 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

      Wow. Just…wow.

  5. Scotti October 29, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    …and I slept in that guest bed… Yak!

    • Brannon October 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

      To which Bala replied, “You’re welcome.”

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