My cat Lila is a strange beast. First, she is spell-less, meaning we’ve never fully committed to how to spell her name. It’s either Leila, Lyla or Lila. I was dating and living with an Israeli pilot at the time and we loved calling out Leila Tov, which means good night in Hebrew.

And, by the way, did I mention she’s now obese? A hunkin’ at least 40 pounds.

The last thing I needed was a pet. I had my hands full with a kid. But the pilot, who was used to pussy posses all over Israel, declared, “A house is not a house without a cat!” So, to keep the relationship bonded, when we got a call from a friend that a litter of feral kittens needed rescuing after they were born in a barn near Echo Park, we trudged over to pick one. There was one I kept chasing who had the sweetest face, but Pilot insisted on Lila – she had the best personality, he claimed, because she was the only one who actually came up and tried to be tame.

I learned later – much too late – that feral cats rarely, if ever, fully tame out. His mother was furious that he’d loaded more responsibility on me, since it was obvious that he would be flying a lot, and maybe more obvious to her than us, that the cat was a last ditch effort to keep the relationship going. It’s very hard to resolve any issues when there’s a little tiff and one person can take off on a plane, literally, and go to his crash pad in Ohio whenever he felt like it. Ah, but we had the cat – of course it would last! Oy vey!

The kitten was in short, psychotic. I didn’t sleep; she would climb the curtains. The Pilot would spend hours playing with her, only to leave and she’s be a biting, screeching menance with me. I’d grown up with 26 cats, so I was not foreign to them. Only once did on

In fact, growing up with so many cats (not to mention a dog named Rags who walked in our yard one day and never left, and 12 or so mice all buried in the backyard and named after Narnia’s Peepicheep and Reepicheep) – all these pets made me weary and numb. I thought it’d fun for my son to have a cat, but I realized it’s far more work to have a pet when you’re an adult than when you’re a kid. You actually have to DO things like change litter and muzzle them when they try to bite your face off. When Fonzie the turtle’s shell collapsed from lack of calcium, my mother took him to vet and gave him creepy shots. When Sylvia Pankhurst the suffragette fish was floating at the top of the tank, my mother changed the tank water and scooped her out. Pet mice get tumors, I learned, because they’d all been in labs, and when lumps grew bigger than the mice itself, my mom helped me make a cradle of shavings, and a little blanket of fabric for its shoebox resting place. (Also in the backyard) And how many electrolyte bags did we have hanging from the ceiling beams as the kitchen table became an all night E.R. vigil for Fanny, Schwepps, Sweetie, Mr. Pussycat, Oliver, Ramona just to name a few?

I thought I could impart this to my son, but he barely cared. Fighter the Fighter fish had died in New York and that had been somewhat of a relief. And the pet mouse another boyfriend had gotten my son (Is this a theme?) turned out to be an escape artist and multiplying in several litters in our couch.

So I was not too keen on more pets, much less one that was costing me sleep and making me worried that my son would lose an eye. I have a high tolerance for insanity, but when my college friend came to stay with me and after only an hour of being there was afraid to be in the house with this cat, I knew I had to do something. My friend said there was only one solution: Put her down.

What? This is her suggestion? I didn’t think I could do it. Again, my mom had been able to, though it broke her heart. Mrs. Pussycat, married to Mr. Pussycat, apparently just went bad and began frothing at the mouth and hissing. My mom was scared for my brother and me, so she had her put down.

Lila was still a kitten. A needy little, ass-biting wailing kitten. Was there any hope for her? I had little and wanted to move on to get some peace. I let her go outside, secretly hoping she’d find another sucker, but she always came back. And when she did take off outside, I’d troll the streets looking frantically for her because I didn’t want my son to look at me like I was a hideous, irresponsible pet mother. Guilt. This pissed me off – why was I getting attached to this cat who gave love only 2% of the time? It was madness. This cat was ruining my life and had to go.

I decided to get her spayed before giving her to another home. But who would want her? I didn’t care. But I definitely didn’t want the world to have more of her.

After getting spayed, I don’t know what happened, but she slowly warmed up to us. She still had psychotic episodes, but they seemed to occur less and less and she was getting more and more into cuddly mode. Rather than climbing the walls screeching, she let us hug her and developed a new hobby: Eating.

She never, ever, never, ever stopped needing food. I’ve read that feral cats are wired to be so scared they’ll never eat again that they store food differently. At her highest weight, she weighed over 40 lbs. but it could be more, with an udder dangling underneath her as she walks. She beat the fattest cat in the world. She has been up for TV shows to get help, and though never booked one, she would be a cat video sensation.

The vet examined her, took tests and declared her healthy as a lion. A lion, a beached whale AND a Jersey cow. The vet sheepishly asked if we knew she was…he cut himself off, puffing out his mouth to imitate stuffed cheeks full of marshmallows. My son finished the vet’s sentence, “Do we know she’s obese? Is that what you’re saying, doc.” The vet nodded, though why the vet was trying to keep from offending the cat, I don’t know.

I tried everything. Feeding her less: she whined so much I couldn’t take it. I got a leash to start walking her and she gets exercise leaping up to the bed. In the last few months, I’ve changed her diet and she’s thinning out. But she’s still a cow.

But the pilot was right in picking her. In spite of the feral statistics, Lila has softened up to be the most compassionate, loving, patient snuggler I’ve ever encountered. She opens doors to sleep with me at night. Ten years later, she is my constant, devoted companion, following me from room to room, even taking a team pee with me. As my bad luck would have if, every single boyfriend after the pilot and I broke up has been allergic to her. Is she weeding out the chafe? She is wickedly winning.

She’s deviously intelligent. I have seen her hide under the car to hide her fat self and make bird calls to lure the birds on the wires. She answers back when I talk to her and the conversation’s pretty cheery, except when she’s a bit judgmental. She’ll comment on an outfit when I ask her opinion. She is probably still ruining my life, my professional life, that is. I sleep in far longer than I want to, just to cuddle with her. I am not as productive as I would be and let her manipulate me into holding her rather than the computer.

But her freaky self stills my heart. My son comforts my worries that she may explode with, “So what? She’s fat. It’s who she is.” I myself have a little snacking problem, so I do understand.

Which brings me to seaweed. Nothing gets her going like seaweed. I crank out the sheets of nori, so I don’t munch on chips, and even if she’s napping in another room, she’ll leap into bed, poke at my shoulder, knock over cups and heave her heft across the room to get at it. She will maul me and lick me to get bits of the remnants off me. I will hide the bag under the covers and she will claw through the sheets to excavate it.

What is it? Is it because it smells like fish? I almost gave in. Then I decided to Google it to make sure it’s not toxic, though I have a feeling her stomach is iron. To my surprise, cats and seaweed was a number one hit. Multiple YouTube videos, cats and seaweed articles abound. Lila and I watched other cats munching down. Lila glared at me with a see-I-told ya look. Half a dozen cat videos later…

So the answer? Yes, it’s safe.

Her look at the videos told me she’d rather eat nori than watch others eating it. I held a piece out and she nearly ripped my hand off. Now I know what to bribe her with next time we go on our six hour trip up to San Jose or as a treat after her bath. In fact, it’s time for her bedtime bath. Who said pets aren’t like our kids? We both sleep better.

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